It’s been two years since I discovered drone racing and about a year since I wrote #sideproject: The Making of an Easy-Build FPV Drone.
I guess my enthusiasm is contagious, because some other folks at Bresslergroup began to show interest in flying FPV drones in the last year. This is most likely because they saw me flying mine around the office and wanted to get in on the fun. A few months ago, my colleague Conall Dempsey suggested the idea of a company racing league. When I sent out an email to gauge interest, I was expecting maybe eight people to reply, but I got almost forty.
The Bresslergroup Drone Racing League was born! We launched last month and since then, people have logged plenty of hours flying and are finding out that FPV racing is just as addictive as they thought it would be. This photo, below, is of all the BG1 Racer Drone Kit materials assembled for this large group before our kick off.
The Kick Off!
Originally, I thought it would be fun to just fly around the office with other colleagues. But I realized after everyone signed up that this would be a great opportunity to introduce them to the problems that typically plague drone racing. Who better to solve these problems than a bunch of product designers, engineers, and usability experts? (More on that in a later post.)
The mission of the first meeting was simple: Hand out the BG1 Racer Kits and get those drones built and flying. Members of the BG league — including some BG kids — got to work gluing and soldering in the engineering lab. After we were finished building our drones, we went over basic pilot etiquette, flight principles, and started learning how to fly (hopefully without crashing too much — some of us were smart and built two drones, just in case). This post will share that info (including how to build your very own FPV racer) for those who’d like to follow along at home.
Building your own FPV drone will save you a good chunk of money — all you need are the materials listed below. The camera and goggles are the modifications that make the drone an FPV drone. I wanted the build to be simple so all you need to do is attach the camera. Once you’ve collected your materials, follow the steps below to build your BG1 Racer Drone.
1. Remove the top cover of the drone.
2. Strip the insulation off the wires coming out of the FPV camera.
3. Apply VHB to the bottom surface of the camera mount.
4. Trim the excess VHB.
5. Apply a small amount of hot glue to the bottom of the camera mount.
6. Peel off the backing plastic and apply the FPV camera assembly to the top of the drone board.
7. Solder the wires to the two pads at the bottom of the board. Note polarity.
And you’re done! Make sure your camera tilt is around ten degrees.
Pilot Etiquette and Flight Principles
With our drones built, it was time to start flying. First, I laid out some ground rules for basic pilot etiquette:
- If you’re flying outside of your home or near the public, have someone looking out to ensure you are not flying into people or traffic.
- Do not fly over private property.
- Do not fly beyond 400 feet above ground level (AGL).
- Do not fly over people without their consent. (Or your drone might get stuck in someone’s hair — see below.)
Next came a primer on the essentials of flying a drone. The controller has two sticks that control Throttle, Yaw, Pitch, and Roll.
Being able to fly smoothly depends on how you control each of these variables. Here are some tips to get started:
• Throttle control is hard! Start out by pretending your drone is a race car. Give it just enough throttle to skid around on a smooth floor. Once you get the hang of how to move around, add more throttle to take off!
• Be smooooth. Try not to make really sudden changes. If you find yourself flying into the ceiling, don’t overcompensate by cutting throttle to zero. Bring the stick gradually down and let gravity do the rest.
• “Props” only go one way. The propellers on this drone aren’t likely to break but if they do, make sure you put them back on the right way. There are clockwise and counterclockwise props and putting them in reverse will cause your drone to flip over.
The night ended with a flight session for everyone to try out their brand new racing drone. It’s been a couple of weeks now and people have been learning fast. #BGDRL is gearing up for regular fly-ins, culminating in a championship race to crown our very own drone racing champ.
Stay tuned for stick tutorials, flight videos, and drone upgrades!
(This post is part of Curiosity Club, a series where Bresslergroupers go exploring and ask questions. We think Arnold Edinborough had a good point when he said, “If you tell me that curiosity killed the cat, I say only the cat died nobly.” )