HAM Radio License for FPV

Discussion in 'Safety & Regulation' started by Spork, Jan 19, 2018.

  1. Spork

    Spork There is no spoon

    Hey folks,

    While reading up on FPV and building drones, I've come across several YT videos where the pilot mentioned getting a HAM radio license because he got into FPV racing. I think one of them was Mr. Steele, but I could be wrong. I also get a few blog articles when I google for it.

    I've seen some varying opinions ranging from a) it's unlikely it will be heavily enforced so I didn't bother to b) better safe than sorry, plus it helps for when it does become an issue. Since I don't relish paying a heavy fine if I did get unlucky, I looked into the process and it looks like it's pretty painless for the entry level Technician license and it's only like $15. So I'm kind of leaning towards getting one at some point.

    I know if you are using equipment sold in the US it is supposed to be FCC certified, but what about all the Chinese based parts that many of the builders on youtube make. In the dozens of build videos I've watched, I only recall seeing one guy that FCC logos on his parts. Of course, I may just not have seen it on some parts.

    What are your thoughts? Did you already or do you plan to get a license? Inquiring minds want to know.
  2. Spork

    Spork There is no spoon

    For those so inclined, last night I found this site that provides a free study guide for all three levels. I read through the Technician level PDF in about an hour and was able to pass a practice test.

    To be fair though, I did study electronics 30+ years ago, and while I remember very little, remembering Ohm's law and basic component symbols on schematics was very helpful. I imagine that wouldn't add much time to someone wanting to pass the test.
  3. mozquito1

    mozquito1 Well-Known Member

    I use a TBS Greenhorn 25mw in my local park. I have a few 200mw TS58 models which I fly out the way on a golf course or @the beach. I just orderd an immersionRC Tramp 600mw to go with my Duo 4.1
    15 times over the limit in blighty.
    I was thinking about a licence but I'm going to fly as I see fit. If it's close proximity in a park then 25mw it is.
    If I'm out in middle of nowhere then with a license or not I'm going to run @ 600mw
    & stay well within my height limit of 400'
    While also checking THE local NOTAM.
    My 220 with the TBS is my rock & my tweaker is about to get slammed even more with an AIO fcb I might be able to get the stand offs down to about 12mm.
    Im seeing ppl getting 4km with my setup.
    I haven't a factual range of my fsi6.
    I seen YT vids & ppl getting 2 miles with no mods. It says 300m on the box I think.
    I plonked mine down @ the beach & walked a mile marker. My wife waited by it, & I had 46%errors. But it was a very hot day. Beaming sun. So soon I will be able to know the range of my tx/rx over a few tests hopefully,with help from the vtx.
    Spork likes this.
  4. Steven Campbell

    Steven Campbell Well-Known Member

    Given the low power for transmission, I would not expect it to be an issue.

    I have some basic HAM handheld radios, I will eventually get my license, I can listen in on the local tech nets and they usually broadcast daily when the offer the testing for the local areas.
    Spork likes this.
  5. GJH105775

    GJH105775 Avid Linux User, and USAF 1C6 Moderator

    Most of our equipment technically requires a HAM license. Those that don't are basically worthless due to the restrictions in an FCC certified device.

    As long as you are not interfering with something you likely will never be called out for not having a HAM license.
    mozquito1, Spork and Steven Campbell like this.
  6. Spork

    Spork There is no spoon

    I appreciate the input, but I figured I’d go ahead and get the Technician license since I’d already spent time looking into it. Happy to say I passed the test yesterday. Pretty painless and I learned a lot more about antennas - which I feel will pretty useful info.
    wafflejock, KentA, GJH105775 and 2 others like this.
  7. GlassKnees

    GlassKnees Well-Known Member

    I have agonized over the same thing. I intended to study and get the technician's license, but didn't follow through. I now have two aircraft each have a 600 mW video transmitter and I have rationalized that as long as I'm not interfering with anybody no harm no foul. But how do I know if I'm interfering with anyone? And if so, how will having a license remedy the situation? I figure that if I'm out in a field it probably doesn't matter much - may I'm kidding myself?
    wafflejock likes this.
  8. mozquito1

    mozquito1 Well-Known Member

    That's pretty much my take. I'd only use the 200mw-600mw in the middle of nowhere. I got quizzed by a cop once & I got paranoid. So I have a 25mw when I go out & the tramp or whatever set on 25w till I need it.
    Spork likes this.
  9. Spork

    Spork There is no spoon

    I was worried about that very thing - I mainly learned two things on this while studying.

    Number one is in the context of you being a HAM radio operator, at home, presumably with a big antennae on your house so all your neighbors know. If a neighbor mentions/complains, they say to work with them to figure out if it is you or them. Common sense really, but unlikely to come up with our side of the hobby. I would think most of us would work with our neighbors if they mentioned that they noticed their TV or whatever went on the fritz when we were flying a quad nearby.

    Number two, is in the context of you interfering with a HAM radio operator. Some of these guys are serious enough about to track you down with directional finders or call the FCC and they will track you down with directional finders. Again, also not likely, but that likelihood starts going up the more you regularly fly in the same spot.

    Now there is fancy equipment you could get to check that your equipment is actually within the frequencies it is supposed to be, but that's above my pay grade and likely not worth the investment given the risk level. For me, as mentioned above, I felt that it was worth getting the license anyway as I had already invested a few hours on the subject anyway. It took me longer to drive to the test than to actually take it.

    I feel like Moz' advice just above and farther up is pretty spot on for the vast majority of us to stay out of trouble.
    GJH105775 and mozquito1 like this.
  10. Taylor

    Taylor Well-Known Member

    Sorry for digging up an old thread, but this is something I've been researching quite a bit lately. I have been considering getting the tech HAM license as well, but I guess what I don't understand (and I believe it was asked in a previous post without an answer), but what exactly will the license do for me? I obviously know the basic guidelines about flying over people/roads, flying within 5 miles of airports, and whatnot. But is there some magical formula in the test that will keep me from pissing everyone off when I'm flying fpv? Lol.... I fly in mostly urban areas, but usually wait until any businesses are closed or I'll go to a massive park when it's empty. But still... Basically I'm trying to avoid the feared hefty fine, but am unsure of how a HAM license will fix that... Sorry for the newb question, but struggling to find the answers I'm looking for.
  11. Dugdog47

    Dugdog47 Well-Known Member

    I've often wondered about this when I'm using my 600mW vtx who or what am I harming with such a weak signal?
  12. mozquito1

    mozquito1 Well-Known Member

    It would just make you more aware of what frequencies you can & cannot us & where & why.
    It would not give you any sort of license to do anything you want.
    Taylor, wafflejock and GJH105775 like this.
  13. wafflejock

    wafflejock Well-Known Member

    The test basically covers understanding of what is allowed and what is not allowed with regard to which frequencies you can use and what authority you need to check with and details about the registration process and how you could use your knowledge of HAM radios to help in emergency response situations. With regard to flying it's mostly just telling you when you have the 'right of way' and when other people do, it's a lot of pretty basic stuff and a few details about converting from a frequency to antenna length (actually sort of useful for understanding how your quad antenna work or why they might not work so well at a given frequency).

    I made and app on alexa to help study https://www.amazon.com/Chi-Town-Gam...UTF8&qid=1537806401&sr=1-1&keywords=ham+study

    Unfortunately the test questions have been updated and I haven't had the time to update my skill yet so the questions are from the pool before the updates this June/July.
    Taylor and GJH105775 like this.
  14. Taylor

    Taylor Well-Known Member

    Thanks guys for the replies and info. Sounds like there will be a lot of useful info covered.

    Now my next question may seem a bit trivial, but out of curiousity: I don't have any fpv goggles/monitor at the moment so I'm assuming I can simply disconnect the VTX (so no signal is being transmitted) and safely fly line of sight without needing the HAM license? I will still be getting the license as I want to fly fpv eventually. But doing so would mean I would only be transmitting a 2.4ghz reciever and that should be ok, right? I have been using 2.4ghz transmitters and recievers on my ground vehicles for years without issue and don't see that being an issue in flight, but maybe it is?

Share This Page