Letter Re: The Poor Man’s UAV: First Person Video-Controlled RC Planes

Hello James,
While researching availability of a First Person Video controlled RC plane I have come across two viable contenders.  One is incredibly affordable (less than $400) and the other I’m awaiting pricing on.  These are ridiculously valuable tools to scout remote areas, perform surveillance/security, and get a lay of the land.

The first is the Spyhawk.  It is for sale at their web site or at Amazon.   On the controller is a small display and you can pilot the craft from that controller.  You can watch a good video here. The second is the Zephyr II. There are some people who have expanded it’s range up to 27 miles.  For some exhilarating video of it flying through the mountains, urban areas, and downtown New York City, check out this Youtube channel

The mini-UAVs are massive force levelers, IMHO.  Imagine knowing the ground around you in a 27 mile radius as if you had walked every canyon, climbed every ridge, and mapped out every drainage.  Limitless possibilities!  Imagine scouting out your local town to see what is around you or what the easiest way out of town is.  Keep track of local herds of wildlife and predators.  In a grid down situation you could quickly and stealthily find out how the larger population centers are doing or if traveling down a road scan ahead for roadblocks and the like.  Where I live many people have summer homes and we’ve had suspicious vehicles driving by; what better tool than to follow them and get great video of them and their vehicle.  Need to drop a message to a friend; just fly over and drop a note by adding another servo.   Know of a drone doing surveillance?  Crash into it.  The possibilities are endless.

There are many, many criticisms to be had regarding these.  I’m sure soon we will see new regulation banning/licensing these (get one now!)  I’m sure there are a ton of ideas for how they can be modified.  One idea I have would be to control it via a cellular USB modem as it might be less susceptible to getting jammed.  Well I’m looking forward to other readers comments.  I know these have been mentioned here before but I’ve never seen such a readily available out of the box solution.  Incredible! – Michael H.