CAP 658 Says
(a) What is First Person R/C? – Also known as First Person View, is a system whereby a radio control model aircraft is piloted, not through direct line of sight, but by using a live video downlink from an on-board camera allowing the pilot to experience a ‘cockpit view’ and to control the aircraft from the visual perspective of that camera. The live video is normally displayed to the pilot through ‘video goggles’ worn on the pilot’s head or through a stand-alone monitor.
(b) Legal Position – The law requires that the person in charge of a model aircraft must maintain direct unaided visual contact with the aircraft sufficient to monitor its flight path so that collisions may be avoided. This is obviously not possible if the person in charge is wearing goggles. Therefore there needs to be a way to facilitate this and to address other safety concerns.
(c) Safety Concerns – Images captured by a camera and displayed on a flat screen afford the pilot little by way of depth perception and no peripheral vision. This can make it difficult for the pilot to accurately judge speed and distance and to maintain sufficient awareness of the area surrounding the aircraft to effectively ‘see and avoid’ obstacles and other aircraft. The ability to control the aircraft and avoid collisions is also greatly affected by the quality of the video being displayed. Furthermore, in the event of a loss of the video data stream, which can easily occur if the aircraft is flown beyond the range of the transmitter, the pilot is likely to experience difficulty in locating the aircraft relative to his own position and visually acquiring it before loss of control occurs.
(d) Control Measures – There are two mechanisms to address the safety concerns depending on the all up weight (auw) of the model.
(i) For models less than 3.5 kg auw an exemption (ORSA 1226) which permits the person in charge to wear the headset providing a spotter is employed. Please see section 19.23 following for full details.
(ii) For models in excess of 3.5 kg the buddy box system will need to be employed and then the person in charge will have the master transmitter and also direct line of sight to the model whilst another person flies the model by reference to the live video feed.
(iii) Remember that the operating conditions in both these cases clearly places the legal responsibility for the safety of the flight on the person in charge.