Why do we need a spotter?

I’ve been very inactive for a number of months, and what better way to get back into the scene that to be an awkward bugger.

Yesterday I received an email from the committee of my flying club in which they resurrected, amongst other things related to quads, the requirement for a spotter to be collocated with anyone flying FPV. I replied back to the committee member, stating that under Article 16 Authorisation a spotter is NOT required if the flying area is deemed sterile, meaning it is more than 30m away from the general viewing area and not freely accessible to those not involved with flying activities. Such a sterile area would be a FPV race track, or in our a case private land not accessible to the general public with the closest active structure more than a kilometre away.

They replied by saying that due to the close proximity of a tourist attraction, a bunch of rocks 1.5km away and behind our flying site (we are not allowed to fly behind ourselves anyway), and an airport sited 10km behind us, Article 16 was irrelevant.

This got me thinking… what use is a spotter anyway? Especially in such a location. They may say,
“You’re flying towards a tree!!”.
And my reply would be,
“I know. I can see the tree, and I intend to fly through the tree”.

Or

“There’s an aeroplane flying overhead!” When the aircraft is at 1500feet agl and I’m at 20ft agl.

Our club has an altitude exemption that extends to 1000ft for fixed wing LOS flights but there is no requirement for a spotter, but I’d argue there is a stronger case for one in such a situation.

Now I’m not decrying the use of a spotter entirely. I would certainly use one if I was flying in a publicly accessible area, primarily to stop said public from coming up and trying to engage me in the three inevitable questions:

  1. How much?
  2. Where from?
  3. How far can you fly?

Or when using a camera drone in a similar public location as it’s easy to lose the position of the drone when you’re constantly looking down at the screen and trying to look up at the drone.

I’ve been flying FPV for over ten years, and in all that time the only things I’ve crashed into are the things I was flying toward and could clearly see myself, and even having a thousand spotters would not have stopped the crash. In all cases the only damage was to my quad and my pride. On the flip side I’ve seen countless fixed wing LOS pilots lose orientation and crash and cause material damage to property other than their own. Or become sky blind and completely lose sight of their model, for it to be never seen again. In all those situations having a spotter may have been a great benefit.

So… to anyone other FPV’ers, have you ever encountered a situation where your spotter had been instrumental in averting disaster? Or even provided you with any information that without would have meant you wouldn’t have been able to complete your flight in a safe manner?

My apologies for being so controversial. Since my wife is back in the USA visiting friends and family I’ve had zero interaction with any other human being for over a month, and the voices in my head along with my cat that now talks, said this would be good for me.

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Its useful in a crash if several pieces, eg a lipo, go flying in other directions. Narrows down the search

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This is pretty much my only answer, too. I find a younger set of eyes, and particularly ears, very useful in this respect. And they’re usually @Brengun’s. He’s a good lad. :slight_smile:

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Have to agree with Karl there… When crashing and it bounces into a bush, etc (you’ve disarmed, blah blah), knowing where it went was good, and if things have flown off.

The only other time was useful was when I was in a “public” field, flying a tinywhoop (A16 does allow more), and my spotter was letting me know of dog walkers and kids coming onto the park, but he did start saying “FIRE FIRE…” I was like, “where?” (assumed quad was smoking or something, but felt fine)… He was like… “HERE!”… I duly landed and indeed the ground around me was on fire!

It was the 1S charger Karl had given me (kind man…) that had caught fire and burnt out! heh.

I know a few who fly FPV without spotters, but I’ve only done it once, and HATED it… Was just scared of someone walking up to me, etc. I did fly out the packs, but just felt… ERGH the whole time…

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Just ask him about the “yellow road”… and our long walk around drone circle looking for it next time you see him… lol

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Very few definite instances of an observer 100% being necessary, but a lot of times one has been useful.

Certainly the requirement that they have unobstructed line of sight to the aircraft at all times is over-the-top. As long as they have general awareness of the area around the flyer, that has been enough.

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Is this when I turned up late, and didn’t know you were there till someone said after 30 mins you were looking for a drone, and you searched in fields in front of us, to the right, behind, etc. you had NO idea where that had gone! Amazed you got it back (DVR I assume helped!)

See there you go DVR is king :wink: Oh and a good buzzer

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There was no DVR… the SD Card was full.
There was no GPS.
The beeper didn’t work on the switch because there was not enough power in the battery to receive the RX signal and make the FC do stuff.
The Vifly didn’t work because the battery didn’t actually eject. There was just enough power coming through for it to be happy.

We walked past it right at the start… then about 30mins later after covering the entire site, we went back to where I was sure the only “yellow road” could be (it was not yellow)… I saw the extremely long VTX antenna pointing out of the grass…

Neither worked in this case.

Afterwards I realised there was a GoPro on it… I could have used the GoPro app and Finder feature… ffs

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I understand both arguments, search and rescue after a crash, but more so when flying in a public place which I don’t dispute. On the occasions that I’ve crashed and the quad has lost power I know the area well enough to pin point the quad within a few feet, and I also have the DVR footage up until the point of impact. Ensuring my DVR is running is part of my preflight checks.

I personally only fly FPV on private land (with permission) in areas far away from any man made structures and zero likelihood of a human encounter, other than those whom I’m flying with, and at altitudes that if I were to encounter an aircraft I’d be the least of its worries as it would already be milliseconds away from the scene of its crash.

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haha yeah remember… the “Yellow” road… heh

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It seems as though your flying club is giving a knee-jerk “it’s always been done this way” response without considering the points you raised.

As for an airport 10km away, any of my photo aircraft would struggle to reach that distance and, from what I understand of FPV, they have battery lives of 5 to 10 minutes only.

As an outsider from both fixed wing and FPV it appears to me that new blood is needed on your club committee.

Do we know any articulate FPV flyers with time on their hands currently … :slight_smile:

You’ve not met the @group-fpv bunch then…

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I would simply go back to the old adage of use common sense. The only time I would use a spotter is if I was flying and people were around for some reason. Most of the rest of the time I fly at places where sane people don’t go (bandos, off the beaten track type places, etc). Sometimes I just find a spot somewhere and fly if no one is around. Like parked up in my van having a coffee break and say the car park is just empty and devoid of people I might grab my whoop and fly a pack for a couple of minutes. I just do a quick check of what’s around and if i’m happy, I rip for a couple of minutes.

Most the time no one bothers you and tbh if someone is coming towards you, you will know long before they get to you, due to the excellent surveillance package installed in your drone. :wink: So land, pack up, and be somewhere else. But honestly I find people don’t approach me at all, no matter where I fly. But then I fly quiet quads that don’t raise eyebrows, in places where I don’t bother others. If you fly a big noisy 5" that you can hear throttle punches from a mile away it’s going to attract attention, so flying solo is going to be a hit and run type affair where you fly a couple of packs and move on. Also the danger side of it is going to be more apparent with something that big. If I hit myself in the head with my 85mm, it will hurt, but it won’t send me to hospital.

So for me if you are flying a whoop or small 1-3S quad in a small size I wouldn’t worry too much. Just use common sense. If you are pulling out the big guns, then having someone with you can be pretty beneficial. If you are flying LR, then definitely have a spotter with some binoculars in case it goes down, so you know roughly where to look (assuming GPS, etc, failed).

Technically the club is correct, to not require an individual spotter per pilot for FPV requires more than just being in a sterile area. This exception is specifically for organised race events

You need to be complying with all the following

  • Within a sterile area – meaning a cordoned off, closed area that uninvolved persons are excluded from. (Uninvolved persons are those who are not participating in the UAS operation or who are not aware of the instructions and safety precautions given by the UAS operator).
  • The aircraft is not flown in excess of 160ft (50m) above the surface.
  • In accordance with procedures set out for the purpose of the event and in accordance with the instructions of the race director or other nominated person, including provision of a ‘terminate race and land immediately instruction.
  • Any observers are suitably briefed and aware of their responsibilities, including the monitoring of people or aircraft entering the sterile area.

Individual remote pilots do not require their own ‘competent’ observer when operating under this provision.

you’ve all missed the best reason for having a spotter…

but dear, I’ve got to go flying this morning, Karl needs a spotter for a speed run.

:smile: :smile:

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As the OP of this thread I thought I’d do an update.

I will apologise beforehand as this is a sort of ranty post, full of self opinion, and possibly lacking all respect for others :rage: But if I don’t get it out of my system I’ll b spending the rest of the week shouting at clouds.

Yesterday I made the trip to my flying field to put my recently acquired Typhoon H through its paces. By the way it performed flawlessly. When I arrived at the field there were just two other members present, flying their DJI FPV and Avata quads. See I told you the way to gain acceptance is to infiltrate from within, as neither of these members flew quads when I joined eight years ago.

Anyways I raised the “Spotter” subject and found out it wasn’t a committee member who’d got a bee under their bonnet, rather it was another member who’d had his nose put out of joint when he tried preventing another member from flying for not having a throttle kill switch on his electric foamie. In short the foamie flyer ripped him a new orifice for his holier than thou attitude. So the complainant decided to report to the committee that he, and others, were flying FPV without spotters.

Because of the complaint the committee were forced to re-enact an antiquated ruling that anyone flying FPV requires a spotter to maintain constant visual contact of the model, and can take control of the model if things go South. For the record this is not what a spotter does. Just like the mandated spotter rule my club’s spotter rule was written way back, by someone whom has never experienced FPV themselves.

The late Christopher Hitchens said,

“That which can be ascertained without evidence, can similarly be dismissed without evidence”.

I have yet to see any evidence that having a spotter when I’m flying FPV at my flying field can in anyway improve the safety of my flight, or avert a disaster. I’ll go one further and say that there is no evidence yet to be a reported where a spotter was instrumental in preventing a serious incident. In fact I don’t know of any substantiated reports of a FPV flight causing serious injury/death or substantial property damage outside of the Ukrainian border.

Now here comes the irony. Yesterday I learned that during my absence from the flying site there’d been a number of lost models, some substantial in size and weight, that had crashed because the pilot had either lost orientation or become sky blind trying to reach the 1000ft exemption we have. A few of these models had crashed well outside the perimeter of our flying site, which is quite substantial, one even impacting some distance away on a public road.

So, in which situation would best benefit from a spotter? Me whizzing along a few meters above the ground in a sterile area with FPV? Or someone flying beyond the capabilities of their visual line of sight?

So to surmise. Currently in my flying club, and I expect in others also, if I want to fly FPV at low level in a sterile environment, I will need a spotter. Where as if someone wants to fly their jet, and I don’t mean an EDF foamie, to an altitude of 1000ft, they are free to do so without a spotter. Surely I’m not the only one who sees the hypocrisy in this?

Thank you for allowing my indulgence and selfish motives.

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I cannot disagree with any of the points you have made about the absurdity of requiring a spotter for FPV flights. I can use a club airfield and so if there is not another member there to act as a spotter I have to find a friend to volunteer or even occasionally my wife, (in her case de-touring to a drive-thru Costa on the way) - yet frankly once the drone is several hundred feet away she has no idea where it is - fortunately as the pilot I am of course completely aware of its precise location

Getting this regulation changed is unlikely to be quick or easy but we need to encourage and support the various agencies such as BMFA and FPV UK to at least get it onto the table for discussion

I totally agree. In our case our flying club meets the criteria as a sterile area, and by default each member holds Article 16 authorisation, or they would not be permitted to fly. As such there’s no legal requirement to have a spotter for each FPV pilot that is in the air. However whether it’s because of ignorance, or in this case obvious prejudice, the committee appear to have enforced this club rule to appease the grumbler, because he was made to feel publicly stupid when he was shown that there is no club rule, only a recommendation, about electric aircraft requiring a throttle cut. There is a rule that all ICE models are equipped with a throttle cut for obvious reasons.

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