One could write a book on FPV spotting, and still miss important details. Here, we provide a primer on the rationale behind having a spotter, some of the key responsibilities, and important considerations for the spotter and pilot’s communication.

Why Spot?

  • Reducing risk for
    • Any humans (or other creatures) who might be present
    • Any property that might be at risk
    • The gear involved (aircraft, cameras, etc)
  • Increase comfort of the pilot, to enable more interesting flights
  • It’s fun to be involved and see someone else’s approach to a space


  • Safety comes back to checklists
    • Having someone thinking about checklists helps
    • It feels a lot less weird to do a checklist out loud with someone else there
  • Line of sight checks – compare naked eye to FPV
  • Constantly check data that needs to be considered, like battery health, weather, performance, etc.
  • Situational awareness on the ground
    • Explain any weird noises
    • Entertain any random passersby
    • Clear LZ when coming in to land
    • Check car traffic

Some bullets to inspire further writing

What is spotting?

  • 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


  • 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