What is an FPV quadcopter?

FPV basics

FPV quadcopter means that your quadcopter has a small camera and transmitter mounted on it; the camera transmits the images to your FPV google or screen,and you fly your quadcopter not by line of sight, but by the transmitted video.

Compared to regular line-of-sight flying, FPV flying is harder because you see less of the environment, so it takes some time to get used to. On the upside you can fly and FPV quadrotor to larger distances while staying in control, as you can see the quad’s environment via the googles long after you have lost line-of-sight.

FPV race video courtesy of DronedOut.
FPV is an exhilarating experience as you will feel part ofthe action, instead of staying an outsider.

FPV equipment started to become common in the 2000s, nowadays you can easily get an integrated camera + transmitter and goggles + receiver for a few hundred dollars.

As FPV is not tied to the other electronic components you can easily add FPV gear to anything – RC airplanes, boats, cars and you could even use the FPV gear for remote monitoring if you wanted to.

FPV is for you if you love immersive action and you are thinking aboutracing with your quadcopter. Quad races are almost always FPV only – you just can’t judge the small distances, gates and turns otherwise, and would surely crash.

The equipment

FPV equipment on the transmitting side consists of 4 parts:
  • The battery for the transmitter and the camera, usually a Lipo battery.
  • The transmitter itself.
  • The antenna for the transmitter, often a clover-leaf antenna.
  • The camera, PAL and/or NTSC.

Click here to check the prices of FPV cameras and transmitters online.

The receiving side has 4 parts as well:
  • The battery for the receiver and the goggle, usually a Lipo battery.
  • The receiver itself.
  • The antenna for the receiver, often a clover-leaf antenna which can be combined with a flat antenna for longer range.
  • The goggle or the screen.

Click here to check the prices of FPV goggles online.

While there are quite a few frequencies which are usable for FPV (900 MHz, 1.2 GHz, 2.4 GHz, and 5.8 GHz), the most common one used for quadcopter racing is the 5.8 Ghz frequency.While the 5.8 Ghz frequency is a good all-rounder, 900Mhz is better to get along range.

The camera and the goggle can use NTSC and/or PAL encoding. It’s important to use equipment with matching encoding, otherwise the image just won’t come through.

From image quality point of view

, the camera’s TVL number and the goggle’s resolution are the most important numbers. The higher the TVL number, the better the camera’s image quality will be. The same is true for the camerare solution: you’ll want it as high as practically possible. An 1000TVL camera and a 800×480 goggle is probably the best you can get today while keeping the budget reasonable. Here you can check the prices of 1000TVLcameras, while here you can check the prices of HD FPV goggles.

Toy quadcopters can have FPV too, the Holy Stone HS110W is a great example.However most of these use Wifi for FPV, which adds considerable lag. You should avoid these systems for FPV flying. However such a quad is still practical for simple aerial photography, as you’ll actually see what you are taking a photo of while being very cheap.

As the radio transmission’s quality can vary during the flight another camera (often a Gopro) is used to record the flight. It’s also possible to use a Gopro as an FPV camera, however there could be a few issues with this setup, as the Gopro adds more latency than a simple FPV cam, it’s videou output is not as good as the one it records, and it could lock up cutting your video feed.Still, if you like to experiment it’s definitely worth a try, as quite a few people use such a setup with success. You can find the prices for the required cable here, and you’ll find a video guide on Vimeo (though you will not need to slice the ready-made cables).

The goodies

The OSD shows you all the vital data from your quad.
On screen display is a cool feature

for FPV flying, with an OSD module you can transmit live data from your quadcopter, including the battery status, altitude, GPS coordinates. These can be vital as you’ll know if you have to return home due to low battery, or you’ll know where you have to search for your quad, would you lose it out of sight. Minimo sd supports a wide range of flight controllers, and can be bought online too – just avoid the “micro” version, people seem to have issues with that one.

Head tracking camera with two servos.
Head tracking is another cool feature for FPV.

Head tracking is recommended for advanced pilots only, still it’s great to learn about such possibilities.Head tracking enabled FPV goggles have integrated gyros which track your head’s pitch and yaw.The head tracking unit has an output which you have to connect to your transmitter’s trainer port (so a capable transmitter is required). The transmitter sends these out as two additional channels, and are received by receiver in the quad. The camera’s servos are connected to the receiver, so in the end the camera will move the same way you move your head, and you’ll be able to look around while on FPV. Both Flitete stand Fat shark has a detailed articles on setting up head tracking, and you can compare the prices of pan/tilt cameras and head tracking goggles online.

The regulations

There are a few regulations which you’ll have to obey if you’d like to start FPV flying. These regulations usually fall into three categories.

FPV frequency regulations

– in the US you can transmit with up to 1 Watt of power in the 5.8 Ghz frequency, while in the UK you are limited to 25 mW. Fortunately the transmitter’s spec includes the transmitting power, and there are plenty of low – and high-performance transmitters available, so it’s easy to to follow this regulation. Here you can read the US regulation, and here the UK regulation.

Generic quadcopter regulations
  • In the US, the quad must weigh less than 25 kilograms, and you must register it if it weighs more than 250 grams. You must fly only during daylight, and either fly byline of sight, or have someone there who watches the quad. You must not fly above people, and must report any serious accidents to the authorities. The maximum allowed speed is 100 mph, while the maximum allowed flight height is400 feet. Click here for a more detailed PDF summary of the regulations.
  • In the UK, the rules are a bit simpler – you must not fly higher than 400feet, must keep line-of-sight, and must keep 50 meters of distance frompeople or properties. The distance you have to keep increases to 150 metersin case of a crowd or built-up area. The details are on thedronesafe.ukwebsite.
FPV related regulations

– both in the US and in the UK you need a someone besides you who has unaided line of sight to the vehicle. So according to the law you can’t fly FPV alone. This is detailed in the US an dUK PDF documents.

To learn even more about FPV quadcopters, check our What quadcopter to buy for FPV? article.

Have fun flying! 🙂

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