Written by Shabbir Nooruddin
Flying FPV is such a liberating and rewarding experience, and watching prop pilots that fly crazy fast, silky smooth, or doing dizzying flips is what draws most of us to the hobby to start with.
If you’ve ever flown a quadcopter, though, you’ll know that the pros make these tricks seem much easier than they are. With a little practice though, you can greatly improve your flying and start doing awesome tricks and fly like a pro.
Tip 1: Use a simulator
FPV takes a while to get used to, so while you’re waiting for your parts to come in the mail, use a simulator like LiftOff or Velocidrone (my two favorites) to get used to how quadcopters respond to your stick inputs.
More sim time will also help build muscle memory for basic controls like flying forwards and level, turning properly, and coordinated flying.
Muscle memory is the key here – the more you fly, the better you’ll get.
Tip 2: Always push your limits
If you go flying and fly the exact same routine every day, you’ll get really, really good at that skill set and develop consistency, but you may not get comfortable with doing new stuff.
What I like to do is if I have 7 lipos on me, I’ll fly 4-5 lipos on my regular routine, doing things I am comfortable with, and I’ll really push myself on the last two lipos.
The reason I save pushing myself for last is that it’s very likely I am going to have a nasty crash which I may not be able to repair on the field, and to me, nothing sucks more than having to go home and discharging the batteries manually.
The other option is, of course, to have multiple setups 😉
If you’re tight on budget and can’t afford more than one setup at once, use my method. Before you push yourself on the field, it’s a good idea to practice the move a few times on the simulator.
Tip 3: Slowly increase your rates and get comfortable
Pilots like Mr Steele do crazy fast flips and rolls – they’re able to do this because their rates (how fast the quadcopter responds to stick inputs) are fairly high. In the new Betaflight configurator (and in KISS too), when you configure your rates, you’ll be able to see how many revolutions per second your quadcopter can do.
The revolutions per second is how many revolutions it would do if the stick was at full deflection.
My rates for example are such that the quadcopter can do 1100 revolutions per second, which is about one entire flip/roll in 1/3 of a second.
I didn’t start out this way, though. My initial rates were closer to one flip in half a second to 2/3 of a second, and I gradually increased the rates as I got more and more comfortable.
As a beginner, I tended to mash the sticks too much and as a result, I’d crash nearly immediately. When your fingers get more used to sensitive inputs and doing minor corrections, you can increase your rates until you get them to a point you are both satisfied with and comfortable with.
Tip 4: Combine tricks
After a while, simple flips and rolls will get boring, but then you can start combining flips with rolls, so you can do a flip and a roll, a half roll and a flip, the combinations are limitless.
An extended, elongated flip is a power loop, a half roll followed by a slow half flip back up is a split-S, and the list goes on.
To further push yourself, combine the tricks around and under obstacles.
Tip 5: Be aware of momentum
When you’re flying in one direction and suddenly turn around, your quadcopter will still have momentum in the original direction unless you boost the throttle to arrest the original momentum and create new momentum.
When flying FPV, a simple maneuver can easily reorient the camera in a new direction but you may not have lost the momentum. That’s why you sometimes end up drifting a lot more in turns unless you give throttle to push yourself over the new direction.
The same momentum can be really handy when you are doing tricks, though. Have you ever seen videos where the pilot seems to make the quadcopter float, completely against the laws of physics?
You can do that by throttling up very fast, and flipping/rolling the quad upside down before losing the upwards momentum, so you’ll still have some upwards momentum left even while you’re upside down.
At the end of the day, what matters is that you get stick time – lots and lots of it. The more you can get out there and fly, the better you will get.
Like everything else, the old adage holds especially true with quadcopters: practice makes perfect.