If you haven’t paid attention to the emerging virtual reality technology lately, it might be time to read up a little bit—things are changing. As avid gamers, our family has looked forward to what the new offerings might hold—I’m still holding out for the mature technology to emerge—it’s REALLY close.
I’ve been an avid RC enthusiast for decades (professionally and recreationally), but haven’t been actively, personally engaged in the hobby for the last 5 years or so. We just recently decided to sell a bunch of old buggies, monster trucks, and even a boat to make room in our storage unit.
I haven’t been paying attention for a while—things have been busy. In the decade prior to my hiatus, I made friends all over the world selling RC parts through eBay, Amazon, and an ecommerce site. Things changed during that time—we saw the popularity of helicopters take off, and drones started to come on the scene.
Drones were REALLY expensive at first, and then the toys started to arrive. And then I quit paying attention. I saw DJI and its impressive line of drones that transcended the “hobby” world and became a legitimate photography and mainstream product. I haven’t been interested enough to think about dropping $1,000 or so for the experience, however.
Then in 2019, I noticed a crazy big blind spot—I haven’t been paying attention. Drones got fast, cheap, and exciting.
I saw this video, and realized that I had missed something:
Although I’ve enjoyed jumping, bashing, and smashing my RC vehicles, I had no idea that drones had become a First Person View (FPV) experience using virtual reality goggles.
A few months later, I can claim to be a racing drone pilot AND mechanic.
I am stunned to watch the emerging companies that fill the needs of this “FPV Racing” market—although China-based companies are a major part of the supply chain, and to see the innovative technology that has arisen through the collaboration of drone enthusiasts.
The circuit boards that power some of these drones are the size of a silver dollar, and when installing them, it’s necessary to solder as many as 30 different connections to supply power, video feeds, radio transmitter feeds, motor wires, etc. Some of these solder pads are only 1mm square. (For a middle-aged person who is flirting with needed bi-focal lenses anyway, soldering with special headgear and microscopic lenses is a rush.
Power up the drone you just soldered together, seeing the camera feed power up, hearing the motors spin up, and then FEELING the drone take off is a rush.
This is an emerging sport. It is fun. It is relatively safe. However, it appears to be irritating to people who don’t enjoy it.
Consider this video (pilot’s video feed in lower right corner, the Go Pro footage in the main window):
While this appears to be irresponsible flying, it’s actually a professional shoot with proper permissions, permits, insurance, etc.
The FAA has official registration for drone pilots (and their drones), and it also has automated systems that allow pilots to request permission in restricted areas.
This video shows what can happen when drone pilots and grumpy people run into each other:
While it might feel annoying to see your neighbor flying that drone, understand that for a small percentage of the population, FPV flying is an experience that rivals the sensation of skydiving, roller coasters, or other peak physical experiences.
If you watch these videos and have a sudden need to see what it might feel to put on those goggles, drop me a line, we need to talk. This is fun stuff…