Becoming a talented "first-person-view" drone pilot take a lot of stick time, skill and patience. When working our our FPV drone service at Bad Wolf Horizon, we spent literally hundreds of hours building, testing, flying, crashing and refining our skill.
We are quickly becoming the market leader in FPV drone flying in the South West, with clients such as NatWest and ITV. This didn't happen overnight but in 2021 our skilled FPV drone pilots are available to hire across the UK and abroad.
When it comes to hiring an FPV drone pilot for commercial work, there are a few things that clients look out for. This is a very quickly evolving brand of drone technology, so its crucial to stay on top of your game. Here are some of our top tips for how you can improve your skills to get the work and to keep flying safely and well.
1. Chose your competent observer wisely.
The difference between hiring a commercial FPV drone pilot is the license. Although in 2021, the drone rules are changing, any competent pilot will need some sort of license and training, as well as a competent observer to maintain unaided visual line of site (VLOS) of the UAS at all times.
Your competent observer is not just your eyes on the drone. They help you keep on top of battery management, regularly change your SD cards and even carry your safety gear (and there is a lot of it)!
With a maximum height of 400 ft, a maximum distance of 500 metres and a requirement to have a competent observer, you need to understand the limitations these rules have on you before undertaking commercial flying. Bad Wolf Horizon Ltd. currently operates under the traditional system of a permission for commercial operation (PfCO) with the CAA.
2. Managing transmission signal strength.
Having a strong controller and video signal strength throughout the duration of your FPV drone flight is a lot more difficult to manage, compared to traditional "line-of-site" drones. When flying using FPV goggles it can be much harder to know when you are about to go behind an object and into an area where you can easily lose signal. This can lead to a long walk to collect your drone or worse, complete loss or destruction, especially when flying over the sea.
The key is to plan your take off area in advance. If you are planning on flying through a gap, trees or over the sea, understand the terrain in advance and know where your "dead zones" are prior to take off. Brief your competent observer to give you a countdown when you are about to go behind an object, so you can adjust your course in advance. We use Google Maps to measure distances and Bing Maps (OS Maps) to understand the terrain - this means we know what we're getting ourselves into, long before we arrive on set.
To further improve reliability, all of our FPV drones are installed with Crossfire, for improved radio controller range and to minimise the risk of a failsafe. Our quadcopters have all been fitted with GPS, which acts as a absolute last-ditch attempt to get your drone above that cliff and out of the water below.
3. Best action camera settings.
At Bad Wolf Horizon Ltd. we use a range of action cameras, depending on the task at hand. Our go-to cameras are the GoPro Hero series. These are chosen based on the filming subject, the drone's weight, lighting conditions and post-production stabilisation.
We setup our cameras to be based off of the the 180 rule. This is where the shutter speed is twice the framerate (e.g. shooting at 25 fps, we set the shutter to 1/50th). This means you will need to get a good set of ND filters - I recommend PolarPro. Once again, this can vary depending on lighting conditions, for example, in low light the post-production stabilisation works better with a slightly faster shutter speed.
Always keep your ISO as low as possible (400-800), as the small sensor on these cameras may lead to soft and grainy images with an ISO above 800!
For our post-production stabilisation, we use Reelsteady Go. This software is unbelievable and you really should mess around with it if you are looking to get serious with your FPV!
4. Never stop training.
As of writing this drone blog, it is winter here in Cornwall and unfortunately, this means nice FPV flying days are few and far between. Simulators are a great way to continue practicing, on your PC, without leaving the house and it is important to keep those fingers moving and your reaction times high.
Even better, why not join a local FPV racing club? I am positive there will be at least one group in every county, who regularly meet up for some indoor whoop racing, whatever the weather. Joining a community is a great way to enter the insanely steep learning curve of FPV so why not give it a go?
5. You've got to risk it for a biscuit.
This is a tricky one, but I would argue, the most important. FPV drone flying is scary at times, but in order to get those mind-blowing shots, you need to get close to your subject, hit those tight gaps and fly as close as you dare to the ground. This is how you get shots that others can't and get more jobs!
Saying this, it is important to know when to stop, when you can't push yourself any harder and when your mind has had enough. Flying using FPV goggles can be strenuous on the mind and this can be difficult when you have a client or crew watching you work. Forcing yourself to keep going can sometimes lead to broken cameras, damaged drones and worst of all, lost video footage.
Know your limits, manage your client's expectations and don't be afraid to say no when the director is standing over your shoulder telling you to keep going. You are the pilot in command, you will always know best and at the end of the day, if something goes wrong, it's on your shoulder!
Bad Wolf Horizon Ltd. offers both Cinewhoop and cinematic FPV drone pilot hire services across the UK and abroad. These machines are an immensely powerful drone filming tool for the film, TV and commercial drone industry. They have the power to transform what can be achieved with drone technology.
Bad Wolf Horizon Ltd. is an award-winning drone company, based in the South West of the UK, with a head office in Helston, Cornwall. We regularly travel for work and our drone services are available across the UK and abroad. Get in touch for details: www.badwolfhorizon.com/contact