Earlier this spring, we returned to the Norwescon science fiction and fantasy convention in Seattle-ish, Washington, and gave a reprise of our talk at last year's con, entitled: “Own a Drone: Build and Fly Your Own UAV.” Here is a video of this year's session, which we've posted to our YouTube channel:
Once again, we owe a profound debt of gratitude to our good friends over at MediaFX Video Production, who trimmed an hour's worth of our meandering prattle and disconnected ravings into a concise 28-minute presentation that might actually teach you something about FPV multirotor aircraft.
There are two things about this video which I think deserve some additional attention. Okay, the first one is about last year's video, but I still think it's pretty remarkable.
When we posted the video of last year's talk on YouTube, I figured that only a few hearty souls with an exceptionally robust tolerance long, poorly-lit video would ever watch it. It turns out I was wrong about that.
As of this afternoon, last year's video has received 15,732 views on YouTube and 173 “likes” – and it remains among our Top 10 all-time videos, pulling in more than 1,600 views in the past 30 days. It will be interesting to see what happens to this year's video. The lighting is better, at least. Of course, that means you can see Techinstein and I more clearly, which might not be a good thing. Hmmmm...
Anyway, the second and far more consequential thing to notice about this video is how far the field has come just in the past year. When we gave our talk last year, the original DJI NAZA had just burst onto the scene, setting a new standard for multirotor flight control systems.
We've seen plenty of changes since then. I'd say that four of the most consequential are as follows:
The advent of inexpensive GPS autopilot functions for multirotors. If you burst into the room at last year's conference and told us that we would be getting highly reliable GPS position hold and return-to-home functionality for less than $200, we would have figured that, for once, we weren't the only crazy people in the room.
The introduction of commercially produced and (almost) fully assembled multirotor aircraft capable of carrying FPV gear. To be sure, last year there were some small multirotors that could be flown right out of the box (such as the Blade MQX), but something like the DJI Phantom or IdeaFly IFLY-4 simply did not exist. If you wanted a robust multirotor platform, you pretty much had to buy the parts and build it yourself – or find someone to do it for you.
Lawmakers have (unfortunately) gotten in on the game. During this year's con, we were right in the middle of the debate over Oregon Senate Bill 71. While we've been able to work with the Oregon legislature to curb almost all of its excesses in the bill that was ultimately passed (HB 2710), I suspect that this is an issue we will see re-surface in the future in various states and at the federal level.
The Academy of Model Aeronautics has taken a remarkably progressive attitude towards FPV flight operations. Admittedly, this is a recent change, and there are still plenty of holdouts among its rank-and-file members who still wish that a mighty wind would come and carry us all away. However, among the AMA's leadership, I see a real commitment to engage with this new (and fast growing) segment of remote flight, as embodied in Document 550.
Given all that, it's really quite compelling to speculate about what we'll see over the next 12 months. Whatever it is, I fully expect to be surprised.