Digital Video is going to Change the World of Drone Racing

This evening I powered up my new Connex ProSight Digital HD video system for the first time. Even though this was just a bench test, it cemented my feeling that this system signalsl significant changes in FPV Racing are coming.

Virtually all hobbyist and semi-pro racers use a video system not far removed from old ‘broadcast’ television. Analog signals broadcast from a drone in the 5.8 megahertz band. These transmissions must be on their own frequency, and if another pilot turns on their transmitter nearby, and it’s on the same frequency, a pilot can lose the video signal to the drone, and thus lose control of it. At races, a significant amount of time and energy is put into making sure only pilots in their designated timeslots power on their video transmitters. Turning on a transmitter on a frequency at the wrong time is a serious breach of etiquette, and can get you removed from an event.

Even with perfect frequency management, video using the 5.8gig analog transmitters and receivers can be staticy, low resolution, and finicky.

Digital video systems have been around for a while, but they’ve been tremendously expensive, power hungry, and requiring a complex infrastructure to work. Now, it looks like the Connex folks have perfected their system to bring digital video to the hobbyist pilot.

Connex digital video FPV system
Connex digital video FPV system

The system, dubbed the Connex ProSight, consists of a high resolution camera, transmitter, flight controller interconnect, antenna, HD receiver, and all the appropriate cables. In our bench tests, the configuration was straightforward and the system came up already paired and ready to go.

Because the signals are digital (the same way remote control transmitters have gone all digital), it’s possible to run multiple video signals in the same space, without having them ‘step on’ each other. For events with over 5-6 pilots, this means more time can be spent flying, testing, and tinkering, and less time wrangling frequencies.

We’ll be doing a more in depth review of the Connex ProSight system soon, but our initial tests look very very promising.

The Connex ProSight system is $499, and available at ConnexHD.com

(This article originally appeared on DroneRacingLife)

Spammers Be Gone!

We’ve had to make some changes to the site to cut down the number of spam accounts being created… Apologies if folks have been getting any noise from the automated postings by these bots. Hopefully the new captchas will help stop the bot traffic.

We Owe a Great Debt to the Academy of Model Aeronautics

Our partner site, Drone Racing life published an article USDRA Chairman Dave Shevett wrote regarding the AMA. Folks should check it out, it’s good stuff…

Eventually, the drone pilots and the AMA started talking to each other, and realized everyone was on the same side. All it took was an understanding that enthusiasts and builders want to have fun and be safe. It soon came clear is there was a common cause for both the AMA and the new drone community. The public, the press, and the government were all forming their own ideas about what our hobby was about, and the ‘risks’ they saw with it, and in our eyes… it didn’t match with what we all knew.

Full article on DroneRacingLife.com…

FAA Posts Final UAS Rules

The FAA has released the final draft on the “part 107” rule set for drones and unattended aircraft.

The important part for most drone racers / enthusiasts is this:

Part 107 will not apply to model aircraft. Model aircraft operators must continue to satisfy all the criteria specified in Section 336 of Public Law 112-95 (PDF) (which will now be codified in Part 101), including the stipulation they be operated only for hobby or recreational purposes.

The included Section part 336 there is important, as that is what the AMA and other model aircraft enthusiasts settled in as ‘established law’ regarding remote control aircraft. This ruling, at least by our reading, seems to set things back where they were before the discussions started up again, which is good news.

The full FCC Press release is on the FAA.gov website.

Woman Steals Racing Drone, Calls Police on Pilots

This video is circulating in the FPV Racing community, and should be required viewing for anyone considering flying in a public space…

A group of FPV pilots were flying at an AMA RC field after a race. One fellows quad lost signal and did what it was supposed to do – dropped to the ground. Unfortunately, a woman walking nearby decided she had been ‘attacked’ by the drone and almost killed, so she stole the drone and tried to hide it from the pilots. The pilots had an RSSI fix on the drone, so they knew she was carrying it. She became argumentative, combative, and ultimately hysterical, threatening the pilots.

The GoPro was running the entire time, and recorded what happened.

Without this recording, it would be the pilots word against her. But even without this, this is the world all pilots must understand we’re living in. People distrust drones, and have unreasoning hatred toward them. Pilots must understand that people will lie to our faces, steal our equipment, and attack us, no matter how careful we are.

These pilots did exactly the right thing. Remained calm, recorded everything, did not threaten or confront other than wanting their equipment back. They brought in the police who immediately understood the woman was not being reasonable, and the encounter ended peacefully.

Remember – people are people. No matter how in the wrong they may be, do not argue, do not confront, and make sure you’re covered. Before flying in any area, no matter how ‘safe’ it may seem, make sure you have your AMA membership, FCC registration, and understand all the flight restrictions and permitting that are applicable.

And always, when the opportunity arises, educate. Talk with people, show them what we’re doing. Nine times out of ten, one experience with FPV goggles will do far more than an argument shouted across a park will ever do.

Connex ProSight Digital HD FPV System Announced

A big announcement today from ProSight. Resellers will be accepting orders for the ConnexHD digital FPV transmitter on June 1st. This may be the holy grail for many FPV racers frustrated with the current analog 5.8 environment.

CONNEX™ ProSight is the missing link needed to usher in a new era in FPV racing. Plagued by analog systems’ poor image quality, and connectivity issues in multi-pilot scenarios, the sport needs a breakthrough to take it to the next level.
CONNEX ProSight is just that, transforming FPV drones into a completely new kind of immersive experience for beginners and experts alike.
The Connex ProSight HD Vision Pack is a true game changer. It delivers unparalleled vision performance with delay-free wireless transmission. Its superior image quality combined with ease of installation, smooth configuration and improved multi-pilot flying experience that provide unmatched usability.
Price for the Bundle Package: US$499

This is higher than existing analog systems (by a factor of 5), but the possibility of getting high quality digital video, without the channel mayhem, with 27 simultaneous channels, and the ability to use digital HUD / goggles – this is something we’re going to be very excited to get our hands on!

See the full announcement at ConnexHD.com.

DroneDayBoston – Indoor racing comes to Boston!

What happens when you combine rainy spring Boston weather, a lot of hard work by organizers, and a nifty indoor industrial space? Why, you get Drone Day Boston, a part hobbyist, part social, part racing event held yesterday at the Boston Design Center this past Saturday, May 7th.

About 140 drone enthusiasts came to the one day event to geek and schmooze over technology, latest trends, take classes on safety, and talk about the latest in gear, events, and what’s happening in the world of drones and drone racing.

2016-05-0710.jpgOne of the biggest draws was the indoor race course managed by BMRC and others. The indoor space was small but the 22 participating pilots made the best of the twisting figure 8 course, running a series of heats and races. The challenge of the tight course made crashes even more of the norm than usual, with many races ending in under 10 seconds as tiny craft get tangled up in the safety netting or have trouble negotiating the mid-course tunnel. This was definitely not a course for full sized 250mm quads! 120mm and 180mm frames ruled the day.

2016-05-0712.jpgIndoor racing shares many of the challenges other races have, in particular “how can the spectators enjoy the experience as much as the pilots?” – For this event, the organizers set up several large screen TVs showing the video feed from the drones – in essence ‘shoulder surfing’ the pilots, allowing the spectators to see exactly what the pilots were seeing. It gave a great experience to people seeing racing for the first time.

Have to give a big shout out to the event organizer Sean Tierney who wrangled the vendors, the space, and all the details necessary to make the event come together successfully.