Thought I’d do this for my own amusement. I’m not trying to scare anyone off, honest.
So, I wanted to get started with FPV but I wasn’t sure whether it would be something I stuck with, so I wanted minimal investment. At the same time, I didn’t want to be doubling up on gear if I did stick with it, so a Ready To Fly (RTF) kit was out of the running. But a tiny whoop seemed like a good starting point, so I decided to put my own kit together from separates. As I planned to start practising indoors, it seemed to make sense to go for the smallest whoop available, which was the Emax Nanohawk. I paired this with a Radiomaster TX12 controller; multi-protocol and with a module bay should I need it, and Fat Shark Recon v3 box goggles, which were the cheapest ones I could find with DVR.
Emax Nanohawk ......... £ 76.94 Radiomaster TX12 ...... £ 59.95 Fat Shark Recon V3 .... £ 89.96 TOTAL ................. £226.85
Oops, the controller needs batteries (sold separately).
2x 18650 batteries .... £ 10.90 TOTAL ................. £237.75
Great, we’re off!
Wow, this FPV lark is really tricky. And despite its tiny size, there doesn’t seem to be enough room indoors to have a decent bash at it. All I’m really doing is hovering in LOS (for about 10 seconds before I lose it). I don’t want to take it outside because (a) if it whizzes off it’ll be a beggar to find and (b) it’s so tiny it might get blown away.
Maybe I need to do this properly. But I don’t want to leap straight to a 5" monster. These 4" Long Range quads seem cool; good flight times and I like the idea of having GPS to help find it. I don’t think I’m up to a self-build yet, so let’s pick a Bind ‘n’ Fly (BNF). Oh, and you need a special LiPo charger.
GEPRC Crocodile Baby .. £167.51 1x 650mAh 4s battery .. £ 18.95 Smart Charger ......... £ 46.98 TOTAL ................. £471.19
While we’re waiting for that to arrive from China, maybe I should start looking at a simulator. There seem to be good reviews for all the main options - Drone Racing League Simulator, LiftOff and VelociDrone. The first couple are on Steam and I’m not interested in multiplayer online, so LiftOff it is.
LiftOff ............... £ 14.99 TOTAL ................. £486.18
4 LiftOff hours later…
Bloody hell, this sim is difficult. Been at it for hours and I still can’t take off, fly 100 yards, make a right turn and hit an open barn door! Ooh, DRL is on sale and it’s supposed to have good tutorials.
DRL Simulator.......... £ 3.59 TOTAL ................. £489.77
4 DRL hours later…
Okay, so having flown exclusively in “Acro” (because lots of people suggest you may as well learn without the training wheels), the assisted mode in the DRL tutorials is really throwing me off. It’s almost like having to learn again.
Meanwhile, the Crocodile Baby has arrived, but I can’t for the life of me get it bound to the controller. Turns out the latest FrSky firmware on the XM+ is not compatible with the version on the controller. Options are to update the controller, and then have it not work with the Nanohawk, or flash the receiver on the drone to an earlier version. I still don’t really want to get into taking the thing apart and there’s a possiblity it can be done in place, so I’ll get some data probe/connectors to do it with. I’d better get some sort of wire, too, in case I have to resort to that.
Data Probes ........... £ 6.89 J Connector ........... £ 0.68 TOTAL ................. £497.43
It’s proving difficult to flash the XM+ in place, and I eventually end up yanking it out. It flashes fine but I have to solder it back in place. If you don’t already own soldering gear (fortunately, I do) then add that to your running total.
Club meet-up at Bennerley Viaduct. For some reason I don’t fly the Croc, but flying the Nanohawk results in me nearly losing it in long grass and, as a fun side-effect, taking out @Howard78’s video feed, resulting in him nearly losing his quad in a small pond; and a 20 minute search and rescue operation to find it.
12-ish hours in, and something’s finally clicked with the simulators. I feel like I’m nearly in control.
VelociDrone + DLC ..... £ 21.99 TOTAL ................. £519.42
Flew the Croc for a couple of minutes at Matlock Bando. Woo. Seriously out-classed and too shy to do much more, but should probably have a couple more batteries for next time. And some spare props.
2x 850 mAh 4s battery . £ 23.90 T4x2x3 props .......... £ 2.25 Shipping (batteries) .. £ 4.92 TOTAL ................. £550.49
Let’s try some tri-blades while we’re at it. And I’ll get one of those “LiPo Suction” dischargers too.
4x prop sets .......... £ 9.00 LiPo Suction .......... £ 3.95 Shipping .............. £ 2.75 TOTAL ................. £566.19
I’m struggling to find somewhere to practice locally and I don’t have a spotter. Found some open space up at the parents’. Managed 20 seconds and then decked it due to crappy video signal. Turns out there’s a screw missing from one of the arms and I don’t have a long enough spare. No more flying for me. Back to the sims, except I only have the crappy laptop with me. Try FPV Freerider demo and it works OK.
M2 nuts & bolts ....... £ 8.99 FPV Freerider ......... £ 5.00 TOTAL ................. £580.18
M2 bolts turn up and I don’t have a hex key small enough.
Precision Screwdriver . £ 3.50 TOTAL ................. £583.68
Also it seems my crappy video signal might be down to the basic antenna on the goggles.
RHCP Antenna upgrade .. £ 15.95 Shipping .............. £ 2.95 TOTAL ................. £602.58
Go out flying again at a bando location. After 30+ hours in the sims, I’m feeling pretty chuffed with my skills on the Nanohawk, although the 1S only lasts 2 minutes and I only have one. Plus, it’s so low powered the signals drop around 20m. Never mind, I feel up to getting my Croc on. Pretty much straight up into a beam and bend one of the motors. Replacement required. Better get two while I’m at it.
2x motors ............. £ 18.90 Shipping .............. £ 2.53 TOTAL ................. £624.01
And I think that brings us up to date. From first FPV online order, 6 months ago, to now, I have spent £624 and I swear I have spent no more than 10 minutes in the air. If you’d told me I was about to start a hobby that was going to cost me £104 a month and I’d get less than 2 minutes “entertainment” a month out of it I’d’ve laughed in your face. But here we are, and I’m in so deep now that I’m determined to make it work. And I still keep finding myself thinking, “What should my next quad be?”
Next trip out will be better…