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Sean Wendland

squishy654 on YouTube

It all started in the 1980’s on a bay area school yard — I had just won a paper airplane contest the week before with a heavy dart and a strong arm, and it left me wanting more. I climbed to the top of the tallest tower in the playground supporting the twisty slide and hurled my paper glider into the wind. It rose up and up, finally leveling softly at the top of its arc and came to rest on a pillow in the sky. The wind spun it around and it took off, crossing the entire length of the school yard and over the top of the school-house before setting down in the parking lot. I engineered small control-line gliders from bamboo skewers, toothpicks, and paper I found in the kitchen. I would steal any tape or glue I could get my hands on. I would swing my small models around in the living room, controlling the elevator and perform aerobatics with nothing but string. Watching and feeling the forces, my life long experiments with flying puppets had already begun. My parents were burdened early on as I would take apart all my toys for parts and build futile objects.

One Christmas, I received the Typhoon RC hovercraft and these things were my foundation for knowledge as I grew older. My parents put me into after-school science programs where I learned even more. My favorite book growing up was The International Encyclopedia of Aviation by David Mondey — I still have it. I even remember my first real crash; a pencil with a propeller taped to it. I spun it into the sky and skipped over to it after it landed with so much glee I stepped right on it with a careless excitement that soon turned to depression. I could never afford a real RC airplane growing up and begged my parents for more practical vehicles like RC cars instead. RC aeromodelling was expensive, difficult, and contained on club fields. I was lucky to have a neighbor who built and flew RC gliders, he taught me a lot about flight and the air itself. He did not fly at clubs, but rather where the air was best. He was building foam wings covered in balsa, a very advanced concept at the time. Exposure to such things further built my knowledge of model flight.

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I grew up and discovered females, mountains and computers which highly distracted me from my early love of flight. In about 2006 I was working for Intel and discovered the RCPowers YouTube channel. Years later, FliteTest came on the scene as well. My love for flight came rushing back and I soon found myself in the garage with a hot glue gun and a pile of cheap electronics brought on by the age of brushless motors and LiPo power systems. No longer did I have to fear the inner workings of combustion engines and I was in a familiar space. Using simple materials to make flying machines, it was on like Donkey Kong! I was soon looking for the local spots and ran into the Sacramento Park Flying Pirates at the end of a road in Elk Grove and was exposed to FPV. By 2010 I was flying and experimenting with FPV, however nothing was successful for several years. Multirotors soon entered the market and we could buy flight controllers for the first time. It was obvious to me that were going to put cameras on them and FPV would explode. I have bounced back and forth between multirotors and fixed wing FPV ever since that time, as I find the common thread that keeps me engaged is the act of FPV flight itself, and not the means or the form you choose.

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As I discovered things, I passed them on and soon formed a small team to work together. The Flight Club was an idea to group the eight best local FPV pilots I could find into a team and see how quickly we could accelerate our knowledge, skills, and abilities together without having to fight for noisy RF in the larger groups. It has been a remarkable success. Instead of advancing the technology, we advanced the way we used it. Instead of advancing the ability of each pilot, we advanced the challenges we were willing to accept. Instead of capturing the history and heritage of this hobby, we contributed to its growing culture, and we still do. I was tasked with helping to create the first large scale FPV racing event — the 2015 Drone Nationals in Sacramento. Behind the scenes and working the venue months before the event was the Flight Club. We were helping to lay the foundation of what would become an entirely new genre of FPV. Partnering with the FAA, AMA, and FCC representatives for risk mitigation, I acted as the Flight Director, the air boss, of a new form of flight and I worked hard to ensure the hobby finally had some positive press.

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I founded the NorCAL FPV community which has captured the style and ethics of FPV that I am proud of. I am working with the FPV Freedom Coalition because the mission and values are those that I have shared for a very long time. I finally feel like others are learning what I have learned and I’m no longer alone in my discovery. And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music. Flight transcends everything, it is in this oblivion where we find the greater things, flowing by in the mysterious patterns. I have discovered something within this hobby worth sharing, worth saving, and worth preserving for future generations. This hobby provides a path to enlightenment, it provides a path to new ways of thought itself. Even if you cannot hear the music yet, trust me, help me protect this opportunity for anyone who might have the ability.