Thank you to David Gonzalez, founder of SkilledFlyer.com, for contributing this nice article that covers the basics of FPV flying. Enjoy the read!
By David Gonzalez
FPV flying is arguably the most exciting part of owning a drone. Imagine being able to see what your drone is seeing in real time- that’s the magic of FPV flight. In this article, we’re going to talk about what FPV flying is, the rules you’ll need to follow, and how you can get started.
FPV Flying – Overview
So, what does the acronym “FPV” even mean? It stands for First Person View, which basically means that you get to see exactly what your drone’s camera is seeing, without lag. Flying this way is a lot of fun, and allows you to fly your drone further and more aggressively than you normally would. FPV technology is pretty much the heart and soul of drone racing, a revolutionary sport that’s taking the world by storm.
Two Display Options
With FPV flights, you’ll have two options to choose from with regards to how you want to view the flight. These include:
- FPV Goggles
- Standard FPV Display
The FPV goggles are more expensive, but they’re also way more fun. The goggles are worn in the same way as you’d wear a VR (virtual reality) headset. The only difference is that the video feed is coming from the drone’s camera. There are many different FPV goggle companies out there, each with their own benefits and drawback. That, however, is beyond the scope of this article.
Your other option is a standard FPV display. This type of display is usually built directly into the transmitter itself (as in the Hubsan X4 H107D). However, sometimes you can use your iPad or smartphone as the display. Which option do we recommend? If you’ve got the funds, the FPV goggles are always the better option in my opinion.
The Benefits of FPV Flight
So, what are the benefits to being able to fly via FPV? The first benefit is that you’ll be able to fly further than normal. When you’re flying by site, you’re limited by how visible your drone is. If you lose sight of your drone, you may lose it forever. With FPV technology, you can fly your drone much further without having to worry about losing it. While many new flyers like to buy RTF drones that come with FPV technology, experienced flyers prefer to build them. It’s really a matter of preference and how much control you want over your drone.
Basic FPV Setup
As we mentioned, you can either buy an FPV drone or build one yourself. Beginners like to take the first option since it’s more convenient. But if you’re an experienced flyer who wants more flexibility, you’ll probably choose to build one. Here are the basic components of a proper FPV setup:
- Display: We already spoke about this, but I’ll summarize again: you can either go with FPV goggles (the recommended option) or you can go with a standard FPV display. The goggles are more fun and immersive, but both work just as effectively.
- Camera: The camera will sit on your drone and capture the world around you. You’ll want to buy a camera that’s capable of high-quality recording. The clearer the image, the easier it will be to fly via a FPV display.
- Transmitter and Receiver: These two parts work together and will be the primary components of the setup. The transmitter will send video signals from the drone to your display, while the receiver will be the thing that accepts these signals.
How much will it cost for a basic FPV setup? There’s no way to answer this in one sentence. It really depends on the quality of the FPV system you’re buying. As a rule of thumb, expect to pay between $500 and $1,000 for a quality FPV system. In some cases, you may be able to find it cheaper.
How Far Can You Fly with a FPV Setup?
The distance that you’re able to fly with your FPV setup is dependent on one thing: your antenna. If you’ve got a subpar antenna, then you won’t be able to fly very far. To make your flights worthwhile, I recommend investing in a quality antenna (even if it means paying a little extra). The best setups will allow you to fly more than a mile away! Something as simple as an antenna upgrade can literally double your FPV range.
Wait – But Isn’t FPV Flying Illegal?
It’s correct that the laws state that you must keep your drone within normal viewing distance. What does this mean for the average FPV flyer? Obviously, it means one thing: fly your drone within normal limits. You can still fly via FPV, but don’t fly it so far out of sight that you can’t see it without the display. To be honest, the drone laws are relatively new and different cities/states enforce this law differently. With that said, I must be responsible and recommend that you follow the rules as closely as possible. Otherwise, you could get your drone confiscated, get fined, or both!
The Importance of Having a Spotter
The final tip we want to give you is to bring a spotter. A spotter is basically any person who can watch your drone while you’re flying via the display. You might be wondering why a spotter is required. After all, you’re flying in first person viewing mode. The thing about FPV flying is that it dramatically lessens your peripheral vision. This means that it’s easier to hit objects that are just outside of the view of your drone’s camera. A spotter can watch for the objects that you can’t see and warn you whenever you’re about to hit them. Just make sure that you return the favor for them, too.
Good Luck and Fly Smart!
That’s about it on FPV flying. If you have any questions about FPV flying, then leave a comment or send us a message. We’ll be happy to answer them for you. The biggest takeaway is to fly smart. The consumer drone industry has had a bad rep in recent years due to people being irresponsible with their drones. Don’t hurt the movement by doing something crazy. Good luck and fly safe everyone!