FPV, or first-person viewing, means that you see what your drone sees in real-time. So rather than trying to control your drone by sight, you can do it using a portable monitor. In this article, we’ll show you everything you need to know about FPV flying.
FPV flying allows you to fly further and faster without getting confused about the orientation of your quadcopter. When flying from the ground, it’s all too easy to lose track of your drone mid-flight. This is especially true in drone racing, where FPV is pretty much mandatory.
When flying via FPV, right and left never get reversed. As a result, you’ll have much more control over your drone. I also like the fact that FPV flying is way more immersive than simply staring at your drone from far away. It will provide you with an unforgettable flying experience that will leave you craving more.
When taking the FPV route, you have two options: you can buy a drone that comes with built-in FPV technology (like the DJI Phantom 4 or Hubsan X4 H107D), or you can build a drone.
For the sake of this article, we’re going to assume that you’re taking the DIY approach and are putting together your own FPV quadcopter. Here’s a basic outline of what your FPV setup should be:
Whether you buy an FPV drone or build one yourself, the setup will always be the same. Let’s talk about each of these individually.
Generally, you’ll have four frequency bands to choose from: 900MHz, 1.3GHz, 2.4GHz, and 5.8GHz. By far the most common one is the 2.4GHz frequency. That’s because this is the one allowed by most countries without you having to get a license. The 900MHz frequency, for instance, is banned in Sweden because it interferes with air traffic. Before choosing a frequency, make sure that you’re allowed to use it!
This one isn’t too complicated. When buying your transmitter, simply buy a matching receiver. There’s no really too much else to say about that.
When shopping for an FPV camera, choose one that’s lightweight and small. If it’s too big and bulky, then it’s going to weigh down your quadcopter and quickly drain your battery (or it might not even take off at all due to being too heavy). You also want to focus on image quality. If the image is too fuzzy, it may cause you to crash, which obviously isn’t a good thing.
You’ll have two options when it comes to the display:
Both are fine, but I highly recommend the goggles. Why? Because it’s way more fun! By having goggles instead of a display, you won’t have to worry about glare (if flying during the day). Additionally, goggles will give you much more immersion and allow you to fly better. Having FPV goggles is simply much more convenient.
Once you’ve installed your basic FPV setup, you’ll want to experiment with different ways of flying further. After all, what’s the fun of FPV flying if you can’t go more than 100 feet away, right? The most important upgrade for flying further is the antenna. A good antenna upgrade will improve your range by a huge amount, and they only cost about $10 or $20. To give you some perspective, switching your antenna can literally DOUBLE your range without using any additional power.
It’s against the law to fly your drone so far away that you’re no longer able to see it. So even though you’ve got an FPV drone capable of traveling up to a mile away, you need to stay within the law and fly to where you can still see it without the display. Some areas are stricter about imposing this law than others. The last thing you want is to get your drone confiscated (or worse, go to jail) because you didn’t follow the rules. Check out Drone Pilot Ground School for more information on how to fly within the law.
As good as FPV flying is, it doesn’t allow you to see everything. Essentially, you’ll be limited only to what your drone’s camera can see, which in some cases, won’t be enough. By having a spotter (someone who will look at your drone while you fly via FPV), you’ll reduce your risk of a crash. They’ll be able to tell you when you’re getting to close to a tree or power line thus, saving you a costly crash. Plus, it’s simply way more fun to have someone there flying with you than being by yourself.
If you’ve never flown FPV before, it might be a little tricky at first. That’s because your depth perception will be off. Looking at the world through a lens makes objects appear closer/further than they really are. So that tree that’s only a few feet away might actually be 10 feet away, causing you to get too close and crash. The only way to avoid this problem is to practice as often as you can. If you’re planning on getting into drone racing, it’s something you need to do. If you’re a beginner who’s never flown a quadcopter, then check out this article and learn how to fly a drone.
When flying via FPV, always pay attention to your surroundings. Otherwise, you might end up like this guy who crashed his drone but didn’t exactly know where he crashed it (fortunately he ended up finding it):
Additionally, try not to fly over an area where it will be difficult to find your drone if it does crash. Examples include large bodies of water and tree-filled areas.
FPV flying can be a lot of fun, but you’ve got to be responsible. Know your limits and always stay within the law. This guide only provides a rough outline of how to setup an FPV drone. I recommend reading more into the topic or watch some videos on YouTube for an exact tutorial. Good luck and fly safe everyone!
Alan Perlman – Alan founded UAV Coach in 2014 to help connect drone enthusiasts, to provide world-class sUAS industry training courses, and to help push the drone community forward with a focus on safety and commercial opportunities.