A key setback for people considering getting into the FPV hobby is the control. It is rumored that FPV drones are hard to fly. Is that true?
In total, an FPV drone is hard to fly because it doesn’t auto level. That means it can flip and crash in inexperienced hands. Beginners can train using realistic FPV simulators to familiarize with the maneuver. Although it is not recommended, you can enable and fly with auto-level modes.
FPV drones are indeed hard to fly. But, it is not the hardest thing in the world! There are ways to overcome it, and I’ll show you how.
FPV Drone Flight Mechanism
All drones change directions by adjusting the speed of different motors. For instance, to fly forward, the rear motors spin faster than the front motors, making the drone lean forward so that the backward thrust can push the drone forward. If the difference between the motor spin is huge, the drone will flip, and crash.
Experienced pilots either take advantage of the flip to make amazing aerial tricks, or prevent that from happening through their skills. For beginners, a flip will almost always result in a crash.
Normal drones don’t have such issues because they are auto-leveled. The flight controller (FC), which is the brain of your drone, auto-corrects your drone’s position when you are not controlling, and it also prevents the drone from flipping by limiting the difference between the motor spinning speed.
Can FPV Drones Auto-Level?
FPV drones can auto-level, if configured. The Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) on your FC (or more accurately, the 3-axis accelerometer in the IMU) is responsible for auto-leveling. You can enable auto-level mode using Betaflight, or equivalent FC software.
There are 2 types of auto-level modes in Betaflight: horizon mode and angle mode. I have an article detailing the differences between both. But in short, both modes prevent your drone from flipping, which makes your drone easy to maneuver.
In contrast, non-auto-level mode is called acro (acrobat), rate, or manual mode. It is the predominant flight mode used by FPV pilots due to its high manueverity.
Flying FPV in auto-level mode is not recommended because it defeats the purpose of flying FPV: your drone becomes less agile, and you can’t do any aerial tricks.
Having said that, nothing is stopping you from flying in auto-level mode. Just bear in mind that, if you plan to fly in acro mode in the future, better do that from the beginning. Most of the things you learn in auto-level mode are not transferable to acro mode. You might even pick up some bad habits which are hard to correct when you switch to acro mode.
Train with FPV Simulators
I know you are excited to start flying your FPV drone once you have it with you. But, you really should consider flying on an FPV simulator first.
There are a lot of realistic FPV simulators in the market (check out my list of best simulators). Some of them are even free. Just download it and start practicing, until you can comfortably fly in the simulator.
In case it isn’t obvious, repeated crashing will cause you a lot of money, since your drone can break. Training in a simulator allows you to learn the necessary skill without worrying about your drone and wallet.
You will probably crash when you fly a real drone even after training in simulation, but the chances of crashing will be much lower.
Make sure you connect your radio transmitter to the FPV simulator, and practice using it. Never use a keyboard or gamepad for simulation. The skills learned by using those gadgets are not fully transferable when you fly your drone using a radio transmitter.
Besides that, make sure you fly with a first person view, not third person view. Some simulators allow you to toggle the view between first person to third person view. Since you are flying FPV, you obviously should train in FPV.
How to Learn Flying FPV Drones?
Certain FPV simulators have beginner modules which guide you step by step on how to fly an FPV drone. Free simulators usually don’t have such tutorials.
If you are practicing using a real drone or an FPV simulator without a tutorial, here’re the things that you can incorporate into your practice.
- Try to hover your drone by controlling only the throttle. It doesn’t need to be perfect, since FPV drones don’t normally hover anyway. The aim is to get yourself familiar with the throttle stick.
- Fly forward without crashing. Due to how drones work, you will lose altitude when you fly forward. The aim here is to maintain altitude when flying forward.
- Align your camera towards where the drone is moving. It can be dangerous if you don’t see where you are moving to. Learn using the yaw stick so that the camera always faces where your drone is moving towards.
- Learn how to turn. Once you are familiar with 1-3, try making simple left and right turns. You want to be able to turn smoothly by simultaneously controlling both the yaw and roll sticks.
- Fly at low altitude without crashing. Since you can only see forward but not downward, it is hard to gauge whether you will hit the ground. Try to get a feel of how low you can go, so that you can gauge the safety distance better.
- Learn to land your drone. If you don’t land properly, the drone will be damaged over time from repeated impacts. Try to land as slow as possible. Remember, your drone may bounce off the ground and flip in the real world.
- Practice using simple tracks. Focus on completing the track without crashing instead of speed.
If you are practicing with a real drone, never practice without wearing your FPV goggles. Without the FPV goggles, you are flying a third person view, or what some people call flying line of sight (LOS). The skills for flying FPV and LOS are totally different. So, better not waste your time.
How Long Does It Take to Learn Acro Mode?
It takes 20-30 hours of practicing to learn acro mode. While you won’t be super fast and smooth with that amount of practice, you should be able to finish any simple tracks in an FPV simulator without crashing.