So, you want to be an FPV pilot but don’t know where to start? Perhaps you are drawn in by the art form and want to get paid for it or you simply want to fly for social media. In this article, we will guide you through the steps from being a beginner, who has never touched a controller to becoming a pilot that can earn some cash. We spoke to professional photographer and FPV drone pilot Justin Namon from Miami, Florida to weigh in on some of the details.
What You Need to Be an FPV Pilot
Just because you’re a DJI drone pilot, does not mean you can suddenly become an FPV pilot. FPV flying requires much more practice, dexterity and time than a traditional drone. Originally, it was believed that it can take as much as a year to be proficient in piloting FPV drones.
However, when we spoke to Justin recently, he said you only need about a total of 3-4 months to start making a few bucks flying FPV.
Note that you don’t have to do these steps linearly. For instance, you can edit videos after your flights or before you fix.
Flying FPV requires 4 things:
Practicing with a simulator software (about 20 hours)
Logging hours with actual flying (about two months)
When it comes to go-to simulators, one of the best ones for racing overall is VelociDrone. For FPV freestyle, Uncrashed may be a great choice, while the DRL Simulator is easily one of the most fun ones.
Further, Tiny Whoop GO is considered by many to be premium in the category of Tiny Whoop Sim. Moreover, if content is your priority, Liftoff is considered to be the richest one in content.
It’s worth noting that FPV SkyDive can be your go-to simulator if you’re looking for free options. Thanks to a variety of options, you can do your own research online and maybe find other software solutions, which may prove to be the right fit for you. Also, you can turn to fellow FPV drone pilots, who are more experienced and ask them about their beginnings. If you don’t know any, online social groups are excellent places you can join and get more information. These include Facebook groups and Instagram accounts dedicated to drones and FPV flying.
Logging Hours with Actual Flying
Of course, nothing beats actual, physical flying. After “mastering” the simulator, it’s time to hot the streets. In terms of actually logging hours of real flight time, as little as 1-2 months may be enough.
Have in mind that the cost of equipment to start is high as you have to get the drone, controller, and goggles. However, you can start on a mini FPV like TinyHawk. This model is less than $100 to start and practice.
The more you fly, the better you get. Justin adds, “Don’t rush it. If you do, it’s not the hobby for you. If you can’t come back from your first crash, it’s not for you. Most importantly, don’t overthink it. It’s a fun craft. Make sure you have a good time.” Justin also suggests flying at different times of the day, flying indoors and out and learning about lighting.
Tinkering with the Video
While you fly, you also need to tinker with the video. Of course, if you’re aiming for paid gigs, it makes sense to learn how to edit videos. That way you ensure you’re as professional as possible and able to deliver on your clients’ needs.
This usually takes about a month to learn, in addition to learning how to fly.
Finally, you need to think about fixing the drone. You are bound to crash and if the damage is serious enough, you will need to solder, wire, test, connect, and fix your drone and its components.
This may sound like a lot, but it isn’t impossible. As mentioned before, fixing can take 50 hours of watching through YouTube tutorials.
So, if you really like to devote your time to this hobby, you have to be patient. In fact, this part is what keeps a lot of drone pilots and other videographers away from FPV.
1-2 months of actually flying plus 20 hours in the simulator will 100% advance your flying skills.
Justin Namon, FPV pilot
That said, from Justin’s experience, he says everyone is different. Some people may learn how to fix quicker, others may learn very quickly from the simulator.
Moreover, he recommends doing some shoots with family or friends and maybe reaching out to a small business who you would want to collaborate with using friends and/or family as stand-ins.
Ultimately, your goal is to build a reel to sell yourself to potential clients and that takes a lot of investment into yourself and the craft.
A career in FPV, gaining a side hustle, or even flying for YouTube is quite possible if you spend the time and pay your dues. This is not a pick-up-and-go hobby or just a form of videography.
If you put in the time and effort, you will be a part of a small group of FPV pilots (compared to videographers or drone pilots) and it can be a highly rewarding experience.
A little about Justin: Justin Namon has a fine art background and studied photography. Looking for new perspectives, he picked up DJI drones for the first time six years ago. FPV was a hobby at first. Subsequently, FPV led to fixing and documenting flights for personal records in a video format.He currently uses the iFlight Protek 35 drone.
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