Introduction to FPV Systems
PLEASE: If you find this guide useful take a moment to share it on facebook! Thanks! Are you looking for this information in Spanish? Sistema FPV y Gafas FPV aqui. FPV (First Person View) is a unique addictive and almost surreal flying experience! After years of dreaming about being able to do this, we can finally fly from a pilot’s perspective!
Table of Contents
Affordable FPV systems have appeared within the last decade. FPV system flying is a rapidly growing trend in the various RC hobbies, and for good reason; it takes the beauty and energy of flying, driving, piloting a boat, and packages it in a relatively safe and less costly package. For many, this is the draw of flying rc models.
Until recently, however, setting up an FPV system has been very time consuming and required a lot of technical skills. Now we have companies such as DJI bringing a ready to fly, FPV multirotor to the masses, requiring no prior knowledge. While it may be more convenient to buy a phantom, plug in your tablet, and fly, it is still crucial that you know how these FPV systems work.
The current technology boom keeps this subject alive and forever interesting! Screens, goggles and glasses continue to evolve. Video transmitters and receivers have improved and become more reliable. Antennas and antenna tracking systems have improved. GPS accuracy has improved. There are heads-up display systems, head tracking capability and return-to-home features. There are apps that work in conjunction with your equipment to view video and GPS information.
No matter what FPV system you get, they all have the same basic components. Even the DJI phantom with its completely self-contained setup has these components, you just won’t be able to see them or fix them. The three basic components of the best fpv system are, in no particular order, the camera, the video transmitter (VTX), and the video receiver (VRX). The camera connects to the transmitter, which sends the signal on a radio wavelength determined by either the manufacturer or you, which is then picked up on the receiver.
How you then view it is based on your setup. Sometimes it’ll be through goggles, others it’ll be on your phone. While most of the times, this signal is analogue, in the case of the DJI phantom or other similar setups, its actually done using a digital WiFi link. There are various pros and cons to this, which we’ll get to later.
Now that you know roughly how FPV goggles work, and have decided that you want to try flying in first person, you need to know where you want to start. Really, you need to start not flying with FPV glasses at all. Flying Line of Sight (LoS) is a crucial skill. Before even buying a Phantom or building yourself a plane, you need to know how to safely fly without goggles on.
First Person View signals can fail, and if they do you need to know how to fly without them. Not only that, but LoS flying helps you learn how to fly and control your aircraft while seeing everything, not just what’s in front of it. Once you can fly Line of Sight you can start looking into the best FPV drone goggles setup.
Figuring out what you want to fly using FPV goggles ,after you can fly line of sight is actually fairly simple. When reading through FPV goggles reviews, pretty much anything with a nice camera on it that uses a tablet for a screen (like the DJI phantom line) will be fairly laid back and easy while anything with a thin carbon fiber body and racing plastered on it will be agile.
FPV System for the DJI Phantom
The Phantom is by far the most popular quadcopter available today. If someone mentions aerial photography, it wouldn’t be unusual to think of the DJI Phantom. There’s no denying that DJI have done a great job designing a plug and play system, which requires little understanding of the technology, capable of capturing pictures and videos, and all with minimal training! They are leading the way in making this technology accessible to everybody.
The original Phantom was good, but the new improved Phantom 2, 3 and now the P4 series are even better, with better flying characteristics, significantly longer flight times as well as optional additional camera and Phantom 4 FPV features.
To use fpv goggles with the DJI Phantom 3 pro or advanced or Phantom 4, you need to adjust your setup a little bit. One of the best ways to do this is with the adapter released by DJI that connects to your remote and allows you to push the video out to your goggles or another screen. Here’s an image of this adapter. This can be used to connect your Phantom 3 pro or advanced easily to your fpv drone goggles.
To use this setup you simply connect it to your Phantom 3 pro or advanced remote and then connect the hdmi cable out to the fpv goggles of your choice. This long range fpv system supports a double-screen display, and uses 720p video via HDMI and USB connections. The adapter has mini-hdmi output, micro usb, usb and CAN expansion ports. The video export includes flight information such as battery levels, flight controls, level and return home direction all into your fpv goggles or screen. The module can be attached directly onto the remote of the DJI Phantom 3 and will connect via HDMI to your drone racing goggles.
A great option for connecting your DJI Phantom 2 with fpv drone goggles is to use this adapter. The setup is relatively easy to follow and is your best bet for fpv goggles for the dji Phantom 2.
This setup allows you to add wireless the fpv experience to older models of DJI Phantoms, powered directly from the DJI quadcopter and outputs into composite SD analog video. This fpv setup comes with two antennae, a transmitter and a receiver. No additional energy sources are needed, and it is manufactured by DJI so that makes it a no brainer for the choice of best fpv setup for the Phantom 2.
The included antennae do work fine at average ranges, but it is recommended to look into specialty “long range fpv antannae” if you’re in search of longer distance FPV flight. The included antennae and fpv feed started breaking up around 100 feet altitude or 900 ft distance. Use existing documentation that comes with the kit for installation instructions, but I can vouch for the fact that it is an easy fpv headset setup.
These drones are probably the most iconic models in the current hobby scene, and for good reason; you can take them out of the box, charge them, and be flying within an hour without even touching a screwdriver. This of course does have its drawbacks. Repairs are a pain and if anything needs replacing, even a motor, it’ll cost you quite a bit. Most of the individual components are all on the mainboard, so you can’t replace a receiver if it fails either.
Ready Made FPV Quadcopters
Hubsan is a major micro drone producer and has a major following. Hubsan offers a few off the shelf, drone racing goggles ready options. How about a mini FPV quadcopter for less than $140.00?
The Hubsan fpv drone offers a control distance of up to 100 meters, but I can attest that you can push that limit. I have flown my Hubsan over 100 meters without trouble, however the fpv system is more limited in terms of range, I often have the video link cut out well before I lose control of the actual quadcopter.
The Hubsan fpv quad comes with a screen built into the remote control, for quick and easy to use straight out of the box FPV goggles fun. Be careful to always keep extra batteries with you because I’ve found the LCD screen drains the controller batteries faster than normal. This is the best fpv system setup for beginners as you have to do no customization and can just plug and play your goggles directly into the controller. This is, for the price one of the best fpv drones on the market.
The Hubsan H107D FPV X4 Mini FPV drone is a complete FPV system, coming with a reasonably sized LCD screen built in to the transmitter! A great, inexpensive introduction to quadcopters and FPV drones.
Another option is the Eachine Racer 250 FPV Quadcopter. This out of the box fpv solution is a great opportunity to purchase a faster, longer range fpv drone without going through the hassle of building your own setup. The flight time is also longer than the Hubsan, at 10-14 minutes, this is a fantastic choice for an fpv drone.
This fpv goggles ready drone is setup and easy to use. The benefits of this over the Hubsan fpv drone are longer distance range, more detailed controller with higher sensitivity and with a built in monitor (larger screen size than the Hubsan). The max range of this fpv setup is around 250-300 meters which is 2-3 times more distance than the Hubsan.
The downside is that you’re going to pay $360.00 for the Eachine fpv drone compared to $130.00 for the Hubsan. This is actually one of the best fpv drone racers built today and you can’t go wrong if you’re looking for a higher end version of the Hubsan fpv drone with greater capacity for distance and flight time.
Flysight F250 FPV Racing Quad All inclusive Kit
Flysight recently came out with a new kit that includes an FPV ready quadcopter with controller, goggles and a carrying case. This is the ultimate in “ready to fly” fpv technology.
The F250 carbon frame racer that is included in the kit comes fully assembled and includes a 700TVL CCD camera and VTX transmitter installed. It includes the TX502 40 channel transmitter. The goggles included are SPX01 Spexman goggles with a sperate battery pack as well, and the it also comes with an RC transmitter.
It’s for sale currently around $775.00.
With any of the listed models, you can be flying with without the need to build and no soldering skills required. All electronics are pre-installed and usually require little set-up. If you’ve never flown before, than training from someone who has is highly recommended with any system. You will however need to purchase fpv drone goggles if you want the fully immersive FPV experience, we’ll talk more about that shortly.
All of the above systems are known to work well. However, they all have their limits. If you don’t mind building things and using a soldering iron, I would advise against the above systems and look at the almost infinite and more exciting custom builds!
Goggles, Glasses or Screen?
When you first start out looking into this hobby, I’m sure you’re asking yourself “What are the best FPV goggles on the market?” We’re going to go over the top options available today.
Another question you may have is whether to choose FPV glasses vs goggles? For me personally, I like to be fully immersed and therefore have always flown with goggles. For some, being fully immersed makes them feel uncomfortable and they would rather have a screen, giving them the ability to be able to switch between ‘line of sight’ and camera view, quickly.
Now there are glasses available, giving you a screen and line of sight, simultaneously which I can see as a great alternative for many. It all depends on your application and comfort level.
Characteristics Of Great Drone Goggles
Let’s go over some technical advice about purchasing FPV drone goggles before we get in to reviewing the different goggles on the market.
It’s important to choose goggles that are going to give you an adjustable level of IPD. IPD is the inter pupil distance. This is the distance between the center of the pupils in each eye. This type of tech is very important because if your pupils are not centered properly in each goggle you’re going to have a diminished experience with your goggles. There are fixed and adjustable IPD goggles, make sure yours are adjustable.
Another important concern is to choose fpv drone goggles that have VGA or SVGA resolution as that gives the best (reasonbly priced) resolution available for sale today. SVGA is 800 x 600 pixels and VGA is 640 x 480 pixels. You can get FWGA as well but you’re really going to pay for it, it comes in at 854 x 480 pixels. If you can afford it definitely go with this resolution.
Make sure the optics that the goggles use are glass and make sure they have digital head tracking.
Digital Head Tracking is the tech that keeps track of how your head is moving and passes those signals through to your drone. The camera on your drone is tied to these movements of your head. Swivel your head side to side or up to down and the camera is going to move in the same direction as your head does.
Finally another important characteristic of good drone goggles is the range of Field of View they have the (FOV). Typically these fpv glasses will have a range of Field of View between 25% and 45%. The more expensive goggles are going to give you a higher range of view.
Keep these important things in mind when comparing the reviews of different models of drone glasses.
FPV Drone Goggles
Goggles have been around for a while. For a long time there have been systems offering 320×240 QVGA & 640×480 VGA resolution. I’ll start with the lowest resolution with Fat Shark’s Teleporter v4 goggles.
Fat Shark started with their Base model giving a wide 35º angle field of vision. What this means is that when wearing your goggles, the edge of the screens are at a 35º angle from the center point of your eyes, this is a fairly wide viewing angle especially at an entry level price of $199.00.
These have been around for a while and still not a bad option. People say they offer a good immersive experience despite the quality not being quite as good as some of the more modern models.
They work fine except the lower resolution 320×240 QVGA is disappointing by today’s standards. They come with a 5.8 ghz wireless receiver, the Spironet RHCP antanna and digital head tracking for Spektrum FPV cameras. Make sure if you’re purchasing fpv goggles you read through this entire post to understand about different receiver and transmitter connections.
One of the most popular FPV drone goggles start-up kits from Fat Shark is the Predator V2 system (see above). The goggles come with a built in 5.8GHz receiver. You get a 25mW or 250mW transmitter, a camera and is a plug and play system. It’s still my current system and it works really well. Still 640×480 VGA resolution but with a narrower 25º field of vision. This package is a great buy because it comes with everything you need at a price $359.00.
The image from these drone goggles is going to be more clear and sharp compared with the Spektrum model. The batteries will last a long time before they need charging and there is a warning alarm that sounds when the charge is running low. This kit includes everything you need to setup a customized drone fpv system.
The next step up offers better screen size and field of vision. These are the FatShark Attitude and Dominator goggles. Again offering the 640X480 VGA resolution, but using bigger and better quality screens. Both variants of these models are very popular.
The Fatshark Dominator V3 (see below) model has great HDMI connectivity which supports 720p video and a 16:9 format WVGA image. They don’t weigh much and are very comfortable. The adjusting len width is fantastic and fan will keep you cool while wearing them. You will need a separate charger for the LiPO batteries but that should be something you already have if you’re into drones.
The receiver for these goggles is not included so be aware that you will need to source a fat shark receiver as well. The Fatshark Dominator goggles are for those flyers who already have experience using FPV goggles and want an upgraded better quality image. I wouldn’t recommend this level and expense for someone new to FPV instead try the predator or spektrum models.
The FatShark Attitude goggle system (see below) are more of a complete setup. You get the entire kit, receiver and goggles all for roughly $370.00 (transmitter not included). They have support for 3D cameras, and integrate with 5.8GHz receiver and head tracker. An interesting quality is that you can add optional diopter inserts which will help those of us with less than perfect vision use FPV goggles, so if you wear glasses you’re in luck with this setup!
This setup is a standalone system and it will work with any drone as long as you’re able to connect the transmitter properly to your quad.
For some of the highest quality glasses on the market you can look at the Fat Shark Dominator HD V2 (see below). Fat Shark Dominator HD’s are also 800 x 600 SVGA resolution. They offer a very wide 50º field of vision, giving an even more immersive experience. They feature an interchangeable receiver module and head tracking option and include a DVR recorder!
Well worth mentioning are the SkyZone SKY-02 goggles (see below). These are actually WVGA offering 854×480 widescreen resolution. I had the chance to try some of these a couple of weeks ago and was quite impressed by them. However, being widescreen, they do stretch the image on most systems, as systems tend to be 4:3 screen ratio and not 16:9. An important feature of these is that the built in receiver is cross compatible with Fat Shark and Boscam systems and also features Diversity antennas, which in short gives better reception with the right antennas. They also have a camera on the front of the goggles so you can see in front of you without taking them off!
High-end goggles like Zeiss Cinemizer 1909-127 OLED (see below) will set you back a fair amount of money! This particular model has been out for a while. The OLED screens offer clear 800×600 SVGA resolution. I’ve yet to get my hands on a pair and try them, but they received good reviews!
Zeiss Cinemizer 1909-127 OLED Multimedia Video Glasse
Here’s a video of The Zeiss Cinemizer product with details to help tell you a bit about these glasses.
HD FPV headsets are rapidly becoming available, with the Headplay HD FPV goggles (see below) being the first headset to offering a 1280 x 800 720p display. I say headset and not goggles because these actually just have a single screen with a lens. This gives the viewer a massive 72 degree field of visionthese are currently quite tricky to come by, and the headset itself is massive. On the other hand, it’s also usable with the growing raceband standard on 5.8ghz
At by far the lowest price of anything on this guide, the Quanum FPV kit from HobbyKing are an excellent value for your money. FPV can be expensive, but with these you get a solid starter kit with everything you need except for a battery for about $70+ shipping.
The screen isn’t the best, but the camera, receiver, transmitter, and camera are fairly decent. It even comes with spironet antennas! If you already have an rc aircraft and want to add FPV system technology to it, this is by far the least expensive route to go and only needs a small amount of soldering.
We can’t provide detailed instructions for installation with every drone on the market, but we suggest you just google your drone type plus installing this fpv system and you’ll find what you need. Check them out at hobbyking here.
FPV Goggles Comparison Table
|Type of FPV System||Tablet / Smartphone Setup
||Standard Goggles||Large Screen Goggles
|Pros||1. You may already have one of these.
2. Very Easty to setup, plug and play.
|1. Super Immersive
2. Lightweight and comfortable.
3. Cool factor, they look awesome!
|1. Wide Viewing Screen.
2. Can be similar in price or less expensive than goggles, depending on what you choose.
3. Can still wear if you use glasses.
|1. Can still use line of sight flight.
2. Less expensive option.
3. Can use any receiver or antanna you want.
|Cons||1. Latency (Image doens’t keep up with speed)
2. Screen size and brightness don’t keep up especially outside.
3. Your drone needs to be designed around interacting with your phone/tablet.
|1. Glasses Wearers may face problems.
2. Can be very expensive.
3. Have to keep yet another battery charged and ready.
4. Can make people dizzy.
|1. Large and unwieldy.
2. Front heavy, can be a strain on your neck.
3. Have to keep battery charged.
4. Can make some people dizzy.
|1. Brightness issues when used in sunlight, need to make use of a hood.
2. Requires a lot of customization and equipment.
|Other Notes||DJI and Parrot drones are setup this way, pretty cool, but they both suffer from latency issues.||Most popular option with FPV enthusiasts, this is what most people choose and you’ll fit in well with these.||Growing in popularity, but the cool factor is lacking, even if there are benefits to a more immersive big headset like this.||Great for people who suffer from motion sickness or wear glasses and cant use goggles or a headset.|
FPV Glasses Systems
If immersion isn’t important to you and you want to maintain line of sight of your model and see a screen, than combine the two! Glasses such as Epson’s Moverio BT-200 overlay streaming video into your field of vision and allow you to maintain line of sight of your model.
It’s cool idea that will no doubt appeal to many. Unlike other systems that stream video directly to your glasses, the Moverio glasses use an Android app installed on the glasses to view the video. I have now have personal experience with the Moverio and have to say that I would not recommend it at this point. The video experience is not stunning at all, but could say is decent. At the same time, navigating in apps and manipulating the device via the trackpad is really cumbersome.
From a form factor point of view, the trackpad itself has a sort of indented knurled surface which is not pleasant at all to tap around on. I admire Epson’s effort trying to create the device and there surely will be an appeal for this approach, but I believe we will have to wait for the next generation to arrive before we can opt for this product. The current price of more than $550 is also discouraging.
Here is the Moverio BT-200 product video:
Screens For FPV
Flying with a screen can be pretty good, too. Maybe not as immersive as goggles, but to have the ability to look up and see where your model is when flying, is useful. With any of these options, it comes down to personal preference and application.
There are a number of easy to use and cheap tablets out there you can find to use as a screen for your fpv system. It’s almost impossible to go over them all because of how many cheap options are available now for LCD screens so let’s talk a little about what type of screen you’ll want to use.
The smaller the screen you use it’ll be a less immersive experience. Screens really are going to provide less of an in the moment feel no matter what you do and are always going to have a problem with sunlight. You can use a screen hood to block out the light and that will help a little. A lot of folks already have tablets or ipads lying around and if so I suggest giving that a try before you purchase anything dedicated to use for fpv.
I was reading a forum the other day and someone mentioned buying an old 20 inch lcd monitor from a local neighbor and using it to share the fpv experience with people around you, so they don’t have to look over your shoulder while you fly. The problem I see with using a giant screen for fpv like that is going to be powering it, perhaps a long extension cord?
You can get some great LCD monitors from Ready Made RC, check them out here.
Some great options include the RMRC Black Pearl 7 inch, which uses 32 channel 5.8GHz diversity receiving, it comes with all the connection cables you need, including a build in battery and tripod mount. The 7 inch screen size isn’t that great for the price but it’s ready to use out of the box. This retails for around $200.
Another great option is the RMRC Pro-1200 5inch with DVR (digital video recording) which allows you to easily record your flight videos. This is a smaller screen, it’s going to be somewhat similar to just using your phone. The recording feature is great though and the price starts at $150.00.
ReadyMadeRC basically has you covered for easy to use screens for FPV. These are not affiliate links, I just think these guys do a great job at providing what you need if you’re looking for an FPV screen.
FPV Transmitters and Receivers
Where do you start? There are now so many options available. The most common you’ll come across today are 5.8GHz systems. There are other frequency bands used but it is important to be aware of the legalities when using them. Laws vary from country to country. I’ll use the UK as an example for each band.
Offers brilliant range and great penetration. Unfortunately, shares the band used by mobile phones making it illegal in the UK. Being the lowest frequency, wavelength is longest and therefore the antennas can be quite large! Legal in the USA only if you have the proper permits, you have to pass a test to get a license to use this band. More info here.
Offers great range and good penetration. Band is used by other sources in the UK and therefore illegal. In the USA it is possible to use this frequency and is becoming more popular especially for video feeds.
Offers great range and good penetration. In the UK, this is a clear band. Unfortunately still illegal to use. In the United States you can use 1.3 similar to 1.2, this is used a lot by FPV flyers. It does require filtering though so make sure you look into the exact setup.
Offers good range and equipment is cheap. Unfortunately, most RC systems now operate on the 2.4Ghz band, along Wi-Fi equipment, Bluetooth, etc. This can be a difficult band to use for FPV it doesn’t stand up to distance, there’s too much noise on this band in the United States, be careful trying to use this for FPV.
Offers good range if setup correctly. Equipment is cheap and compact. The band is free of other interference but suffers from low penetration. 5.8 is great for FPV racing especially. It is used a lot by FPV pilots, it is the easiest to use and setup of all the bands. This is getting noisier in the USA all the time due to use in and around the home by tech like baby monitors.
Please be aware of the systems you choose and consider the legalities. Power limitations apply! I know that in the UK you’re limited to only 25mW! Other countries aren’t quite so strict.
FPV Transmitter Comparison Table
|Pros||1. Excellent Range and Penetration||1. Great Range and Penetration||1. Good Range
3. Manageable Antenna
|1. Good Range
2. Compact Equipment
|Cons||1. Same Frequency as Mobile.
2. Illegal in some countries, (The UK) requires license in the USA.
3. Large Antenna
|1. Shared Frequency
2. Illegal in some countries (The UK) License required in USA.
|1. Most RC equipment already uses 2.4GHz.
2. WIFI and Bluetooth also use 2.4GHz.
|1. Poor range compared to others.
2. Low Penetration.
|Other Notes||Great choice except for antenna. The license is easy to get, but does create a hurdle.||Lots of potential interference. Also do not use it if your drone already runs on a 2.4GHz transmitter.||Most common for FPV racing, even with lower range and lower penetration, most people find this to be the best bet.|
Cameras for FPV Systems
If you own a GoPro than you already have a seriously good FPV camera. However, for some applications, a GoPro simply isn’t practical. It’s just too big. Instead you may want to purchase one of the many smaller CMOS or CCD cameras, of which there a many to choose from. Some perform better than others and prices vary.
Types of camera
CCD (Charge-Coupled Device)
When digital cameras first appeared they used CCD sensors. They’re made through a special manufacturing process. The process creates a high quality sensor, which can produce excellent images. Thanks to the high quality manufacturing process, they also produce less noise than their CMOS counterparts. The downside to CCD sensors is that require far more power than a CMOS sensor.
CMOS (Complimentary Metal Oxide Semiconductor)
These sensors are less expensive than CCD sensors because they’re much cheaper to manufacture. They do have their main advantages is considerably less power consumption.
Much like everything else in your setup, do your research. Buy once and buy right!
NTSC or PAL
NTSC (National Television Systems Committee)
NTSC is the analogue television system used throughout the American continent and parts of Asia. NTSC video is lower resolution than PAL but appears smoother due to the slightly higher frame rate (29.97 vs. 25 frames per second).
PAL (Phase Alternating Line)
Used throughout Europe and many other parts of the world. Higher resolution than NTSC but with a lower frame rate.
Some people prefer the smoothness of NTSC and some prefer the resolution of PAL. Once again, all down to personal preference.
Cameras – Dedicated Or Integrated?
An important decision to make when flying is whether to run off a dedicated camera, or to use the live video out functionality available with many common cameras like the GoPro and Mobius Actioncam.
Debate still rages about this, but it comes down to budget and intent in the end.
When I started out, I used my Hero2’s video out to fly FPV for quite some time. All I used to do was hover up high and fly about carefully, so it wasn’t ever a problem. The video filled my goggles quite nicely too.
Once I got into mini quads and higher speed, close proximity flight, I tried a dedicated FPV camera, and since then I haven’t been able to switch back. The main problem is that there is a noticeable amount of lag (delay) on the video feed from the integrated solutions, because their internal circuitry has to resize and process the digital video from the sensor into an analogue signal.
This processing can also introduce problems – the Hero3 suffers from a fairly low frame rate and variable quality in most modes when you use the video output, and the Mobius video has a black border around it, preventing it from filling your vision, as well as severe lag.
Dedicated cameras are generally designed specifically for FPV – so they can compensate for rapid changes in brightness very quickly, which is essential for fast flying in variable light conditions. You can also fly in very dark conditions with them, much moreso than with a GoPro feed.
So basically, if you’re on a budget, and don’t want to fly fast, you can get away with using your video recorder output, but if you want to race, a dedicated camera is the go.
FPV System Frequencies and Transmitter Compatibility
Obviously you need your transmitter and receiver to match in frequency, but you also need to make sure the two are compatible.
For example, Fatshark and Boscam both support 5.8ghz, but use different frequencies and are generally incompatible (some newer receivers, and goggles like the Skyzones can pick up both types).
The next big thing to note is that you can’t use the same frequency bands for RC control and video. RC control is all digital, and can tolerate a lot of interference, but it can’t deal with a whopping big analogue video transmitter sitting right next to the sensitive receiver on the copter itself. Think of a sensitive microphone listening for a gentle bird song far away, sitting right next to a big stereo belting out Iron Maiden. The noise floor is just too high, so you have to choose differing RC and video frequencies.
Why choose one or the other? Well, lower frequencies penetrate solid objects better, but require physically larger antennas, and external receivers (higher frequencies are said to have a slightly sharper picture too, but in reality the difference is often negligible).
If your goal is to trundle around the park, or fly up high within visual range of your craft, 5.8ghz is fine, and will provide the easiest setup.
Lower frequency bands like 900mhz and 1.2ghz are much better for flights where object penetration is important. Your 5.8 system will go through a few trees, but stick a big one in between you and the transmitter, and your video will fuzz out badly. On 1.2ghz you can comfortably cruise around your entire local area, well below the tree line. Think of the difference between AM and FM radio when you drive through a tunnel; the principle is the same.
You might have noticed that I skipped over 2.4ghz. There are a few things to talk about. First of all, the signal penetrates better than 5.8ghz, but not as well as 1.2ghz. This means that your radio control can potentially drop out before your video feed does, and this is Bad. 2.4ghz is also a harmonic of 1.2ghz, and so is more prone to interference. For this reason, many people who use 1.2ghz or 2.4ghz also use UHF control systems for their RC control (typically around 400mhz). As you can see, things get complicated quickly.
The DJI Phantom Vision is a special case. They use 5.8ghz for RC control. Why? Because they wanted to use the 2.4ghz band to send back video from the quad via Wi-fi. So, be very aware of this when flying around people who are using the reverse frequency combination. Always check your frequency bands before flying! Also be aware of the increased lag you’ll get with Wi-fi transmission, and the fact that your RC control can drop out suddenly if you fly behind something solid.
If you’ve done any research into FPV, you’ll have seen some funny looking antenna designs, with lobes like clover leaves.
Because FPV video is generally sent as an analogue signal, any interference is immediately obvious. Digital RC controls, on the other hand, don’t need to worry about interference so much. It’s like the difference between digital TV, and the older analogue system that is now a distant (bad) memory for many of us.
Cloverleaf antennas are much better at rejecting certain types of interference, generally caused by the signal reflecting off solid objects (radio waves bounce around just like light does when it hits the right surface).
Because lower frequencies have a physically larger wavelength, antennas designed for 1.2ghz are physically much larger than those tuned for 5.8ghz. This makes them much more fragile, and so if high speed, fast proximity racing is your goal, you’re much better off with 5.8ghz, even if you get some interference from the trees.
The popular FPV goggles (Fatshark, Boscam and Skyzone) have built in receivers, but if you want the very best reception, or you prefer to use a screen or other goggles, you’ll need a standalone receiver. This will require its own battery and cabling to the goggles or screen.
Many people use cheap tripods to mount their ground station gear.
FPV System Installation tips
Some systems, like DJI’s Lightbridge, are designed to be plug and play. Others will require basic soldering skills.
A typical installation will always require power for the transmitter. Similarly, dedicated FPV system cameras need power – and you need to be careful about what voltage you feed them. Some run off of 5v or 12v only, and some can handle a wider range. You may wish to power your FPV subsystem with a secondary, smaller battery as well, to make sure it keeps on tracking if your main battery fails (at least you get to see where you crash).
Standalone cameras like the GoPro can run off their internal power – but make sure they’re charged up before flying as the last thing you want is to lose your feed mid-flight.
Ready to fly FPV packages are becoming more and more common with DJI being one of the pioneers of this trend. With their Inspire One, they offer a completely integrated FPV system using their own proprietary video transmission system. With a system like this, all you need to do is download an app on your ios or android phone and plug it in to your controller.
Unlike other video systems out there, the video signal you receive is digital rather than analogue. This has a few pros as well as cons, the higher resolution video is a major plus for framing a shot, but being a digital signal being transmitted after the video is processed leads to there being quite a bit of latency (a delay between when something happens, and when you can see it on the screen). For flying in the air with nothing to hit, its fine, but if you were flying a miniquad 4ft above the ground, it’d be disastrous.
More specific installation instructions are beyond the scope of this article – but tons of help is available from web forums like RC Groups, and often a simple Google image search is all that’s required to find a diagram showing how to hook up a given system.
The Future Of FPV
The elusive goal of FPV fliers is the ability to receive 1080p or even 720p video without latency. While this isnt anywhere near practical for the average consumer or enthusiast with lots of money to burn, Connex has released an HD transmitter which claims to be able to push 1080p, uncompressed, video at 60 frames per second with 1ms delay. The catch is that you have to sacrifice your first born it costs $1600, and that doesn’t include goggles, camera, or anything else you may need.
Its impressive that this is even available but until the price goes down, it is only an option for the exceptionally wealthy. What this does show, and why I’m so excited for it, is that it shows that hd FPV is possible.
Only 10 years ago a modern smartphone would have outperformed a full sized computer costing thousands of dollars. Technology gets less expensive as time goes on and perhaps someday soon, we’ll be able to fly in full hd for a reasonable price.
It cannot be stressed enough that we need to fly responsibly, or this hobby will quickly get shut down.
FPV system based flying presents some unique new risks over traditional RC aircraft, because you can fly a long way away very easily.
If there is any chance of people coming into your flying space, having a second person acting as a spotter is a very good idea. This is especially important if you are flying with immersive goggles. Remember that you can’t see behind yourself, and the cameras give you severe tunnel vision.
Remember also that many systems have a bit of lag in them. In particular, anything that involves digital processing will be delayed. This can include RC control in the case of tablet-controlled drones. So maintain an appropriate distance at all times!
Hopefully this article has helped clear up some of the basic details of FPV video. As always, there is a lot of information available out there, and I’ve just skimmed the surface. Do your research, don’t rush, and make an informed decision when you pick your gear.
Thanks for reading our FPV post and hopefully we’ve been able to help you find FPV details for whatever drone you’re working with from Parrot Bebop FPV to Phantom 4 FPV.
Featured Image Source: Quadcopter Academy
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