Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about 3D FPV goggles and why they’re so hard to come by (no, DJI doesn’t sell any). If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.
I’m looking for a commercially manufactured drone for FPV that has two cameras and 3D goggles for the full, 3D-visual flying experience. I was hoping that DJI would create this, but I don’t think they will. Is there any company out there that you know about that makes a true 3D-vision drone and goggles?
For this question, I reached out to some of the best FPV pilots I know, Jessika Farrar and Lexie Janson. And both of them came to the same conclusion: there just aren’t any ready-to-fly drones out there available for sale that have 3D video as an option.
“Right now if you want to do 3D FPV video with a drone you don’t have many options, but it’s not impossible,” said Jessika Farrar, the Chief UAS Pilot at Robotic Research LLC and a lifetime RC enthusiast.
Her advice is to try to recreate your own 3D FPV goggles using existing gear available for sale. Here are some options:
“This proprietary set of gear can be easily outfitted on just about any drone with 3″ props and up and would provide the full 3D FPV experience,” Farrar said
Browse eBay or drone forums and Facebook groups to try to get your hands on a new pair. But even if you manage to find a used pair of Skyzone 3D FPV Goggles, it’s still not completely ready to go off-the-shelf. You’ll need to do some tinkering, building and electronics engineering to add it in to the actual drone.
Farrar did add that you can still buy the dual cam and video transmitter new as loose replacement parts. It’s finding the actual goggles that will likely be the hard part.
Farrar also recommends finding a Blackbird 2.0 dual camera — though again that may be tough. It seems to be out of stock everywhere, so you’ll have to find it used. If you do get your hands on one, you can pair it with any traditional video transmitter and a pair of 3D capable goggles — regardless of the brand (we recommend something like the Fatshark Dominator HD).
Lexie Jansen, a famous FPV drone racer, suggested a hack that involves shooting traditional FPV video. Then, use a service like Visual Vertigo to turn your camera into a 3D camera. Their patented technology allows users to use any camera on the market to take real 3D pictures and videos that can be viewed using any smart phone and VR headset. No additional hardware is needed — it’s all done through software.
There are a few reasons why it’s so hard to find 3D FPV goggles, including the proprietary nature of the 3D systems of the past and the cost prohibitiveness of all the equipment needed to do it, Farrar said.
“$180 for an FPV camera on a drone that you are totally going to smash back in 2016 was just outrageous,” she said.
And then perhaps another even bigger reason why 3D FPV goggles have never really caught on: lack of marketing. More specifically — no free advertising on social media.
“With no way to share this 3D experience with anyone such as on social media, the people who were enjoying the 3D video experience weren’t able to be loud and proud about it,” she said. “They enjoyed it quietly.”
Think of all the other huge hype waves. People post their Peloton workouts on the app’s community page and suddenly Peloton is huge. People geotag restaurants on Instagram and suddenly everyone wants that photogenic donut. And people post their drone videos to YouTube, Facebook, Instagram — and really everywhere online — and people want a drone But there’s no great way to share specifically 3D drone videos.
“Thus 3D video never really experienced the word of mouth or social media effect,” Farrar said.
Alas, Skyzone’s newer goggle moddles don’t have 3D hardware.
And even if you do find it, expect to pony up some cash.
“This gear is not cheap, even though it is over 5 years old now,” Farrar said. “In 2021 we are still talking nearly $100 just for an analog SD camera — if you can even find it anywhere.”
It’s hard to say whether companies will make 3D FPV goggles in the future.
“With any luck, maybe a company like Orqa (which makes the FPV.One goggles) will take it on,” Farrar said, suggesting the Croatia-based company is best positioned to tackle a product like this. Orqa builds antennas, radio controllers, headsets and low latency video signal transport systems, and the company does almost all of its engineering in house including mechanical engineering, electronics design, RF design, firmware development, optics design and prototyping.
DJI has taken just a few steps into the FPV drone racing world, having most recently launched its FPV drone earlier this year. That said, there’s no indication DJI would expand all the way to 3D.
“HD like the DJI system in 3D would be truly epic but I can only dream,” Farrar said.
For now, it looks like little interest in 3D FPV drones means there’s little hope that the market will build products for the small handful of prospective buyers.
“Maybe Skyzone can bring it back from the dead,” Farrar said. “Right now I’m afraid it is sadly a lost and forgotten vertical.”