An FPV flight is really an RC flight in disguise.
What is FPV?
A first person view (FPV) flight is one where the person controlling the model (airplane, helicopter, multicopter, etc.) is doing so by looking at a computer screen. The model carries onboard a video camera that transmits in real time what it sees. The computer screen shows the pilot on the ground the point of view of the model, hence the name.
Dramatic drops in the pricing of these components have made FPV flying very popular in recent years.
Who Regulates FPV Flights?
In the eyes of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), an FPV (First Person View) flight is a type of RC flight. In other words, they come under the AMA (Academy of Model Aeronautics) regulations. If you look at the AMA safety code, a reference is made to AMA Document 550 for the specific additional FPV rules.
There is a very important consequence from this arrangement. FPV flights cannot be flown for military or commercial purposes. If you are doing FPV in the United States right now for commercial purposes, then it is an UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) flight. I will be talking about those in my next article.
Pilot in Command
AMA Document 550, titled FPV Operations, is very short. It only consists of four rules. That is refreshing!
An FPV aircraft must be flown by two AMA members. One is the pilot in command. The other is on a buddy box system. This pilot in command must fly the model according to the AMA rules that I described in my previous article. As expected, he must maintain visual contact with the model at all times.
Just like a regular RC model, the pilot in command must follow all rules regarding appropriate places for the model to be flying in.
Instead of saying that he must be in control of the model at all times, like the AMA Safety Code does, the FPV Operations document says that he must be prepared to assume control of the model at any time. I do not know if this is a change from the safety code or just a clarification of its meaning. I am inclined to say that it is just a clarification. Otherwise, regular buddy box training flights would have to be considered FPV flights. I do not think anyone at the AMA intended for that to be the case.
Weight and Speed Limit
The final clause of the FPV Operations document is surprising. It limits a model used for FPV flying to 10 pounds (4.5 kg) and 60 mph (100 kph). This must obviously be due to safety concerns because of the newness of the technology. I would expect these limits to be raised as we collectively gain more experience with FPV flying.
For all practical purposes, think of an FPV flight as an RC training flight with a buddy box. Follow the AMA Safety Code rules, and you will be fine.