Want to learn FPV? Before you head out and slam something into a tree, first practice in a situation where those sorts of mishaps don’t result in repairs. Fly a simulator.
I’ve wanted to fly FPV for years now. And I’ve certainly stuck my toes in the water, flying various TinyWhoop-style rigs around the house. That’s been fun and it’s certainly helped build some basic skills (and allowed me to annoy my son). But it’s still a far cry from flying a larger (and much faster) FPV drone outdoors. Things can go wrong quickly for even an experienced pilot, so why not avoid a situation that would likely result in repairs?
Spend some time on a simulator.
Why I’ve started using a simulator again
I’m still flying a small brushless drone around the house. But I’m now trying to put in at least 15-30 minutes a day using my Taranis X7S radio on a simulator. I’ve been at it a few days, and have noticed a significant improvement in my flying skills already.
I actually bought the Velocidrone simulator a couple of years ago, but never really got into using it. But two recent interviews brought home just how effective simulators can be as a learning tool.
Case One: Eric Bell’s advice
Eric is a former colleague. We worked together at a drone startup, where Eric still works.
I soon learned that Eric was a phenomenal FPV pilot, a skill the company often used when making videos about its own drone. How good is Eric? Just take a look at how effortlessly he pilots in this vid from his Instagram feed:
Eric popped up recently on DroneDJ
While preparing coverage on the forthcoming DJI FPV drone, I thought it would be worthwhile to get Eric’s opinion. We spoke at length for a YouTube post, and Eric really hammered home how well simulators can work. He mentioned that one of his good friends with no prior FPV experience zoned in on simulator practice. Before long, he was good enough that Eric was willing to loan him an FPV rig for his first flight. You can hear him talking about this in the video, which I’ve (hopefully) cued up to the 3:12 mark:
Case Two: FPV Filmz
We’ve highlighted the work of FPV Filmz before. The duo produces great work, including this new video I just picked up on:
I asked Nikolay how he long he’d been flying FPV. The answer shocked me: He’d made his first flight early in 2020.
What? How was that possible? The answer: He’s put in 60 hours on a simulator before ever putting an FPV drone in the air. That was enough for me.
At the moment, I’m using Velocidrone, which is really working for me. I’ve also purchased the Drone Racing League simulator on Steam. I’m on a Mac platform, which somewhat limits the available simulators. Here’s a short video that gives you a quick look at Velocidrone, though it’s worth noting the sim has a huge number of sceneries and tracks available:
I’m also flipping back and forth between flying the simulator, and using the BETAFPV Advanced Racing Kit 2, which gives you a brushless drone, goggles, and radio for $199.
Between these two, I’m confident I’ll be ramping up my skills without any (significant) crashes.
Dial in radio; use a dongle
A couple of quick tips: Explore the settings fully, and dial in your radio the way you want it. Lowering your rates can make it easier for a beginner to get in the (virtual) air and stay there.
The other thing that’s been helpful is using a wireless dongle. I was originally connecting to my laptop with a USB cable, but it was kind of getting in the way. David Klein of Rotorgeeks suggested I consider a wireless USB dongle. I picked up this one, and was able to cut the cable:
If you’re interested, here’s a link to that dongle.
Tell us your story
Are you an FPV pilot? How did you learn? What role did simulators play, if any? Is there a specific sim you’d recommend? Let us know in the comments below!