I fly FPV as do most of you Here at DIY Drones, and I will admit that I have flown at times without the use of a Spotter. Yes I know it’s a bad Idea to do so, however I also know I’m not alone. Lots of you do This I know I have seen The videos, But I don’t want to talk about this other than to raise the point that a spotter is not always available at times or necessary, If you are way out in the sticks, and under 400 feet no Biggie in my book. Others will I am sure disagree but that is a discussion for another Blog.

The big problem is that the requirement for a spotter comes from aviation law / rules / advisories that define a remote-controlled aircraft to be a vehicle flown via unaided visual contact. In order to meet this requirement, a spotter that has visual contact to the aircraft and possibility to take over control is needed. The visual line of sight rule comes from another section of aviation law, which dictates that people participating in the airspace must be able to "see and avoid" at all times.

My question or idea is why not have a Collision Avoidance System in conjunction with an autopilot?

It seems simple to me, and yes I know The FAA  is not fond of autopilots on our aircraft, however we fly in a very artificial environment to say the least. And we use all manner of electronic devices to give us Air Speed, Altitude, Heading, and more, so why not add a collision avoidance system to what we currently use to help be that extra set of eyes we need. Add an auto pilot that could take control in the event of a loss of signal or other mishap, and it would make flying FPV a lot safer for all.  No it won’t replace a human but it would help with”see and avoid”, even pilots of full size aircraft have trouble with this in crowded airspace which is why systems like these exists in the first place.

I recently went looking for a small affordable system and I found one, I am sure there are others.

The Zanon flight Systems PCAS MRX is a tiny system that is as small as the radar detector you might have in your Car, yet it can monitor your location, altitude, and heading, and will let you know if any other aircraft are in your area,  that and many other features. Yes those other  aircraft need to be broadcasting a transponder signal, however the FAA requires most all small aircraft to do so, except for ultra lights, para gliders, and the like, and I think they would like even them to do so. I would think this should be very valuable information to those of us flying FPV. Some of the units ability's are: Digital range, scalable from 5NM to 1NM, Relative altitude, scalable from ±2500 ft to ±500 ft, with ascending/descending indicator, A built-in altimeter for real-time accuracy, Displays the local squawk code and altitude, Audio alerts for threats and advisories. Not bad for its size and price, it sells for about $550.00. Until we can put a radar system on our planes and multi copters this might be the way to go. I think it should be possible to adapt this device, or one like it, to work with our OSD systems and auto pilots and give us that extra bit of real time safety that a spotter allows. The website for this device is here at http://www.zaon.aero/content/view/2/41/

Just food for thought I don’t have any Idea how hard it would be to add this to an OSD/ auto pilot, however I think our hobby is getting to the point where we will need something like this soon. And with all the talk about new regulations for drones coming soon I think it would make pilots of commercial and privet planes feel a lot safer to know we can see them and we are listening to FAA control and advisories for the airspace we are sharing with them. Please Let me know your thoughts about this idea, and thanks for your time reading my ramblings


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  • Eric,

    First, as I read it any aircraft that has an engine powered electrical system must also be equipped with a coded radar beacon transponder, no they don’t need it turned on at all times, I n ever said they did nor did I say that it is type based, in fact I don’t say anything about it, other than the bit about ultralights however.  I think that you are reading way too much into what I am saying because I was not specific about where  this system was to be used, you have no experience with this type of flying so I don’t expect you to realize that  we literally cannot lift off without being in some type of controlled airspace if we are going to use UAV’s to make money,  so when I said  that the FAA requires that most aircraft must have one on, it was accurate in the context of where we will be flying most of the time, which is, as you say area based, but you don’t ask where I plan to use this system, you just assume I am making a general and uninformed statement about transponder use and blast away.  Also I never claimed to be quoting FAA regulations, only stating what I know for the areas I fly in and around and plane to sell my services in if I can. And transponders are required to be used here by all aircraft equipped to do so. If I was not specific enough for you about that I am sorry. I should have said FAA requires most all small aircraft to do so, depending on where you are flying. And here there are 3 major airports with in 10nm of my house, and the areas I will be flying in to do aerial photography

    You are making the assumption that I am quoting regulation when I am not. We must all make assumptions at times, but if you have a concern about something I or someone else say please ask to ask me to clarify before you tell me I am totally wrong and that because of this I don’t understand the risks of a situation. As for you other comments. I said a spotter is not always available at times or necessary, If you are way out in the sticks, and under 400 feet. I never said you needed a transponder here either. Or that the system I propose would be of any value there,  Nor did I say that I thought the FAA rules and regs were overly restrictive, I don’t.  

    But all of this nit picking over how I phrased something, or if I miss quoted regs, or I don’t understand them, misses my point about developing a system to help UAV’s to avoid other aircraft I honestly don’t care how the FAA mandated use of transponders, it is secondary to my wish to develop any type of system to see, detect and avoid other aircraft. Which is why I was not very specific about it in my blog  I was thinking along lines of monitoring the available info from them  and using it to fly safer  and this is in all pilots interest no matter what system we finally use to do it weather transponder based or the system Gary mentioned that is vision based which now I have had time to check it out looks far more promising than what I proposed.

  • Daniel,

    You wrote that the FAA requires most aircraft to have transponders, except for ultra lights, paragliders, etc. This is simply not true. FAA transponder requirements for GA crafts are basically location based, not type based.

    Sorry to be blunt, but please reread your post and retread the FAR on this topic.

    I've never flown fpv, so I can't speak to that, but the pilot-in-the-plane stuff I'm pretty sure I have correct.

  • Actually I Just Joined Gary  a great out fit

  • Moderator

    @all I was speaking tongue in cheek before about promising not to hit anyone. Like most of the people here I am also a licenced pilot, rotary,glider and LTA (Which is where I make my dosh) I don't see any issue with making people take the written air law and met papers. The flight test is another thing.

    If your in the USA you should probably be part of RCAPA. They have a LinkedIn page as well now http://www.linkedin.com/groups?home=&gid=4230773 They have an agreement with an insurance company.

    My understanding of what the AMA is upto is that they are distancing themselves from UAS. Remember a couple of years ago there was talk of speed restrictions, endurance and a blanket ban on Rc jets. I wonder why the feds paid a chap to try and fly a jet into something.

    People keep avoiding the new key word in sense and avoid, which is detect. 

  • Eric i don't know what it is you are talking about. i never said anything in my blog about transponder rules so what did i get exactly wrong?

     my thought is for a system to help with the see and avoid bit in flying which is why we have spotters i have been flying fpv for a long time now and i do understand the risks involved which is why i would love to find a system that could look over my shoulder while i am flying. and telling me i don't is insulting. if something transponder based will work great, if it is too limited because not all aircraft use them, like ultralights and paragliders then the system Gary talked about that uses a visual aproch to SEE the other aircraft before it becomes a danger might work better, in either case the tech does not exist yet, which was the point of my blog to get people thinking about it, and about making it easier and safer to fly FPV. as for UAV's using a transponder i never said that the FAA has any regs for our little drones. my thinking was for the future, if such a system were built and then mandated to be used for UAV;s then i assume the FAA would add something to the current regs about there use, at least i hope they would

    please understand the fixed wing drones and multi copters we fly are extremely capable we are not talking about one of those parrot AR drones here, which by the way must also be flown with a spotter if you are using the on board camera to fly by, and you must maintain line of site,not that it matters with the range you get from it or that any of the kids flying them will follow these rules. you see  my point is that there is a big difference between what we are doing here and the regular RC world, and a lot of us want to make money doing this,also i have never said that i thought FAA rules and advisories were too restrictive, some here definitely do but please don't confuse me with them. i think the point a lot of people here are making is that the rules they do have are not applicable to what we do they treat us as toys and many are worried that defense contractors and the like will push for rules that will not allow small buisness to use UAV's at all i for one would find that sad. i do think that regs must be established for demonstrated skill and air worthiness as i posted earlier and a bond should be carried if you plan to fly for pay.

    as for irresponsible people, i have never known an irresponsible person to bother with reading any rules in the first place so they only protect us from them after they are caught doing something really dumb.

    i want a system to make FPV and UAV's safer to fly that's all

  • Daniel,

    There are a lot of good ideas in your post, unfortunately you have the FAA rules for transponders exactly wrong.  A transponder is required within the airspace and near the airspace of major airports. 


    It is the rural areas that you refer to where transponders are NOT required.  I realize you understand that these transponder based systems are backups, but this is a perfect example of not understanding the risks of a situation.

    I work in a non-aviation industry, yet the new technologies I develop fall under the FAA's purview.  It's been a fascinating process to work with them to make sure that the rules that will govern my technology are fair to industry and safe for aviation. (I'm also a pilot)

    FAA regulations and advisories may sometimes seem overly restrictive to responsible people, but the point is that they need to be restrictive to protect people from irresponsible behavior.



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  • @ David you are totally correct about promising not to hit someone. it has to be much more than that, all of the vendors that deal with my company must carry a 2 million $$ bond just to walk on to the property and do a job. that bond however does not guarantee that they have any idea that they know what they are doing, so a demonstrated skill level must be a part of any licensing and the bond should be there if you want to make money doing this. both would show that as an operator you are responsible and serious about safety  this all would be a minimum to start any business with UAV's after all if i am running a boom crane i have the same responsibility to public safety and to the safety of my customer.  that skill level demonstration is the sticking point as far as cost and what is required to satisfy the FAA and insurance company's that you are bondable.also a lot of the cost of a pilots license is the cost of the plane to train in, if a UAV operator has his own aircraft then that cuts down that end a lot and some kind of specific schooling for the rest is needed as is a curriculum, the requirements will need to be set by the FAA which brings us right back to the new regs that are coming. and as you pointed out there is a lot of room for jobs out there if done right

  • Greetings,

    At the moment, the only regulated (i.e. licensed and tested) method for demonstrating a basic understanding of the airspace system that I am aware of is through acquiring a pilot's license. I'm OK with using this initially, but I'm already a pilot so it isn't an unrealistic barrier to me. It obviously would be to many others. If the FAA requires some demonstration of this understanding, there needs to be an official mechanism for teaching and testing it. (And there is a job creation opportunity.)

    Promising not to hit someone isn't good enough. Being insured against hitting someone, and being held responsible for doing so is also required. The former is another job, or at least revenue, generating opportunity. The latter is probably already covered under existing laws.

    I keep mentioning revenue and job creation because sUAVs can create both, and job creation is a big political issue now, and will be for awhile. Further, jobs shouldn't be created only in the big defense contractors, they should be created everywhere - small and large business, high tech and rural areas, etc. sUAVs represent a fairly unique capability of generating jobs across the country, and across the economic and business spectrum.


  • Moderator

    I think they want to sell the box for GA aircraft, its gives a basic TCAS type alert.

    The bottom line is that the restrictions in the USA at the minute are just plain silly and commercial VLOS should be allowed. You should have to show some basic understanding of the airspace system and promise not to hit anyone and thats it.

    Perhaps its not about lowering the bar, but understanding the risk.

  • @Gary: It´s true and research shows that human pilots are not a good sense and avoid system... But who believes any regulation will lower the bar from what is already there please raise now :-(

    @David: I guess there will be two sorts of regulations in the beginning. LOS flying rules without the need of complex systems (because you got manual override for SAA and System failure) and BLOS/NAS flying rules demanding full licences and certifications for systems and staff. There will be a gap in the middle for small BLOS systems which will probably filled later with emerging systems and experience, but I don´t hope for that soon. Since the "big solution" is the playing field of the big players and they guard it, small companies only have the small range option, which still offers lot´s of possibilities.

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