Are you new to FPV? Are you in love with First Person View flying or just curious what it’s all about? Okay, now let’s take a closer look at the FPV world.
FPV is the short form of “First-person view”, it’s the ability of the user of some technology to see from a particular visual perspective other than one’s actual location, such as the environment of a character in a video game, a drone, or a telemedicine client.
With FPV, people can experience an environment in a way that they might not have been able to otherwise. It has been used in areas such as photography, film, video games, telepresence and virtual reality.
What makes a good FPV system?
There are two items that make the greatest impact on the enjoyment of your FPV plane: The camera, and the antennas you select. Selecting a good camera that performs well in different lighting conditions will allow you to see well at dusk where many cameras simply black out all ground definition. 420 TVL resolution is good enough for most purposes. It is better to select a camera with excellent BLC (back light compensation) and color saturation than one with a high resolution.
Antennas are the critical link between you and the aircraft. The proper selection of antennas is perhaps the most important thing to FPV flying. The antennas are the difference between a long-range system capable of 20 miles and a system only good for short range. Most range issues are in fact a result of multipathing of the signal. People having problems with multipath interference should consider using a circularly polarized antenna system or a directional antenna of moderate gain.
The following items are the minimum requirements to set up your first FPV equipment:
- RC Transmitter and Receiver
- Video Transmitter and Antenna
- Ground Station with Video Receiver and Antenna
- Video Display: Monitor or Goggles?
How to fly FPV Drones?
Here are some helpful definitions that will leave you with a bit more understanding of the terms that may be thrown around quickly when people are referring to FPV racing.
FPV: Incorporating the use of a screen, monitor, or goggles to visually experience what the camera on the UAV is gleaning in real time.
Line of Sight: The term referring to being able to see your drone the same time you are piloting it.
FPV Racing: The quickly growing recreational activity during which pilots select a pre-defined track, and race their small quads around it for sport.
RTF (ready to fly) racing drones: These are the drones made for FPV racing that you can race right out of the box, without worrying about assembly.
DIY racing drones: A drone made from scratch that is modified to the user’s personal taste.
FPV Camera: Special kind of drone camera used for first-person view racing, photography, piloting, or the capturing of videography.
FPV Goggles: A special set of goggles used to views exactly what the UAV’s camera is seeing in real time.
Head Tracking: An FPV goggle modification that allows you to adjust the angle of the camera mid-flight when the pilot tilts their head up or down.
Interpupillary distance: This is the term for the distance from the center of the pupils to the lens of the goggles being worn.
LCD monitor: A screen, usually attached to the controller, used to view what the drone’s camera is seeing; in most cases an alternative to goggles.
Transmitter: Relays the camera’s feed to the receiver.
Receiver: Accepts the camera’s feed and sends it to the other screen or viewing device of pilot’s choice.
Frequency: The radio frequency FPV equipment runs on. Usually allows for multiple channels, so pilots do not cross signals with each other.
FPV system: The all-inclusive and entire drone setup. This usually includes the multirotor itself, the controller, connecting parts, and the video display.
On Screen Display: Gives you specifics such as altitude, battery life, current speed, and other necessary elements to assure smooth flight.
TVL (Resolution): The resolution of the camera which helps determine the clarity and overall feed quality of the video.
CCD camera type: This is the camera that uses a specific image sensor that is charged by a coupling device, and is typically more suitable for FPV.
CMOS camera type: This is a camera that uses a complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor image sensor. These usually cost less than CCD cameras, but are not as suitable for the job.
Video Latency: This is the lag involved into what your camera sees, and when it transmits to your screen or viewing goggles. It can lead to problems with flight, the maneuvers you want to accomplish, and trouble with aerial shots.
Jello: This is the vibration that occurs in the video that is caused by the running of the multirotor inside the UAV.
What to consider before buying a FPV Goggle?
As we’ve already mentioned there is more and more technology being crammed into FPV goggles now, here are a few of the ones to consider when buying:
On-board DVR – this gives you the ability to record your flight into the mini-SD card plugged into the goggles. Usually the quality isn’t fantastic but it’s fun to watch your flights back and very handy to playback the video to help you find a lost model.
3D Support – Some goggles that use one screen for each eye also support the use of two different images, one shown to each eye. By using a special camera to capture these two images you can have a 3D effect while flying FPV.
Headtracker – This is a small gyro and accelerometer, similar to what is inside most multirotor and flight controllers but this time monitoring the movement of your head. This allows you to control a gimbal under your FPV camera on the model and, by connecting the goggles, to your radio using a trainer cable, allowing you to ‘look around’ and move the camera on the model instinctively.
Diversity – This uses more than one antenna and usually more than one FPV receiver to give the pilot the best chance of maintaining a connection with the model. There are lots of ways this is implemented and not all diversity solutions are created equal. Typically a pilot will use a polarised circular antenna and a longer range antenna like a patch or helical to support the model at longer ranges.
IPD adjustment – With those goggles that use two screens, this allows you to adjust the distance between those two sets of optics to help you focus. Not everyone’s eyes are the same distance apart and trying to look through a lens that isn’t directly in front of your eyes isn’t great.
Corrective lenses – Most lens setups in goggles make it feel that you are watching a large screen TV, in a darkened room about 6 feet away. For those pilots who need spectacles for those kinds of distances some of the main vendors offer corrective insets in their goggles. For spectacles with stronger prescriptions, I’d recommend using an FPV screen rather than goggles.
HD Screens – Be careful here –some of the models that we will look at shortly do use 720p screens to show the FPV image, but in some cases it just means that the resolution of the little screens used to show the image to you is higher than normal (most FPV signals are only 640 x 480 pixels in size).
HDMI connectivity – (With the above in mind) You can watch video delivered to the goggles via the HDMI port. Typically this isn’t shown in full HD but us handy to fly FPV simulators on your PC.
Modular via ‘bays’ – Many of the smaller goggles have managed to make room for a couple of modular bays designed to hold the FPV receiver and items like the head tracker. This allows pilots to add the FPV receiver of their choice and setup the goggles in a way that is perfect for them.
16:9 ‘Widescreen’ support – Initially all of the cameras and panels used in the goggles were 4:3 ratio. Many goggles are now supporting 16:9 ‘widescreen’. If you’re a pilot that had learned to fly 4:3 you’ll find a 16:9 image unusual but for us here, we always fly widescreen (with a 16:9 camera) when we can.
This is just the start of your journey into FPV, you may also want to know what to look for before buying a FPV goggle in detail. By following these FPV guides, you will be up and flying your quadcopter in no time. Good Luck!