FPV Camera angle is a very personal thing. It is the single most significant part of your setup that is not directly related to tuning equipment. What it says about you as a pilot, is more telling than the color props you use or the Botgrinder motors you just picked up. If one were to say clothes makes the man (or woman if it were the case). You might also say that camera angle makes the pilot. And yet, if you ask the average experienced pilot they can tell you it is important. They can tell you that you need to move your angle up to go faster. But we all seem to have a hard time articulating exactly what that means.
That is what we will address today, as we unlock the mysteries of full throttle forward flight.
When we start out, many of us start at a similar FPV Camera angle of 20-25 degrees. (Or even lower if you start with a Tiny Whoop).
This makes things easier as you have a clear view of both the ground and what is in front of you. Once you try to start racing though, or doing some Matty Stuntz airborne acrobatics. You quickly realize that this angle will not work.
The people you fly with, have probably witnessed you hovering and bobbing around. The bobbing up and down like a floating fish lure is a symptom of a camera angle that is to low. Because the camera angle is low, any quick throttle movement will result in you popping more up, than forward.
They probably told you need to increase to an FPV camera angle of 35 or even 40 degrees! But when you tried this, you crashed straight into the ground (or worse a tree). And then you went straight back down to your comforting 20 degrees and cried to Mommy.
My self esteem is as low as my camera angle right now…
Math and Concepts
Why does increasing your tilt allow you to fly faster? Well let’s take a moment to discuss the thrust and lift vectors of your quad copter. Because you have 4 motors all spinning in alternating rotations, your lift /thrust when hovering at a level angle is all angled in a straight up direction perpendicular to your quadcopter (fig1). All your thrust is providing you with straight up lift. When you pitch your quad forward, you are now adjusting that thrust to an angle that is between the angle of attack, (the angle you are moving), and the thrust vector which is still perpendicular to you. As this angle increases, you have more thrust pushing you forward (fig2). More thrust in this direction means you fly faster. Now what else are you noticing as you increase this angle? The thrust that is pushing you up, is decreasing as the thrust pushing you forward increases. This means not just that you can fly faster, it means that you HAVE to fly faster to maintain a constant altitude at that angle.
Now what do we notice about the 3 quadcopters above? In the first image our camera is pointing up, in the 2nd, it is pointing level, and in the 3rd we are looking straight at the ground.
By increasing our fpv camera angle, we increase that angle of attack in which we see our quad flying at a level angle in relation to the horizon.
Where did this idea come from?
Now that we know what is going on, let’s discuss why it becomes easier once you start to approach a higher tilt. A few extreme free stylers like Matty Stuntz, have been flying super high camera tilt for a while. Certain racers have been doing this lately as well. In fact super high tilt has started to be known as “Dolma Tilt” after Piro team pilot Andy “DolmaFPV” Marachillian started sharing his builds. People commented how his camera was pointed to the sky. When asked for comment on his recommendation for racing camera angle. Marachillian responded with “70 and go!”
Why is it easier?
If you have ever seen Joshua Bardwell’s videos where he talks about turning using cross coordination that when you turn to the left at a forward clip, you need to use a combination of yaw to the left on your left stick and roll to the left on your right stick (for mode 2 pilots).
Now the interesting part. The higher you start to increase your camera angle, something starts to happen. That dual stick cross coordination that needs to happen to turn starts to diminish. Somewhere around an FPV camera angle of 60 degrees plus you start to be able to take turns, especially quick turns using only (or mostly depending on angle) roll. Those mechanics also seem to get a little slower, similar effect to lowering your rates, it’s like you now have a little more fine control even though you are moving more quickly. This is due to having single stick control over turning.
For me this was like stepping through a door to another dimension where things suddenly started to become more clear. I realized that in order to safely buzz the tower Maverick could only have been using single stick input, no way he was cross coordinating anything on that move.
You are now flying using mechanics that are much closer to what you would play a video game with. Flying around using one stick to turn, instead of a perfect combination of 2, can be much easier to fine control for some pilots used to playing video games.
We have all been training for this for decades.
Why is it more difficult?
As we mentioned before, the higher you increase the more forward thrust you have, but your vertical thrust (what keeps you in the air) is now lessened. This means you need to apply more throttle to maintain a level forward flight. More throttle is now also more focused in thrust forward, than vertical lift. In other words, you have to fly faster to maintain altitude. I know for me, being able to process the information fast enough for my eyes and hands to react took a long time to adjust to. Once you punch the throttle at FPV camera angle 60+degrees, you no longer are punching into the sky. You are cranking the knob to Ludicrous Speed!
If you watch a faster pilots videos, and it looks like they are traveling at Warp 7, you may not be ready to crank it up to 70 degrees just yet.
Adjusting to avoiding crashes
This also means that if you do need to pull out of something, (quickly pull up). You need to get used to pulling back on the pitch stick to level out before you hit throttle to go up. (The reverse of the 3 quads above). It is a new type of cross coordination that you must perform in these instances. Usually you are not navigating obstacles when moving up. So you have more room, I prefer the fine control moving around obstacles and through gates.
One thing you must be aware of, is getting your actual camera settings set perfect for where you are flying so that you can see everything coming at you. To do this review this article about Getting the Right FPV Drone camera settings.
How to keep moving up?
Best strategy is to move up incrementally. Try moving 5-10 degrees at a time, do 10-20, 50 packs until you are comfortable and then move up again. Make sure you do plenty of practice sessions like this before you show up to the race. And be ready to hit the throttle to stay in the air.
My interpretation of “Dolma Tilt”
Landing becomes more tricky.
How can you land when you cant see the ground!? This is one of the most difficult parts to adjust to. I find that by coming in slowly in a corkscrew motion slightly pointing down I can gauge how high I am. Just keep going in circles until I am very close to the ground and disarm. This is what is often referred to as the racers tumble. Skilled pilots can angle to the sky, and still throttle down slowly for a smooth landing.
Practice makes Perfect
Once you have moved your camera angle, you need a ton of practice.
Setup some practice gates if you are a racer, or go to a field with grass (not concrete) for you freestylers and practice flying around, taking turns. Practice taking off, practice landing, and keep away from anything you don’t want to crash into. (including yourself!) Just as the driveway mechanic that runs over his own foot bears the ultimate humiliation, so does the FPV pilot who flys into his own face.
Liftoff Pro Tip
Liftoff is an awesome drone flying simulator that lets you practice free style and racing. In Liftoff workbench settings only allow you to increase angle up to 60 degrees. In the game though, you can hit the Up arrow key to increase a degree at a time up! I have been playing with 70-80 degrees. This has really allowed some key practice in transitioning my camera pointing to the sky.
So rack up some virtual crashes before you turn your new Stingy frame into shards of broken carbon fiber.
In conclusion, start cranking up those angles. This was an idea that took me a very long time to understand. The concept of moving camera angle up to go faster is simple. But the idea that moving up to a certain point actually can make flying fast easier and more precise is not something I really understood. Bottom line, is that ultra high angle means you can turn with only one stick instead of two. I just happened to figure this out through a lot of trial and error.
If you find it just doesn’t work for you, just go back down to whatever feels best. I know plenty of people faster than me that are still in the 50-55 degree range. If you are a gamer though especially, give it a try and see what happens. You just may be end up going from last place to first place at your local races in no time.