What is FPV(first person view) flying? Is a HAM radio license required for fly FPV in the United States? How do you get your HAM license?
What is FPV?
FPV allows the pilot of an rc aircraft to watch video as if they were in the cockpit. A camera and transmitter mounted on the aircraft transmit video back to a receiver on the ground. The receiver is either attached to a video display or video goggles that the pilot can view.
HAM Radio License Required in the USA?
I am not an expert in law or government regulations, but everything I have read makes me conclude that a HAM Radio license is required for flying FPV in the USA. Continue reading to see what I have found out…
There are folks who say 10mW to 100mW transmitters may be ok for non-licensed FPV flying within high frequency bands, but I think that is false. The FCC Part 15 regulates devices that that can be operated without an license. I have not been able to find any FPV equipment that has FCC Part 15 approval. I may be wrong, so, if anyone knows of an FPV transmitter that is approved for non-license use, please comment below. Here is an rcgroups forum post on the subject that is worth reading. My take on all of this is that a HAM license is required for FPV flying.
How do you get your HAM license?
So, to be on the safe side, I am going to get my HAM license before doing anything with FPV. It seems like a very simple process. Local HAM operator groups administer the various HAM tests on a regular basis. Here is a website to look up when a test is being given in your area.
Passing the Test
The most basic license is called a “Technician License” and is all that is needed to fly FPV. I have not taken the test yet but am planning to this weekend, so I will post later about my experience. It costs $15 to take the test here. The test is a 35 question test made up of questions from a pool of about 400 total questions that are available over the internet. In other words, they are giving you the questions!
So, if you either learn the material in these questions or memorize the answers, you should pass the test. Sounds simple enough. What I did was listen to a series of 35 excellent videos by the Ham Whisperer, call sign KE4GKP in HAM lingo! After watching all of his videos, I took a practice tests a few times at http://www.eham.net. You have to score 70% or better to pass the test.
Getting a license should be easy and is required to fly FPV, so I am going to get mine. Hey, $15 and a few hours of study, why not?
I took the technician test today and passed. Whoopee! There were 5 people who took the test. All of the others were storm trackers who use HAM radios. Everyone passed. The test was administered by the local amateur radio club. They were all really nice and there was zero pressure. I definitely suggest that anyone interested in FPV spend the $15 and take the test. It is easy and you learn a lot.
After taking the test and passing, you will be assigned a call sign and logged into the FCC database. Once your name appears in the database (a couple of weeks max) you are ready to roll! Ha, the part about being in the database is one of the possible questions on the test.