If you have been flying drones for a while, you already know that for the best flying experience you need FPV – or ‘first person view’ – systems. The FPV system enables you to fly your drone from the pilot’s perspective. As if you were actually sitting inside the drone and looking out. This is as good as it gets.
FPV systems are relatively new. Only about a decade old. Vastly improved technologies in recent times have made this possible.
All of the various components that make up an FPV system are evolving at a rapid pace – monitors, cameras, video transmitters, receivers and even ***FPV goggles***.
While all of this may sound very exciting – and it indeed is, there’s one thing you’d want to note before you jump into FPV…
You need to be able to fly your drone around “line of sight”. This requires you to have mastered the controls. Unless you have mastered this basic skill, you should not be switching to FPV.
And not all FPV systems are plug and play. You may need to have at least a few basic skills like soldering to make this work.
That said, here is what you’ll want to look for in each of the individual components…
You can use either a monitor or a pair of goggles. But some people choose to use both together.
The main advantage of using a monitor instead of goggles is you can switch between the camera view and line of sight very easily.
Another really good reason you would want to buy a monitor is because some monitors come equipped with dual receivers. So they actually have two antennas instead of one. The monitor sources its signal from the antenna getting a stronger signal – which is good because the screen may otherwise go blue in some of these devices when the signal from your quadcopter’s FPV transmitter becomes very weak.
Some monitors come with a video output port. You can connect your FPV goggles to this port. So one other person can look at the monitor while you, the pilot, controls the drone while wearing goggles.
FPV goggles allow you to have the best possible experience. It’s almost as good as being in the cockpit of your drone while flying it. It certainly can’t get any better than this.
For the best possible viewing experience, you’d want to buy goggles with the best resolution and at least 35° field of view.
Most models these days have a resolution of 640 x 480 VGA and at least 25° field of view.
While this should be good enough for most people, if your FPV camera is not very good, the image displayed by your goggles will not be good either.
Transmitters and receivers
Most FPV systems use a frequency of 5.8 Hz. This is because drones usually use either 2.4 GHz or 5.8 GHz. Since the radio controller typically uses 2.4 GHz frequency, FPV systems use 5.8 GHz.
You would want to note that in most countries, it is illegal to use 900 MHz, 1.2 GHz or 1.3 GHz for radio controlled drones.
By far the best FPV camera on the market today would be the GoPro Hero4 Black. But it is heavy and expensive.
So many drone enthusiasts use much smaller cameras that are a lot cheaper.
There’s another problem with using GoPro camera is for FPV. These cameras do a lot to image processing and so there can be a time lag. If you’re flying very high and at low speed, the slight lag may not be a problem.
On the other hand, if you’re into drone racing or stunts then the time lag is simply unacceptable. You will need to use a dedicated FPV camera.
Dedicated FPV cameras are designed for flying fast in varying light conditions.
A camera gimbal
Quadcopters are unstable and can remain in stable flight only because the onboard flight controller continually changes the motor speeds. This can introduce a lot of vibrations – and a lot of this is passed down to the camera. And all of these vibrations cause the video to be very shaky.
If you want the video to be free of all the shakiness, you’ll need to mount the camera on a three axis brushless camera gimbal.