First Person View (FPV) is an incredible, majestic and an exhilarating experience that renders flying drones all the more fun. All of us have dreamt of becoming pilots when we grew up but as fate would have it, we weren’t just good enough or the universe had some other plans in place for us. Now, we have our dreams come true and finally we can now fly drones while looking at the live video feed from the drone’s camera as if we were sitting in the cockpit.
Introduction to FPV Systems
Over the past few years, the market has been bombarded with extremely low cost First Person View systems. When it comes to remote control oriented hobbies, FPV flying systems are gaining plenty of traction among the hobbyists. One cannot argue against the effectiveness of this system which actually collates the zeal and aesthetics out of flying, driving, boating etc. and blends it all together in a low cost yet exciting package. For many of the junkies out there, this is the pinnacle of flying drones and it can’t get better than this.
Not very long ago, setting up a FPV system was considered a rather tedious job, one that required lots of technical expertise and understanding. Now, tech giants such as DJI have introduced FPV integrated multi-rotor machines to the consumers who do not need to have any prior information or technical know-how of all the complexities involved. It obviously is a whole lot fun to just buy a DJI Phantom drone, sync it with your handheld mobile device and start flying it. However, simultaneously, it is also vital that you have sufficient information about how First Person View systems function.
As the modern technology continues to make rapid advancements, this particular question continues to survive and thrive. Displays, FPV goggles and glasses are being continuously improved. Video transmitters as well as receivers are being enhanced by engineers and rendered more reliable and durable. Moreover, antennas, antenna tracking mechanisms and Global Positioning System (GPS), all these technologies are being improved.
The masses are being introduced to Heads-up Display (HUD) systems, head-tracking capability and return-to-base features. There are numerous iOS or Android powered apps that function in synchronization with your electronic gear and let you watch video footages and GPS information with no latency whatsoever.
No matter which FPV system you end up buying, all of them boast the same range of components. As a matter of fact, an intricate device such as DJI Phantom also includes the similar set of components in its self-contained setup. It is yet another matter that you aren’t able to view them, tweak them or tinker with them.
The three basic components of any First Person View (FPV) system are generally a camera, a Video Transmitter (VTX) and a Video Receiver (VRX). The camera is connected to the video transmitter which transmits the video signal via a radio frequency (designated by the manufacturer or the pilot), which is then received by the video receiver at the ground station.
How is the video signal viewed by the pilot depends on the reception setup. Sometimes, a pilot may resort to FPV goggles while on the other occasions, handheld mobile devices may be used. On most of the occasions, the video signal sent by the video transmitter is analogue. However, in case of DJI Phantom and other similar setups, the video signal is transmitted via the WiFi connection. This mechanism has its own advantages and disadvantages which will be discussed later on in the guide.
Now, since you have got the basic idea of how the FPV system actually functions and have made up your mind that it’s time now to get your hands on a FPV setup, so you must be itching to know where you should start it all. Believe us, you do not just need to start flying your drone with the FPV system. Line of sight flying is a basic skill that you have to master before you embark on your FPV adventure.
Before you get into the market to buy a DJI Phantom drone or even build one of your own drones, you must learn how to fly a drone without the FPV goggles.
This is vital since the First Person View system is liable to failure and in case its signals get attenuated or there is a total breakdown in connectivity, you must be adept at flying your drone without the help of the FPV system. In addition, by mastering Line of Sight flying, you will be able to learn to fly your drone with a lot of distractions and taking an omnidirectional view of your surroundings rather than watching only what is being conveyed by the eye of your drone. Once you get a hang of the Line of Sight flying, you can always begin your search for the best FPV goggles and FPV setup.
It is not that complex to determine what to fly using the FPV goggles setup, once you have got yourself acquainted with Line of Sight flying. When you go through FPV goggles reviews, remember that anything that includes a decent camera and uses a tablet for a display (similar to the DJI Phantom series) is the common stuff out there and one that is quite simple to set up. On the contrary, anything that consists of a carbon fiber body and racing mounted on it is going to be pretty nifty for a FPV system.
FPV System for the DJI Phantom
DJI’s Phantom is the most popular quadcopter on the market that has been able to make vibes among fans. If one of your friends ever talk of aerial photography and cinematography, then the DJI Phantom is the device that should instantly come straight to your mind. This is certainly a huge achievement on part of DJI that they have been able to engineer a plug and play FPV system and it is not essential for the end-users to possess even a shred of understanding about it if they are to operate it. You just have to concentrate on taking photographs and recording videos and won’t be needing any prior training or capacity building exercise. They are the pioneers in ensuring that the FPV technology reaches to all and sundry without any hindrances.
The original Phantom was a brilliant device. However, they continued to up the ante with subsequent versions as Phantom 2, Phantom 3 and the recently launched Phantom 4 boasted better flying features, offered improved flight duration and allowed optional camera. Besides, the Phantom 4 with its FPV system was just phenomenal.
If you are interested in using the FPV goggles with the DJI Phantom 3 Pro or DJI Phantom 3 Advanced or the DJI Phantom 4, you will have to modify your setup accordingly. One of the simplest ways to achieve this is to make use of the adapter released by DJI that connects to your radio controller and projects the video-out to your FPV goggles or any other display screen that you may want to use. It can be used to effectively connect your DJI Phantom 3 Pro or Advanced to your FPV FPV goggles setup.
You can utilize this setup by connecting the adapter to your DJI Phantom 3 Pro or Advanced radio controller and then connecting the HDMI cable out to the desired FPV goggles system. This FPV system promises a significantly long range, dual-screen display options and uses 720p video via HDMI and USB connections. The adapter contains mini-HDMI output, micro USB, USB and CAN expansion ports. The video transmitted contains useful flight data such as battery strength level indicator, flight controls, levels and directions mapping out the way back home; all displayed on the FPV goggles or the display screen. This adapter can be connected directly to your DJI Phantom 3 Pro or Advanced radio controller while the FPV goggles are connected to this assembly via the HDMI out.
You can also connect your DJI Phantom 2 to your FPV drone goggles using this prolific adapter. The connection process is quite simple and is the best way to connect your amazing drone to the FPV assembly.
This amazing setup lets the pilots integrate the wireless First Person View experience to the older models of the famous DJI Phantom series. It is powered directly by from the quadcopter itself while the output leads directly into the composite SD analog video. This FPV configuration includes a couple of antennae, a video transmitter and a video receiver. You do not require any other power source. Moreover, since it has been manufactured by the mighty DJI so it is a logical way forward to opt for this FPV configuration for your legendary DJI Phantom 2.
The original antennae that come with the device function quite well at moderate ranges, but we highly suggest you to look for the long range FPV antenna if you are intending to enjoy a long distance FPV flight experience. During our experiments, we found out that the included antennae and FPV live video stream started showing distortion at about 100 feet height or 900 feet distance. You can go through the documentation that comes with the FPV setup to learn about the installation instructions. However, you must take our word for the fact that this is certainly a very user-friendly setup to configure.
In the modern world of drones, these devices are the absolute legends and there are a plenty of reasons for their great popularity. They come ready to take, you just need to charge them up and off you go almost within an hour without even needing any tool. This configuration does have its own disadvantages though. It is not easy to do the repairs and if you even think of replacing a component, say a motor, you will have to pay a lot to do so. Since most of the components have been integrated onto the motherboard, hence, you can’t get them replaced if any of them fails.
Best FPV Drones
Hubsan are the leading manufacturers of micro drones and their products have gained lots of traction among the dronies over the years. Hubsan brings quite a few unique drone racing FPV goggles ready deals. What do you think of the mini FPV quadcopter that costs less than even $85?
Hubsan VR Drone
The Hubsan FPV drones promises a control range of almost 100 meters but you can take our word for even an extended control range. I have been able to fly my Hubsan VR Drone for quite a long distance above 100 meters. Keep in mind that when it comes to the FPV system, it is limited in terms of control range. More often than not, I tend to have the video feed disconnected well before the drone gets out of control.
A display screen is integrated into the Hubsan VR drone’s radio controller. This is a great option if you are interested in attaining a quick and easy solution to enjoying the FPV goggles experience. Remember to keep additional pairs of batteries in your repertoire since the LCD display screen integrated into the radio controller can make your batteries run out of juice very quickly. If you are a novice dronie and are interested in FPV setup, this one is quite a beginner-friendly option since you won’t have to carry out any alterations and use your FPV goggles by simply plugging and playing them into the radio transmitter. Considering the price, this is one of the most affordable drone setups available on the market.
The Hubsan H107D FPV X4 Mini FPV Drone is a comprehensive drone FPV system that includes a realistically sized display screen integrated into the radio controller. This is a tremendous and yet a very low cost addition to the FPV systems and VR drones.
Eachine Racer 250 FPV Quadcopter
This is yet another brilliant option that is unique and presents a magnificent solution to the pilots who are interested in long range, fast FPV drones and do not want to spend time in constructing their own drones at home or in their backyards. This device offers a flight duration that is much longer than that claimed by Hubsan. It offers a flight time of about 10 to 14 minutes which is prolific for a FPV drone.
This is a FPV goggles ready device that is very easy to configure which offers a lot of advantages in contrast to the Hubsan FPV drones. Its flight duration is way better than that of Hubsan’s, radio controller boasts far more detailed control options and offers great responsiveness. Moreover, its display screen is bigger in size that of Hubsan FPV drones. It promises a control range of about 250 to 300 meters which is two to three times more than that of Hubsan FPV setups.
Flysight F250 FPV Racing Quad All inclusive FPV Kit
Flysight have recently launched their all inclusive FPV kit that features a FPV ready drone alongside a radio transmitter, FPV goggles and carrying case. This is one of the best options when it comes to ready to takeoff FPV systems.
The F250 quadcopter consists of a carbon frame that is a part of the FPV drone kit and is available in the ready to takeoff configuration in the original packaging. It also includes the 700TVL CCD camera and a preinstalled VTX transmitter. Moreover, the TX502 40 channel transmitter is also a part of this kit. SPX01 Spexman goggles are included in the all inclusive FPV kit which come with a separate set of batteries especially reserved for them while a remote controlled transmitter is also packaged within. Overall, it is a tremendous FPV enabled drone that can be bought for just $775.
If you buy any of the drone FPV systems listed above, you won’t be requiring to build your own drone or even solder certain components by using your long-forgotten engineering skills. All the components are pre-installed and do not require any last minute adjustments. If you are a newbie dronie who does not have the vaguest of ideas of how to fly a drone, then we recommend you to solicit help from an experienced veteran to learn how to fly the drone first and then look for bigger things. FPV drone goggles are an essential if you want to indulge yourself in an immersive First Person View experience. We’ll talk about them more in detail later on in our guide.
All the FPV systems discussed above have received decent reviews by users. Having said that, they do have their constraints. If you are pretty good at building your own drones and have no qualms at using soldering irons, then we would suggest you not to waste your time, money and energy toying with these systems. Your best bet would be the custom built FPV drone systems built in accordance with your requirements and preferences.
FPV Goggles, Glasses or Screen?
When you step for the first time into the world of drones, you must be wondering what are the best FPV goggles that can be bought from the market without putting too much strain on one’s pocket! We will endeavor to discuss some of the best options available in the market in our post today.
Another question that might come across your mind is that whether you should be going with FPV goggles or glasses? As far as my personal preference is concerned, I like to get myself thoroughly immersed in the entire FPV experience and so have always gone for the FPV goggles. There are others, however, who are not comfortable with the notion of being completely immersed in the FPV experience and for some reason or the other opt for the display screen so that they are able to switch between the line of sight flying option and the FPV experience within the blink of an eye.
Also, there is another compatible alternative available. You have the glasses that give you an option for both line of sight flight as well as the camera view at the same time. Well, it all comes down to your own personal choice, your purpose and what you are personally comfortable with.
Characteristics of Great Drone FPV Goggles
Here are a few important technical guidelines that you should be aware of regarding FPV drone FPV goggles. We will then discuss with you the best available FPV drone goggles on the market.
Inter Pupil Display is an essential factor that determines that quality of the FPV drone goggles. The ideal FPV goggles should let you adjust the IPD as and when required. The Inter Pupil Display is the distance between the centres of two eyes and is a crucial variable. If your FPV goggles are not centered properly with regard to each of the eyes, you won’t be able to enjoy a fully immersive FPV experience. Rather, the video that you will view will be diminished. Both fixed as well as adjustable IPV goggles are available in the market. You must look for the adjustable ones!
VGA or SVGA Resolution is what you should be looking in your FPV drone goggles since these are the best reasonably priced FPV goggles in the market. SVGA is the resolution of 800 x 600 pixels while VGA is 640 x 480 pixels. The FWGA resolution which is 854 x 480 pixels is also there in the market but is extremely costly. If you have some bucks up your sleeves, this is the way to go!
Another important factor to look in your FPV drone Goggles is to ensure that they boast Digital Head Tracking feature and their optics are of glass. The Digital Head Tracking technology communicates the movement of your head to the drone. The camera integrated onto your drone responds in accordance with your movements in the head. As you move your head from one side to another or from upward to the downward direction, the drone’s camera will also move in the direction in which your head goes!
Field of View is another important attribute that goes on to determine the quality of FPV drone FPV goggles. Generally, the range of Field of View of most of the FPV goggles lies between 25% and 45%. However, if you purchase more expensive FPV goggles, you will get a much higher range of Field of View.
We suggest you to keep the above mentioned information in mind when comparing the reviews of different FPV drone goggles.
FPV Drone Goggles
Goggles have been introduced with drones for some time now. There are a number of FPV systems that offer 320 x 240 QVGA and 640 x 480 VGA displays. We will begin our reviews with the FPV goggles with the lowest resolution. These are Fat Shark’s Teleporter V4 Goggles.
This is the most basic model developed by Fat Shark that offers a 35 degrees range of Field of View. This implies that at the time of the video being displayed, the edges of the screen are 35 degrees apart from the centre of your eyes. Considering that you can buy these FPV goggles for just $199, this is a pretty impressive and wide viewing angle.
These FPV drone goggles have been introduced for quite some time now and are certainly not a bad choice either. We have been getting reviews that claim that these FPV goggles provide a good immersive experience which is quite decent when considering the modern upgraded versions that have been launched recently.
They are a pretty decent option as long as you do not take into consideration their 320 x 240 pixels QVGA resolution in contrast to the more higher resolutions that are being offered in modern day devices. These FPV goggles come bundled with a 5.8GHz wireless receiver, the Spironet RHCP antenna and digital head tracking for Spektrum FPV cameras. Remember to go through our complete guide before buying FPV drone goggles since you need to be aware about different receiver and transmitter connections.
Predator V2 System
Predator V2 System is one of the most prolific FPV drone goggles startup kits manufactured by Fat Shark. These drone goggles are equipped with an integrated 5.8GHz receiver. Bundled together is a 25mW or a 250mW transmitter, a camera and all this assembly is a plug and play setup. I still am using this FPV system and am pretty satisfied with it. It offers 640 x 480 pixels VGA resolution. However, the Field of View is about 25 degrees only which is not that impressive. This is a brilliantly affordable option since the entire kit can be purchased for no more than $259.
When you compare the video feed viewed by these FPV goggles as opposed to that viewed by the Spektrum model, the one viewed with Predator V2 system will be a lot more clearer and sharp. The battery provide a decent life span before you will need to recharge them. You will also get a low-battery-life indicator when the batteries are running out of juice. This is a comprehensive kit that lets the pilots setup a customized FPV system for their drones.
We come to another FPV system that offers an improved screen size and field of vision. We introduce to you the FatShark Attitude and Dominator goggles. These offer the similar 640 x 480 pixel VGA resolution but also promise bigger display sizes and better quality screens. Both the versions of these models can be purchased from the market.
FatShark Dominator V3
The FatShark Dominator V3 offers magnificent HDMI connectivity that is compatible with a 720p video and 16:9 format WVGA image. They are very light in weight and offer plenty of comfort and ease. You adjust the lens width as and when required while the attached fan will keep your head cool while you fly your FPV drone. You will require an additional charger for the Lithium Polymer batteries but we expect you to be in possession of one if you are a habitaul dronie.
The receiver for these FPV goggles is not included in the bundle so make a note of it that you will have to arrange for an additional Fat Shark receiver if you do decide to purchase these FPV drone goggles. The FatShark Dominator goggles are for those drone hobbyists who have had experience flying with FPV goggles and are looking for an enhanced experience that guarantees better image quality. We would certainly not recommend these expensive and high-end FPV goggles if you are new into FPV systems. The Predator or Spektrum models will be a lot better options for you.
FatShark Attitude Goggle System
The FatShark Attitude Goggle System is a comprehensive FPV drone kit. The entire kit including the receiver and FPV goggles cost just under $370. They are compatible with three dimensional cameras and can be synchronized easily with 5.8GHz receivers and digital head tracking technology. An interesting feature is that the pilots can integrate optional diopter inserts which are certainly a brilliant option for those dronies who rely on glasses to enhance their vision. A great accessory option indeed!
This is a standalone kit that should function fine with any drone as long as you are able to synchronize the transmitter with it appropriately.
FatShark Dominator HD V2
The FatShark Dominator HD V2 are one of the best quality glasses that you are going to find in the market today. The FatShark Dominator HD V2 provide 800 x 600 pixels SVGA resolution alongside a 50 degrees wide Field of View; thereby ensuring that you get a splendidly immersive FPV experience. These glasses include a receiver module that can be changed as and when required. Digital head tracking and DVR recorder are also the features to look out for in these glasses.
SkyZone SKY-02 Goggles
The SkyZone SKY-02 Goggles are one of the best FPV goggles to have hit the shelves and definitely deserve to be mentioned in our coveted list. These FPV goggles provide 854 x 480 pixels WVGA resolution. I had the opportunity to try them out sometime back and believe me, I was quite impressed with what they did. Since they are wide screen FPV goggles, they tend to stretch the image out a bit across the screen.
This is because most of the FPV systems support 4:3 screen ratios as opposed to 16:9. Another attractive characteristic of these FPV goggles is that their integrated receiver provides support across multiple platforms such as FatShark and Boscam systems and also boast Diversity antennae. This assembly provides enhanced reception while the camera positioned in the front of the FPV goggles enables the pilot to take a view of his/her surroundings without taking the FPV goggles off!
Zeiss Cinemizer 1909-127 OLED
The Zeiss Cinemizer 1909-127 OLED are the top-of-the-line FPV drone glasses that come at a fairly expensive price. This version of goggles has been released in the market for quite some time now. The OLED screen provides 800 x 600 pixels SVGA display. I have not tried them out unfortunately so far. However, considering the reviews that they have been getting from the ardent dronies, there is no reason to believe that they won’t live up to their hype! You can watch this video to learn more in detail about these glasses and the features they boast.
HeadPlay HD FPV Goggles
HD FPV sets have been making ripples among drone aficionados recently. The HeadPlay HD FPV goggles are the device that are providing 3D resolution. I am calling them as headset and not the goggles since they feature a single screen along with a lens. These amazing goggles provide the viewer with a monstrous 3D degrees Field of Vision.
Quanum FPV kit
This kit is the most affordable FPV option that has been included in this guide. The Quanum FPV Kit has been manufactured by HobbyKing and offer an extremely reasonably priced solution to all your FPV needs. You get a formidable starter kit when you purchase them. However, the kit does not include additional pair of batteries which can be bought for no more than $70. However currently its unavailable.
The display screen is not the most ideal one out there but the First Person View, receiver and transmitter are quite all right. The kit also includes spironet antennae. If you own a drone and are looking to integrate FPV technology onto your beloved machine, this one is the most cost-effective solution out there. You just have to indulge yourself in some soldering work, however, and you will be up and running.
We are unable to provide detailed installation instructions along with all the FPV drone goggles. However, we suggest you to go to Google and search out for the installation guide of FPV system to your respective drone. You can also find a few installation instructions at HobbyKing.
FPV Drone Glasses Systems
If you are not that interested in experiencing an immersive FPV flight and are more inclined towards a line of sight flight while simultaneously keeping an eye at the screen, then FPV drone glasses systems provide an amazing blend of these two lovely options. The glasses such as Epson’s Moverio BT-200 provide an overlay of the live video stream into your field of vision and let you carry out line of sight flying.
The FPV drone glasses are certainly an attractive notion for many of the drone enthusiasts out there. In contrast to a number of FPV drone systems that display the live video stream directly onto your screen, Epson’s Moverio Glasses make use of an Android powered app that is installed on the glasses for the video to be viewed. I have personally used the Epson’s Moverio glasses but at this point in time, I would certainly not recommend them to you. The video streamed is not of the highest quality. Rather, I would rate it just as an average video experience. Moreover, app navigation alongside device management with the help of trackpad is not a fluid experience and will definitely test your skills out.
As far as the shape and form of the trackpad is concerned, it boasts an indented curved type of surface that does not provide a smooth experience when one is trying to play around with it. I really do appreciate the novel thinking on part of Epson to churn up a product such as this. But in its current state, it certainly does not boast features that can provide you the experience that you are looking for. We probably will have to wait for the more advanced versions of this device before we can recommend our loyal readers to get their hands on it. Besides, the Moverio glasses cost around $550 which is just too much for such limited array of options and a below-par device quality. Watch the video below to learn more about Moverio BT-200 FPV glasses.
Flying drones with the screen placed in front of you is also a pretty decent experience. It might not be as immersive as one would expect, but with a screen stacked in front of you, you can easily keep an eye on your drone flying around and enjoy the line of sight flying experience. Whether you want the goggles, screen or the glasses, it all boils down to your personal choice and the purpose for which you are using your FPV system.
There are numerous affordable and user-friendly handheld mobile devices such as tablets that can be used as screens for your FPV systems. It is next to impossible to discuss all of them in detail here since there are millions of LCD screens available in the market that can be used in sync with your FPV system. However, let’s dedicate some time to discussing the type of screen that you should be looking to use with your FPV setup.
The smaller the size of the display screen connected with your FPV setup, the less immersive will be your experience. Screens are never going to make you feel as if you were sitting in the cockpit of your drone and there will always be problems related to brightness in the presence of sunlight. You can always resort to a screen hood to prevent the sunlight from blurring the display on your screen and yes, it can be pretty helpful. There are a lot of drone enthusiasts who have some tablets iPads available at home. You can always get your handheld mobile devices connected with your FPV systems before you decide to purchase display screens especially built for FPV setups. It can save you on a few bucks!
I came across a post on a certain forum in which a bloke shared that he purchased an old 20 inch LCD monitor from his friend in the neighborhood. His aim was to use the bigger screen to share the FPV experience with the people around him so that they do not have to keep looking over his shoulder while he is busy flying his beloved drone. This looks like a pretty cool idea but I have an issue with it. There will always be a problem of how to power such a huge FPV screen. May be you can resort to a pretty long extension cord! You can purchase a nice LCD monitor under $100 as below!
Drone FPV Transmitters and Receivers
I’m finding it difficult to figure where to start from since the options out there are aplenty. 5.8GHz FPV systems are the most common systems that are being used by dronies. There are other frequency bands that can be used. However, you need to be on your guard before you even think to start using them since they all will come with legal repercussions. Each country has its own laws and regulations.
This frequency band offers a great control range and fabulous penetration. However, this is the frequency band in the UK which is also being utilized by the telecom service providers. Hence, it is illegal to use it for your FPV systems in UK. Since this the lowest frequency band out there, the wavelength is the longest and hence the antenna sizes are quite large. This frequency band, however, is legal in the United States of America but you have to go through a rigorous test to attain the permit. For more information, you can visit this website.
This is yet another frequency band that offers brilliant control range and awesome penetration. It is being used by other entities in the UK and so its use for FPV purposes is prohibited in the UK. You can use it in the US and it is gradually becoming popular among dronies for live video streaming.
This frequency band promises decent range and penetration. It is not being used by other entities currently in the UK. However, still its usage is not allowed. The dronies in the US are using it in the same way as the 1.2 GHz band. It requires filtering so you should ensure that you have got the setup right before you start using it.
This frequency band promises decent control range while the equipment manufactured for this range is quite cost-effective. Most of the remote controlled systems, WiFi and Bluetooth devices also operate in the 2.4 GHz frequency band. This is not a great frequency range to be used for FPV systems since it contains plenty of noise in the US. We suggest you to take a lot of caution before you decide to start using it.
This frequency band promises nice range if the setup is configured appropriately. The equipment that comes for this frequency range is quite small in size and is low cost. The frequency band is clear and does not boast any interference from other entities. However, it offers very low penetration. This frequency band is fabulous for FPV racing. It is being at a wide scale by pilots and is the most easiest to configure among all the bands out there. Having said that, it is getting noisier in the US since a lot of technological equipment in and around homes such as baby monitors utilize it as well.
Give a deep thought to the FPV systems that you decide to choose and always keep in mind the local rules and regulations. Also pay heed to the power constraints. In UK, you are only allowed to employ 25mW power sources while other countries do not boast stringent laws in this regard.
Top FPV Cameras
If you are in possession of a GoPro action camera, then you probably have one of the leading FPV cameras to have hit the shelves. However, there are a number of applications for which a GoPro action camera might not turn out to be that viable. It is huge in size and instead you would be better off buying a small sized CMOS or CCD camera. You have a lot of options to choose from when it comes to CMOS and CCD cameras. There are versions that out-perform others in certain regards while prices tend to differentiate based upon their features.
Charge-Coupled Device (CCD)
Digital cameras, at the time of the introduction, made use of CCD sensors. These sensors are created by virtue of an intricate and complex process that churns out a top quality sensor capable of producing images boasting fine quality. Due to the state-of-the-art manufacturing process, these sensors produce much lesser noise in images as opposed to the CMOS sensors. However, these sensors require more power than their CMOS counterparts.
Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS)
When it comes to price, these sensors are placed at the lower end of the price spectrum. They also require very low amount of power in contrast to their CCD counterparts. We would suggest you to carry out extensive research while you plan to purchase your FPV system. Focus on buying something that is affordable and is able to provide you the advantage that you are looking to get!
NTSC or PAL?
National Television Systems Committee (NTSC)
Throughout North America and in some countries of Asia, NTSC is the analogue television system that has been prevalent for a number of years. The NTSC video offers a higher frame rate of 29.97 frames per second and hence produces a video that is smooth. The video, however, offers a lower resolution as opposed to PAL.
Phase Alternating Line (PAL)
This analogue television system is being used in European countries and in other parts of the world. It offers a video quality that is far superior than NTSC in terms of resolution but it promises a lower frame rate of 25 frames per second. Hence, the video produced by a PAL system is not smooth enough. Some folks prefer smoothness of NTSC system while others are more inclined towards the higher resolution of PAL system. Again, it all comes down to your individual preference and requirements.
Dedicated Cameras or Integrated Cameras?
A very important decision that you have to make while flying a drone equipped with FPV functionality is to decide whether to go for a dedicated FPV camera or to utilize the live video out capability that comes with a number of modern day cameras such as GoPro action cameras of Mobius Actioncam. There are a number of narratives prevalent among the dronies but again it boils down to one’s own budget as well as personal choice.
When I started flying FPV drones, I used the live video out of my GoPro Hero2 action camera initially. You won’t believe me but I have had a very disappointing experience and haven’t been able to switch back to it. When it comes to integrated FPV cameras, one experiences a palpable latency in the live video stream. This is because the electronic components within the integrated cameras have to resize and process the digital video from the sensor into an analogue video.
This processing delay can result into a number of other issues. For example, Hero3 action camera offers a very low frame rate while the video quality is quite average in most of the video modes when video output is being used. The video obtained from the Mobius Actioncam has a black bordering area at its edges which does not let the video overwhelm your entire vision. A noticeable lag can also be observed in the video.
The dedicated FPV cameras, on the other hand, are engineered specifically keeping in mind the requisites of FPV experience. Hence, they are able to tackle sudden variations in brightness which is a situation you are likely to encounter when flying at a very fast speed since light changes occur a lot. In contrast to the video feed obtained from a GoPro action camera, you can also experience FPV flight in extremely bad light conditions with dedicated FPV cameras.
The bottomline is that if you are being hampered by budgetary constraints and are satisfied with a low video quality, then integrated video cameras such as GoPro action cameras will work for you. However, if you enjoy very fast speed FPV flying and are interested in drone racing, then dedicated FPV cameras are the way to go!
Support for Frequency and Transmitter are required for FPV system
It is a well known fact that you want your video transmitter and receiver to have matching frequencies. However, it is also essential that the two devices are compatible with each other. For example, Fatshark and Boscam both provide support for the 5.8GHz frequency band. They, however, utilize disparate frequencies and are not compatible with each other. The new comers such as Skyzones produce receivers and goggles that are compatible in both the cases.
Another aspect that needs to be taken care of is that one cannot use the same frequency bands for both the remote controlled transmitter and video. The radio controller is an entirely digital components that comprises electronic circuitry. Hence, it can withstand a lot of interference. Having said that, it cannot tolerate a huge analogue video transmitter placed right next to the responsive receiver on the drone. Just consider a responsive microphone that is attempting to listen to a gentle bird’s chirping at a long distance from it. To compound the situation, the bird is sitting right next to a very large sized stereo playing out some heavy metal song. The noise floor becomes just too high. So, you will be better off choosing different frequencies for both the radio controller and video.
Now, the question that arises is why should one prefer one frequency over another one? Lower frequencies have the ability to penetrate solid objects in a better way. However, since their wavelengths are long, so they require larger antennae and external receiver. Many believe that higher frequencies generally lead to sharper, brighter and crisper images. However, actually, the difference is quite minuscule.
If you intend to just stroll around in your neighborhood park and fly your drone so that it remains in your line of sight, then 5.8GHz frequency band will work fine for you. In addition, it will be the most easiest to configure for all your equipment.
When it comes to lower frequencies such as 900MHz or 1.2GHz, these frequency bands are suitable for flights where object penetration is vital. The 5.8GHz system will let you fly drone across a few trees. But if a larger one happens to obstruct your path between the transmitter and you, the video reception will start deteriorating. With the 1.2GHz frequency band, you can enjoy a decent flight experience all around your neighborhood as long as you stay well below the tree line. To better explain things for you, consider the difference in reception you get for AM and FM radio signals when passing through a tunnel. The difference is pretty much the same in case of FPV drone systems as well.
You must be wondering why have I not touched upon the 2.4GHz frequency range. Well, there’s lots of stuff that I would like to cover. Firstly, the radio signal is able to penetrate solid objects a lot better than 5.8GHz but it is slightly worse than the 1.2GHz frequency band in terms of penetration. This implies that there is a likelihood of deterioration in your radio control well before your video fuzzes out. And believe me, this is not what you would be wanting! There is another thing! 2.4GHz frequency range is a harmonic frequency of 1.2GHz, so, we should be expecting lots of interference.
This is primarily the reason majority of the people who use 1.2GHz or 2.4GHz for their FPV, use Ultra High Frequency (UHF) control systems for their radio controller which lie almost invariably in the 400MHz range. You must be starting to feel the heat with so much complexities all around.
The DJI Phantom Vision drones are a unique case. These drones utilize 5.8GHz for radio control. You must be wondering why? The reason is because they intend to to utilize the 2.4GHz frequency range to send back video from the quadcopter via WiFi. So, you need to take utmost care when you are flying your drone with people around who are utilizing the opposite combination of frequency bands. We suggest you to always check your frequency bands out before you go out for flying. Moreover, with WiFi transmission, you should be expecting some latency in video transmission. In addition, there is also a possibility of your RC control dropping out in case an object obstructs your path.
FPV Drone Antennae
If you have indulged yourself in some research work regarding FPV, you must have come across a number of interestingly odd looking antennae designs containing lobes like clover leaves.
Since, the FPV video transmission is carried out in the form of an analogue signal, hence, any kind of interference will be readily observable. On the other hand, digital RC controls are not affected adversely by interference. It is similar to the case of our modern day digital TV in comparison with the older analogue television sets that are only left in our memories.
Cloverleaf antennae are designed to reject particular types of interference. Specifically, the signals ricocheting off solid objects can be rejected easily by these types of antennae. Remember that radio waves resemble light waves since both kinds of waves bounce off objects upon hitting them.
We all know that lower frequencies have larger wavelengths and hence the antennae designed for 1.2GHz frequency bands will be a lot larger in physical dimensions as opposed to those designed for the 5.8Ghz frequency range. This makes larger antennae a lot more fragile. Hence, if you are interested in pursuing very high speed, proximity drone racing, then you will be better of using the 5.8GHz frequency band despite getting some interference because of the nearby foliage.
The FPV goggles developed by leading manufacturers such as FatShark, Boscam and SkyZone come with integrated receivers. However, if you want to access high quality reception or are more interested in using screen or other goggles, you should prefer the standalone receiver. A standalone receiver will, however, require an additional pair of batteries and separate wiring to the screen or goggles. Low cost tripods are used by a number of drone enthusiasts to attach their ground station equipment.
Drone FPV Installation Guidelines
Some systems such as DJI Lightbridge offer plug and play functionality. For other setups, you will have to exercise some soldering skills and if you don’t have any, better harness some!
A common installation of FPV system needs power for the transmitter. In the same way, dedicated FPV cameras require sources to power them and you need to take utmost care regarding the voltage that is fed to them. Some cameras can function with a 5V or 12V battery while others can support a wider range of voltage. You can also go for a smaller sized battery to power your FPV subsystem so that it can serve as a tracker when your primary battery runs out of juice. That way you will at least be able to view the location of crash.
Standalone FPV cameras such as the GoPro action cameras use their internal power sources. However, before you start flying, ensure that they are fully charged since you don’t want to lose your live video stream midway through your flight.
DJI have been one of the leaders in promoting the ready to takeoff FPV systems and they are gaining lots of traction among drone enthusiasts. The DJI Inspire One drone makes use of its own video transmission system and promises a brilliant ready to fly FPV system. Such a FPV system requires you to only download the app to your Android or iOS power handheld mobile device and connect it to the RC controller.
In contrast to the rest of the video systems out there, the video signal that you receive in this case is digital in nature. This has a few advantages as well as disadvantages. You get to shoot video footages at higher resolutions but since a digital signal has to be transmitter once the video has been processed, it adds to some delay. If you are flying your DJI Inspire One in the air without any obstructions, the FPV system works fine. However, if you are flying your device just 4 feet above the ground, this latency could result in catastrophic crashes.
More detailed and in-depth installation guidelines are out of the scope of this article. You can always log onto web forums such as RC groups or even carry out a simple Google search to view images and diagrams explaining how to configure certain equipment and components.
A Glimpse into the Future of FPV
The ultimate aim of FPV drones is to receive live video stream at 1080p or 720p resolution without any delay. This certainly does not appear to be a pragmatic option at this point in time for a common consumer or even a passionate hobbyist without having to pay an exorbitant amount of money. Connex have come up with a High Definition transmitter that claim to be able to provide uncompressed video at 1080p resolution at a frame rate of 60 frames per second and with just 1ms latency. However, one will have to pay an arm and a leg to get this one. It costs $1600 and the package does not even include any one of the goggles, camera or other such paraphernalia.
It is certainly a remarkable innovation and we appreciate the fact that it is even available on the market for the consumers; albeit wealthier ones. What really is exciting and exhilarating about this development is that HD FPV systems are possible and they are being introduced in the market.
Well, almost a decade ago, our modern day handheld mobile devices would have been able to outsmart a full sized computer that cost thousands of dollars. The prices certainly get reduced with the passage of time. So, that day is not far away when we will be able to fly HD FPV systems without having to burden our pocket a lot.
You have to ensure that you fly your beloved UAVs with great care, taking a lot of caution or else your hobby could very well come to an end abruptly.
Numerous hitherto unheard of risks are involved in FPV drone racing systems based flying as opposed to traditional RC drones flying. This is because of the fact that you can fly your FPV drone systems at a long distance away from your ground station.
You should appoint an individual to play the role of a spotter if there is a probability of people infiltrating your flying zone from time to time. This becomes all the more crucial if you are flying your device with goggles on. Since you cannot see behind yourself while your vision is severely restricted by the goggles as you are immersed in the FPV experience.
Keep in mind that a number of FPV systems offer a certain latency. Specifically, if your FPV systems supports digital signal processing, you should be expecting some delay. This can include RC control in case of drones that can be manipulated by handheld mobile devices. We would suggest you to maintain a safe distance at all times.
We hope that this detailed guideline will be able to provide you some really helpful information regarding FPV video. The internet contains plenty of information on this topic. I have just tried to share with you the fundamentals of FPV drone systems. You will be far better of if you carry out some extensive research and do not hurry. Take your time and make an informed decision about the FPV system that you want to purchase.
We appreciate you taking your time out of your hectic schedules. We really hope that we have been able to provide you all the requisite information with regard to FPV drone racing for your beloved drone ranging from Parrot Bebop FPV to Phantom 4 FPV racing drone.