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FPV: A how-to-guide

Posted by Action Gear on

By Alan Ball 

Firstly what is FPV?  It stands for First Person View and it’s when you attach a camera to a radio controlled multirotor or plane and fly it via the live video feed sent to goggles or a screen.

A spotter is required at all times while flying FPV.  This is to ensure they point out the aircraft to the pilot should anything go wrong with your video signal.  More safety rules and guidelines for FPV flying can be found on the FlyFPVSA website.

So what are all the components that make up an FPV system?

FPV Camera

Usually a CCTV camera with either CMOS or CCD sensor.  CCTV cameras are preferred for their low latency and wide dynamic range.  Meaning they adapt to changes in light conditions really quickly.  For instance when you are flying from under a shady tree to a bright open field.  The camera will adapt quickly and you won’t be left flying blind while you wait to exposure on the sensor to change.  We don’t recommend using an HD camera like a GoPro for FPV as these cameras prioritize the HD video recording ahead of the video output.  This causes slight lag/delay which is never ideal when flying fast through small spaces.

The Video Transmitter

These units transmit the analog video wirelessly, usually using 5.8G or 2.4G frequencies.   The most commonly used frequency band is 5.8.  The power of the transmitters vary from 25mw to 1000mw.   For legal line of site flying not more than 200mw is required.  Most transmitter have 5 frequency bands with 8 channels in each band, giving you a total of 40 channels to choose from.

The Video Receiver

Is tuned into the same Band and Channel (eg. 5945) as the video transmitter.  The type of antenna on the receiver plays a huge role on how clear your signal is.  Normally a circular polarized antenna is use for better signal strength.  A directional antenna can be used to go further in the direction its pointed or and omni-directional antenna can be used for equal strength if you are flying close and around yourself.

Goggles Or Screen

A screen can be used either on a tripod or attached to your radio.   FPV video goggles like the FatShark Dominator series are worn and give you a much more immersive flying experience.

HD Cameras

I’m sure you have seen the great HD videos of racing drones flying at high speed doing crazy stunts.  That is normally recorded using a second HD camera onboard.  The new GoPro Hero5 Session with it’s small form factor is the perfect size and shape for mounting to a FPV Racing drone.  The GoPro Hero 5 Black is better for bigger multirotors and planes.

Alan Ball

Alan has been flying FPV for over 6 years and is the founder of Flying Robot, an online store dedicated to FPV and drone racing.  They sell everything from FPV parts and accessories to fully built ready to fly FPV racing drones like the ZMR250 RTF with FPV gear included.

Photo credit: Stephen Gore

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