Defying Newton’s law of universal gravity to take flight can be a daunting task. I vividly recall my very first solo in a well-used Cessna 150, a VW-sized aircraft that required some gymnastics for me just to get into, let alone levitate and navigate around the Palo Alto traffic pattern. Not to get too nerdy, but factoring in the four basic forces of aerodynamics (thrust, drag, weight (and lift, as well as taking advantages of Bernoulli’s Principle of fluid dynamics) as I accelerated down the runway that first time without an instructor by my side, was a defining moment in my life.
I pulled back on the plane’s yoke, adjusted the rudder pedals and set the throttle, controlling the airflow across my Cessna’s aerosurfaces, allowing me to pitch up with the elevator on the tail. I then made a coordinated turn with the ailerons and rudder, all the while adjusting the throttle to avoid a nasty, low altitude stall. It’s pretty remarkable that we can teach ourselves to manage this rapidly dynamic environment and coordinate several simultaneous actions to make one lap around the pattern, let alone more complex maneuvers.
When we set out to design our first Fluidity controller we wanted to get rid of that iterative, deliberative process of flying, which really requires you to spend a lot of your “cerebral bandwidth” focusing on the details of how you’re going to get where you want to go. The FT Aviator eases up your cognitive workload, allowing you to simply focus on where you want to be, and with limited training your drone will almost subconsciously go there. As a result, the training time required to fly with confidence and skill with the FT Aviator is much reduced as compared with its twin-thumbed cousins, and much more akin to a jet pilot’s or Luke Skywalker’s X-wing flight experience.
I’ve taken dozens of people flying with the FT Aviator, and sometimes the actual flight instruction is just 7 simple words:
“The drone is your thumb tip. Go!”
And it really is about that simple. If you imagine your thumb tip as the nose of your drone, the way you move your thumb relative to the joystick and base will translate into matching movements onboard the aircraft. Pull your thumb up (and/or squeeze with your index finger) and the drone will ascend. Push it down into the joystick and you’ll descend. Pushing the stick (and thumb) forward results in forward motion, and you can guess what happens if you pull the stick back. As the stick and thumb go left, so will your drone. Twist the stick to the right and the drone will dutifully reorient in the direction of your thumb nail.
There are all sorts of extremely helpful bells and whistles for flight control with the FT Aviator, including tactile feedback when you’re issuing a command and when you’re not, as well as the ability to adjust speed and responsiveness of the stick on-the-fly, but we’ll dive into those later…