FPV 101: What You Need to Know to Start Flying First Person View
Flying a drone is a fun experience, but flying FPV takes that experience to a whole new level. FPV, or first person view, puts you in the cockpit of your quad. You and your machine become one as you feel every loop, dive, and turn. It is a thrill and has been growing in popularity. You can even watch FPV drone racing events on ESPN and other channels.
Watch Charpu, One of the Top FPV Pilots in the World
So now you’ve had a taste of FPV and now you want to try it for yourself. This article focuses on racer-style FPV. If you want to use FPV for aerial photography it is much simpler, purchase a Phantom, Typhoon or X-Star and call it a day.
Getting started might seem overwhelming as there are some terminology and things you’ll need to understand. That is where Half Chrome Drones can help. We’ve even searched the web for other good how to fly articles. Check this one out from Jen’s Reviews. So let’s break it down for you. In the most basic terms here is what you’ll need:
- FPV Camera and Transmitter
- Radio (remote controller)
- Monitor or Headset (goggles)
Picking out the right quadcopter to fly FPV isn’t quite as easy as it should be. If you search FPV drone on Amazon you’ll get a pretty good list. The problem is that a lot of them rely on WiFi and a connection to your phone. All of these WiFi drones have issues with lag, also known as latency. This makes FPV flying either very difficult or impossible. This means the video you are watching won’t be synced with the quad. Another issue with WiFi FPV drones is that most of them transmit on the same frequency as the radio controlling the quad and that can cause interference with your quad. These quads also tend to have a narrow field of view. This doesn’t mean they are bad, in fact, we like a lot of them, but they aren’t ideal to fly FPV. So we’ve narrowed down the best option for your first FPV quad to…
Mini or Micro FPV Quads
We highly recommend you start with a micro or a mini FPV drone. The bigger drones you see racing on TV are big and fast. The propellers spin fast and can be dangerous. They also are expensive and you can’t fly them safely in the comfort of your home. Minis and micros are much safer, can be flown indoors and are less complex. To make sure you get the right drone you’ll need to understand these three terms ARF, BNF, and RTF. Spoiler alert: you want an RTF drone.
ARF: Almost Ready to Fly – These drones require some assembly, sometimes need some parts and do not come with a radio transmitter. Unless you know what you are doing avoid ARF drones.
BNF: Bind and Fly – These drones come assembled but do not come with a radio transmitter. You will have to know what type of transmitter (controller) the drone you want is compatible with and you will have to go through the binding process. Sometimes this is simple but sometimes you need an advanced degree in drone nerdery to accomplish this. BNF drones are typically not for beginners.
RTF: Ready to Fly – These drones are essentially plug-and-play. You’ll typically get a drone and a radio transmitter. Read the directions and start flying. Sometimes these drones come with a monitor, but typically you’ll need to supply your own.
Choose your machine
We’ve narrowed it down to a micro or mini RTF drone, so which drone should you start with? You could go with a smaller ducted flyer or slightly larger open propeller drone. There are two good ducted designs we’d recommend for the beginner. There is the Inductrix FPV or the Eachine E010C. The Inductrix is the micro FPV drone that started this craze. The best part about the Inductrix is that it comes in an all-in-one ready-to-fly package including the monitor. The downside is that the frame is not very durable so don’t buy this drone without picking up some Welder Glue. The Eachine E010C is the Inductrix’s cousin from China. It is significantly less expensive, but that also has a couple of drawbacks. The remote isn’t the best and you’ll have to supply your own FPV goggles. Both are excellent starter drones and perfect for learning indoors. If you want something with a little more power then check out the E011. It is like the E010, but with bigger motors. Unfortunately, you’ll have to add your own camera.
|Learn more about the Inductrix||Learn more about the Eachine E010C|
|Check the price of the Inductrix||Check the price of the Eachine E010C|
If you are looking for something with more power, better agility and a longer flight time that you can fly indoors and out then you’ll want to look at the Eachine QX90 or QX90c. It is a little larger but definitely more powerful. It also is louder than the ducted drones, but it is a lot of fun to fly.
|Learn more about the QX90||Check the price of the QX90|
But I Already Have a Drone
What if you already have a drone? Could you add a camera? Absolutely! People have been adding FPV cameras to all kinds of drones. It has even started a craze called the Tiny Whoop. We have put cameras on our Hubsan X4, Syma X5, Syma X8, MJX Bugs 3 and Eachine E010. You can add an FPV camera to almost anything. So how does that work?
Brushless FPV Quad
If you aren’t sold on any of the above micro brushed quads or you want the closest thing to a racer that you can still learn on then you should probably check out a brushless micro FPV quad. These little guys have the more powerful and efficient brushless motors. That means they’ll perform a lot closer to a real full-size race quad, without the difficulty or danger that comes with flying one. They DYS Elf is probably the best for beginners as it is super durable and comes with a remote. The KingKong GT models are also a lot of fun to fly and good for beginners.
|Order a DYS Elf||Order a KingKong 90GT|
In order to see what your drone sees you obviously need a camera. That camera also has to have a transmitter to broadcast the signal. If you get an RTF FPV drone the camera and transmitter are already part of the package. If you are building a drone or adding a camera you’ll want to know a few things.
FOV: Field of View – This is how much the camera will see. If the field of view is too narrow then controlling the drone becomes difficult because you can’t see enough of the world around the drone. If the field of view is too wide the image gets distorted and you can’t see enough detail. We would recommend a minimum full FOV of 110° and a maximum of 180°.
TVL: Total Vertical Lines- This is the resolution of the image you’ll receive. The higher the number, the better the resolution. We’d recommend a TVL of at least 600, but there’s no need to go any higher than the resolution of your monitor or headset.
CMOS/CCD- These are the two types of sensors that the FPV cameras typically have. For beginners, we’d recommend CMOS mostly because it tends to be more inexpensive. CCD tends to be a little crisper of an image, but as a beginner, this won’t matter much.
Transmitter- You’ll need a transmitter to send the signal to your monitor or goggles. You can buy a camera/transmitter combo, or you can buy them separately. Whether you get a combo or purchase them separately make sure you get a 5.8 GHz transmitter. The other thing you’ll want to know is how much power it uses to transmit. Typically you have three options: 25mw, 200mw or 600mw. The 25mw is good for indoor flying but limits your range. The 200mw is what is used for most racing applications and the 600mw is typically for long range aerial applications. You can get a transmitter that switches among the three and it typically is only a few dollars more. The switchable transmitter is our recommendation if you are purchasing the camera and transmitter separately. Make sure you check your local laws as sometimes you’ll need a special license to transmit the 200mw or 600mw signals. For beginners, we’d recommend these camera/transmitter combinations.
|FPV camera/transmitter for small drones||FPV camera/transmitter for larger drones|
The radio is the device you use to fly the drone. If you purchased an RTF drone then it most likely came with a radio transmitter. You are locked into flying your drone with that radio. Unfortunately, specific drones require specific radios. Most drones have receivers built in or added that are compatible with one of three different controllers. The three most popular are FlySky, Spektrum(DSMX/DSM2), and Taranis(Frsky.) A quick analogy: Flysky is the econo, the 1990’s Hyundai of the three, Spektrum is the solid American company, think Ford, and the Taranis is the slightly more expensive Lexus controller. These radios aren’t simple. They are programmable and capable of complex things. There are many different FlySky, Spektrum and Taranis models with various different options. There are also a handful of other radio manufacturers to choose from.
A lot of hardcore hobbyists aren’t fans of the FlySky, but we believe that picking up an RTF package with a FlySky remote is a good way to ease someone into the world of programmable radios. It is almost like a gateway radio. Once you are comfortable you’ll want to upgrade and will have to make the decision of going Spektrum or Taranis. Both are good and have advantages and disadvantages.
Our personal preference is Taranis as you can add a module that allows you to use a Spektrum receiver. The Taranis QX7 is probably the best radio you can get for your money right now. After you’ve become a radio pro then we’ll start talking about tuning your drones using CleanFlight and BetaFlight. Until then, you’ll need something to see where you are flying.
|Check the current price of the Taranis QX7|
FPV Monitor, Headsets and Goggles
The thing that makes FPV flying so exhilarating is the ability to see from the perspective of the drone. In order to do that you’ll need a monitor or a headset. We highly recommend you pick up a headset, which is sometimes referred to as goggles. The immersive experience that the headset provides takes FPV to a whole new level. Most packages don’t include a headset or monitor so you’ll have to pick one up. You can pick up a headset/goggles with a variety of features and you can read more about that here, where we’ve done some extensive research. We would recommend the Eachine VR-D2 headset. It isn’t a top of the line sleek pair of goggles like the FatSharks, and it isn’t a budget pair either. It has good resolution, a built-in DVR and won’t break the bank.
|Learn more about FPV goggles/headsets||Check the price Eachine VR-D2 goggles|
So Get Flying
Hopefully, you have a better understanding of what it will take to get you up and flying FPV. Soon you’ll be racing. Then you’ll want to get into tuning and acro. Those are another story… If you think we missed something, or you want to know more please shoot us an email. We’d love to hear from you. Happy Flying.
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Not sure what is the best drone for you???
No worries, Half Chrome Drones has you covered. Maybe you want an aerial photography drone, or maybe you want a fun toy. Want FPV? We’ve developed an advanced system to match you to the right drone. We call it our Half Chrome Drone Cipher™, go check it out. We also are constantly updating our Best Drones Now page to help you stay current.
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Maybe you want us to do the work for you???
We’ve flown, crashed and taken pictures with a ton of drones. You want to know which one we think is best? Sure. Are you on a budget? Of course. We have three great articles breaking down the best drones in your budget. Check them out.