FPV Drone Guide
FPV and FPV Racing are the trends in the last two years in the RC Hobby. In this guide I will try to explain the basics and what do you need to start flying FPV.
Definition: First Person View. Imagine you are sitting in the cockpit of your drone. You get the view from the sky. And that is why FPV flying is so popular. The feeling is great!
You can fly FPV using different kind of drones: most people use quadcopters, but there are many who use RC planes for longer distances. Basically you need your flying machine equipped with the FPV technology. Just mount the FPV parts on your DJI drone or self-made quadcopter and you are ready to go. Check my article how to build your first drone.
What’s FPV Racing? Drone pilots are using FPV equipped copters for races. The fastest one win the race. Well in many cases the one who managed not to crash his FPV drone.
But lets get to the parts needed for FPV flying. Please kindly note that there are so many different manufactures, that I simply can’t mention all of them.
Basic FPV Equipment:
Video Transmitter (VTx)
Video Receiver (VRx)
FPV Monitor / FPV Goggles
Optional FPV Equipment:
OSD (On Screen Display)
L-C Power Filter
The video transmitter sends the video signal coming from the FPV Camera to the video receiver. The video transmitter operate on a specific radio frequency (1.2GHz, 2.4GHz, 3.3GHz and 5.8GHz). The most popular at the moment is 5.8GHz. Its because there is no interference with the 2.4GHz radio transmitter and the antennas are pretty small.
The 5.8GHz radio frequency range is between 5.725GHz and 5.875GHz. Most available transmitters now can switch between 32 transmitting channels in that range. There are some newer VTx, that have up to 40 Channels. Here is an overview of the common channels (CH):
Next specification to watch is the transmitting power (in mW). Typically there are 25mW, 200mW, 600mW and some 1000mW transmitters. In general more power will give you more range. BUT in most European countries it is illegal to use more than 25mW.
Most transmitters could be powered without a problem from 11.1V 3S battery. If you are flying on 16.8V 4S or 6S battery check allowed input voltage. For example: the Aomway 200mW VTx has an operating voltage range of 6-28V. Here some examples:
- Eachine 25mW 5.8GHz – 40 Channels incl. Raceband – 7-23V input voltage
ImmersionRC 25mW 5.8GHz – 15 Channels incl. Raceband – 7-25V input voltage.
Aomway 200mW 5.8GHz – 32 Channels – 6-28V input voltage.
Typically there is always a standard linear-polarized antenna included in the package. You will be perfect with that standard antenna, but if you need more range you should get a circular polarized antenna. Personally I use the FatShark ImmersionRC SpiroNET antennas, because of the good quality. Note that with some no-name Chinese antennas you can even get less range. By choosing your antenna, make sure the connector plug fits the transmitter jack. The are two types: SMA and RP-SMA.
Please never power your video transmitter without an attached antenna, because you can damage it.
You need a camera with live video-out, so you can connect it to the video transmitter. There are special FPV cameras, that are small, light and have high fps (frames per second) rate. Of course you can use your GoPro action camera too, but some pilots claim that the video lag is high. Personally I think it is ok for normal FPV flying. I am currently waiting for the RunCam 2, which is lighter than the GoPro and should have higher fps rate.
3 things to look when choosing a FPV camera:
Camera sensor type
Television lines (TVL) is a specification of the camera’s horizontal resolution. My FatShark FPV camera has 600TVL, which is pretty standard.
In general there are two types of camera sensors: CMOS and CCD. CMOS sensors are cheaper, but have less power consumption. On the other hand CCD sensors have better light sensitivity and create less noise. I haven’t use a CCD camera yet, so I can’t really say if it is better.
Most FPV cameras could be powered with 5V from the video transmitter. It’s easy to setup, but that could cause overheating of the transmitter. So you better power the camera from a 5V power distribution board or check for cameras that can be powered from the 12V 3S drone battery.
The video receiver is on the ground and is connected to the monitor. By choosing the receiver make sure it can operate on the same channels as the video transmitter. Use it with a circular polarized antenna like the transmitter for better range. On the picture below you can see the ImmersionRC Uno5800 video receiver. The actual version is Uno5800 v4.1 Race Edition.
Please note that there are FPV monitors, which have built-in receiver, so you don’t need to buy one extra. Most FPV goggles have built-in receiver too. I have the FatShark Attitude goggles and I love the immersive view. Personally I prefer the goggles, because they are easy to transport and the battery lasts longer. Either by choosing a monitor or goggles look for a better resolution. You will be absolutely fine with VGA 640 x 480, but if you have a bigger budget go for SVGA 800 x 600 resolution.
FatShark Attitude – VGA 640 x 480
SkyZone FPV Goggles V3 – WVGA 854 x 480
FatShark Dominator HD2 – SVGA 800 x 600
These are the basic parts you need for FPV flying. Optional you can use an OSD board you can have flight data, like battery voltage or altitude, into your video. Some flight controllers, like the new Illuminati 32, have integrated OSD. So you don’t need to buy a separate one.
Using an L-C power filter is optional too. Often the motors or ESCs of your drone cause noise and you will see lines in your wireless video. The L-C power filter just cleans that noise. It is a simple, small, cheap, but very helpful device.
I hope you have a more clear picture of what’s FPV now. If you still have any kind of questions, please do not hesitate to leave me a comment.