The below is a guest post from Malek Murison, a freelance technology journalist and editor based in London. He regularly writes on drones, the Internet of Things, travel and sport. You can learn more about Malek by visiting his website.
When combined with drones, FPV technology offers an immersive, sky-high experience. This can be pretty addictive and a lot of fun, but it also has some useful commercial applications too. Whether you’re using goggles, glasses or a screen, here’s a top five of potential uses for FPV drones…
One of the most popular uses of FPV gear is for drone racing. As a sport, drone racing has been growing around the world for a few years now. And it’s easy to see why; FPV racing offers a great combination of build-your-own tech, virtual reality, pure adrenaline and friendly competition. Clubs are in operation across America and Europe, contesting drone races in forests, fields and even abandoned warehouses.
The idea is pretty simple. Get yourself a racing drone, add some FPV goggles and immerse yourself in a sport soon to hit the big time. There is plenty of choice when it comes to headsets, but among the best FPV goggle systems are offerings from Fat Shark, Boscam and SkyZone.
While a number of professional bodies have sprung up to organize events and competitions, none has so far been bigger or bolder than the Drone Racing League. DRL held it’s first official race in Miami earlier this month, and pilots and viewers alike have been blown away by the scale of the course, the intensity of the action and the custom-designed drones used.
DRL are taking FPV drone racing across America to Hollywood for the second race of the season, and it’s easy to see the format expanding to races around the world in the near future.
The beauty of any FPV system is that it feeds video back to the pilot in real time. While this capacity can be used for racing, it also has the potential to help save lives. Search and rescue missions often rely on highly trained teams putting their lives on the line to help people trapped, lost or in danger. In most cased the most dangerous and difficult part of the operation is locating the people or person in need of help.
That’s where FPV technology can save the day. Not only can drones be more willingly put at risk in dangerous areas and situations, but they can feed back live footage to rescue teams and prepare them for what lies ahead.
This could involve scouting large areas for survivors after a natural disaster, or even taking on the role of firefighter and searching through a burning building.
Just like in many search and rescue situations, FPV drones can help prevent people being put at risk for the sake of dangerous inspections. Structures such as bridges and cell towers need regular checks to make sure that they are in sound condition.
A skilled engineer can spot areas of risk from live drone footage, as long as there is a skilled enough pilot around to get up close and personal with the building in question. Manned crews can then be sent in to deal with the problem.
Not only does FPV technology offer a safer way to inspect these kinds of places, it’s usually a lot faster and cost efficient.
Drone racing certainly offers a strange kind of virtual reality experience, despite it being clearly just reality through goggles.
But FPV tech can also be used to help train you to become a better drone pilot through virtual practice. There are plenty of FPV flight simulators if you’re keen to improve your quadcopter handling.
These can be a useful tool for beginners, especially as reports suggest that a high percentage of pilots crash their drones during the first flight – maybe even breaking hundreds of dollars worth of equipment in the process.
Armed with a drone, farmers can now fly high above fields for mapping purposes and to assess crop health using FPV technology. With a few more sensors and gadgets, including infrared and thermal imaging, a detailed picture of the ground below can be built up.
This data is not only a lot cheaper to collect with a drone, but it also provides a greater degree of accuracy, as drones can fly a lot closer to ground than any helicopter or plane can.
Agriculture is thought to be one of the largest commercial markets for UAV technology moving forward, and several companies are working hard to provide drones which offer both autonomous flight and FPV, including DJI and senseFly.