One could write a book on FPV spotting, and still miss important details. I still need to write this document, but here’s a set of bullet points I used to organize my thoughts.

  • What is spotting, anyway?
    • Separation of responsibilities – offload a bunch of secondary concerns to free up the pilot’s attention
    • Provide a second set of eyes, and train of thought to double check things, and bounce ideas around
    • Keep an eye on things happening on the ground, taking advantage of the fact that they’re not 100% in the goggles
  • Fundamental Philosophy
    • Reducing overall risk is safer for people and aircraft, which enables pilots to do more.
    • Clear, concise communication make everything better
    • Shared expectations make this much easier
    • Division of responsibility lets you focus on your part, and makes the whole team more effective.
  • Trust and expectations
    • What kind of spotting does the pilot want / expect? Both in general and for this flight.
      • Especially with working with new pilot / spotter pairs.
    • Explicit engage / disengage from spotter.
    • Communicate confidently – if you don’t have the flight plan or other details you need from your pilot, say so.
    • If you’re not sure, say so! Communicating your certainty goes a long way.
      • “That looks close… I think that’s us there…”
      • “I can’t tell if thats in LOS, you’re on your own/proceed at own risk”
    • When flying, be concise.
      • Communicate dangers fast to increase time available to respond
      • Time is mAh
    • Designate one person as the spotter.
      • Everyone else can (and should) help out, but if things get tense, they’re in charge
      • Extra people are great for things like public outreach, and can step back a few dozen feet to not be distracting
  • Preflight chat
    • What size battery is this?
    • What’s your turn-around mAh number and/or voltage?
    • Any other points at which you want to turn around early?
    • What’s your flight plan?
    • Potential danger spots - pay special attention to Line Of Sight
    • Pilot: “Am I clear to takeoff?” or just “Clear?”
      • Do not hit yourself or others on your way out plzkthx.
      • Also gives bystanders a chance to make sure excitable puppers are leashed.
  • Situational awareness
    • Environment
      • Air traffic
      • Vehicle traffic
      • Humans, and other critters
      • Explain loud noises
      • Pay attention to wind
        • Watch for clouds rolling in
        • Particularly obstructing LoS
      • Or obscuring the view of landmarks to find the way home
      • Make sure no one else is going to plug in while pilot is flying long range
    • Build a mental map of the space
      • Especially when flying without GPS, need to understand what your origin point looks like from the air
      • Make your pilot turn around if you need to
      • Focus on memorizing landmarks
      • Swap between FPV feed and LoS – match landmarks in FPV to landmarks you can see
    • Best if spotter also has a screen to see what the pilot sees.
      • Keep an eye on battery vitals
    • Aircraft
      • Battery
      • Ask about vibes or whatever
      • Video nonsense
    • Landscape
      • Warn about geographic obstacles that can impact LoS
        • That’s a bowl, don’t go in there!
        • You’re good on the rock face, but don’t go left of it, there’s a tree in the way
        • Don’t go past that ridgeline, or you’ll be behind rock
      • Call out useful landmarks when navigating home
      • Better safe than sorry for losing LOS, give your pilot fair warning they are heading for sketchy area
    • Mid-Flight Errors
      • “Did you also see that bad video”
      • Was that twitch you or the quad
      • Communicate possible issues, and make sure they are non-issues
      • “Is that strong wind?”
    • Antenna position
      • Chin up/turn head
        • It’s sometimes easier to gently hold pilot by the shoulders and turn them to face the right way than use words
          • Let them know you are going to touch them/do that
        • Stiff upper lip!
      • Control Antenna (Maybe they are flying behind themselves)
        • Or connector came loose and antenna is drooping.
    • Long range environmental awareness
      • Spot via goggles/screen; switch back and forth between overall LoS view, watching FPV, and OSD awareness
  • Know when to keep quiet
    • Tense situations
    • You don’t have anything to say
    • Ask others to step away if they may be distracting the pilot
    • [are there other times it’d be a good idea to STFU?]
  • Talking to strangers
    • First, let pilot know you’re stepping away.
    • Be friendly
    • Run interference if someone wants to talk about the aircraft
    • Share screen to get bystanders excited, do some pro-fpv outreach
      • Ideally this is not done by the primary spotter
      • But don’t leave your pilot hanging if they need info (be in earshot)
      • And check in from time to time
      • Don’t forget your job of mentioning loss of LOS/other things.
  • After the flight, debrief
    • What went well
    • What went wrong
    • Where you got lucky
    • Use this to iterate and get better
      • And thus tolerate higher risk on the next battery
      • As pairs work together over more flights, you’ll get better at this and need to say less in the debrief
  • This is going to turn into a longer doc. Share a set of stories illustrating…
    • good spotting
      • Fly back to the mountain. That snowfield, go to it. Ok, now turn around.
    • Things going wrong
      • Fog bank rolled in, had to fly back down through a cloud to home point
    • examples of how we learned and got better at this
      • TODO