If your reading this then you want to have a go at flying fpv. What i will cover is a number of key things you will need along with some advise on how to get started.
I guess the place to start is answering a simple question…
What is FPV
FPV stands for first person view. So unlike the drones you may be used to you fly the drone from the perspective of a teeny tiny pilot sat in the front of the drone. It’s worth noting that you can put fpv onto anything… Cars, boats, hovercraft, planes… the list is as endless as your imagination. Obviously as this is a drone forum I’m going to be talking about multi-rotors.
So you now know what FPV is your probably wondering how to get started. That’s both an easy question and a hard one at the same time, and while there is no right answer to this there are a few schools of thought.
1, Learn the basics in a simulator
This is the best course of action for anyone who has a computer powerful enough to run a simulator. You only need a transmitter you can connect to your computer (and some of the sims out there will allow you to use a PlayStation or xbox controller, however this isn’t ideal as the “sticks” are sprung in the wrong places). While a simulator will give you an idea of what its like to fly without the risk of actually breaking anything its not the same as flying for real with wind and the danger of crashing your shiny new drone into the ground (or worse the top of a very tall tree) it does allow you to get used to how the drone will behave in the air. Effectively giving you a head start when it comes to actually flying.
2, Learn in real life
This is the way i learned and from experience I wouldn’t recommend it if you have a computer that’s powerful enough. The advantages include its all real so the drone will behave exactly like a real drone (because it is) the biggest downside is while your learning to fly you are going to break a lot of parts, from propellers to motors to frames to cameras. So this can be an expensive way to learn.
Ok so i have decided which way i want to start what do i need to buy?
Regardless of which way you choose to start out your going to need a transmitter. There are a large number of options out there but i would recommend either a frsky x9d or a frsky qx7. Both of those transmitters will serve you well for many years. Both can be connected to a computer via usb for simulators and both are highly configurable for just about any model you could want to control. Prices range from about £100 - £250 depending on the exact model and spec, but the basic spec of either of those radios will be ideal.
So you have a radio and hopefully some time on a sim what else do you need?
The next thing you will likely need is a soldering iron, flux and solder. I cant stress the need for flux highly enough. Buy flux! And just in case I’m not clear BUY FLUX! A good quality soldering iron will be your single most used tool so make sure you get one that’s of a good quality, anything 30w or higher will manage most tasks (lower wattages will struggle with power connectors more is better here). I am currently using a ts100 and find that handles everything i throw at is. Did i mention BUY FLUX?
Ok now what?
Just like everything else you are going to need to charge your batteries (and i can assure you if you enjoy fpv your going to have a lot of batteries (i currently have 13 flight packs and a bunch of others for other things i use) so a good quality charger is vital. I cant give a specific recommendation here as i can only talk from experience and my charger is a little older and misses the features of newer chargers.
Next you will need to choose a frame. Again there are about as many frames out there as you can imagine. Starting out you wont want to spend a fortune on a frame but it is worth getting on you can get spares of. I suggest looking at the TBS source1 frame and the sabotageRC dingo. Both are inexpensive good quality frames with good parts support.
Now you have chosen a frame (and I’m assuming you chose one of the above suggestions)you need to decide if you want to run 4s or 6s lipos. The difference is the number of cells the battery has so the overall voltage it will provide the quad. As the numbering implies the number is the number of actual cells in the battery, a 4s battery has 4 cells and a 6s battery has 6. While I’m on the subject of batteries you also need to look at the capacity (measured in mah) and C rating (I will come back to this in a moment) mah is the amount of fuel in the tank. So the higher the number the more fuel you have. The C rating is how fast that fuel is able to be delivered. Most 4s pilots will use batteries around 1500mah and at least 75c, 6s pilots tend to run lower mah batteries at around 1100mah but of a similar C. There are loads of guides out there that can explain battery voltages and care and c ratings wayyyy better than I can in this guide, so go forth a google
Once you have chosen your battery voltage you can then start to look at the actual components that make up the drone. You will need:
Motors come in all shapes and sizes but to keep this simple…
For 4s battery users aim for something around 2207 2450kv
For 6s battery users aim for something around 2207 1900kv
If your running 6s you need to check the motors are rated for the voltage (fully charged will be more than 25v)
It doesn’t matter which way the motors screw threads are most I find are normal right hand threads (don’t worry your props wont come off). It’s always worth buying 5 motors at a time so you have a spare in the field if you break one (nothing worse than waiting for parts)
The esc’s are what drive the motors, again you need to check that the esc’s can handle the voltage. You have 2 types of esc to choose from an all in 1 or individual esc’s. For someone just starting out I would recommend individual esc’s (and again buy 5) as if/when you kill one you will be able to swap it out with ease. Esc’s also have an amp rating. Anything 30amp’s or more will be plenty (I like the spedix gs30 esc’s) for my builds.
VTX - the video transmitter
This is what actually sends the video signal from the quad. Again there are a vast number of these to choose from. In the UK we are restricted in law to a total output power of 25mw (however most will go much higher than this). I cannot stress highly enough that this is something that’s worth buying a good quality vtx. The cheap Chinese stuff works but the output powers are all over the place and they don’t tend to just transmit on the frequency your aiming for (which when flying with other people will make people grumpy when you stomp all over them) Buy either a Team Black Sheep unify HV or an ImmersionRC Tramp HV. Both are great video transmitters and include “vtx remote control”. What’s vtx remote control? This allows you to select the frequency your transmitting on and the output power from your transmitter without the need to poke a tiny button or flip tiny dip switches. In my opinion its vital!
Your going to need some antennas, depending on the connectors on your vtx and video receiver you may need SMA or RPSMA connectors. Menacerc do a selection of super cheap but great quality antennas. You need to ensure that the antennas are of the same polorisation, either left or right (you cant mix and match polarisation but you can mix antenna makes.
This is the camera that will allow you to see, there are a number of size options available and you need to select one that matches the frame your going to be using. They are micro, mini and standard. Standard size cams are all but obsolete these days. The cameras we use to fly are not high definition 4K cameras they are low resolution cameras (you not going to be able to make out super fine details, in fact ghost branches are a real thing) there are 2 main makes of fpv camera, Foxeer and runcam. There isn’t much between the 2 that i can tell so go with the one that’s within your budget and gets good reviews online.
There are 3 main flight controller softwares. I have used 2 of them so cant comment on the 3rd.
Betaflight- this is the most popular and imho the easiest to get to grips with its also the only open source firmware
Kiss - this only runs of kiss hardware and i never managed to get it to fly right (that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it)
Race flight - 3rd option… i know nothing about it…
I’m going to focus on betaflight hardware here as this is the most common and the one i know the best.
We have lots of different flight controller hardware out there with many different features. The flight controller is the brain of your drone. It’s what translates you moving a stick or a switch into something. There are 2 basic types.
All in one - this is the type i would usually recommend for someone starting out. All the components connect to it including the power leads, esc’s cam vtx …everything.
Standard - this will require a power distribution board of some kind amongst other possible wiring and connectors.
So assuming your going with an all in one what should you look for?
Flight controllers are based around a computer chip. The chip type is denoted as follows
F1 - really old do not buy
F3 - slightly old but still supported (ish) do not buy
F4 - the minimum I would look for in a flight controller
F7 - the current Standard
H7 - very very new so I wouldn’t recommend this yet
As you can see what your looking for ideally is an f7 all in one flight controller an example of that is the matek F722-SE
So now you have a quad what are we missing…
There are 2 types of goggles each has there own pros and cons.
1, Box goggles - these tend to be cheaper so are good for beginners. The picture isn’t always great and they are bulky. They are however well suited to those who wear glasses. There do however usually have built in video receivers.
2, the other type are “fatshark” style googles. This type of goggle is the most popular and most people will swear you “must have fat sharks” however that’s not always the case. Fatshark style goggles usually require a video receiver module to actually be able to be used and tend to be more expensive.
It’s also worth noting that goggles need to fit your face so what works for me doesn’t work for someone else, if at all possible find your local fpv group and ask to try on some of there goggles before you buy any.
Ok so what have we covered so far…
Transmitter, frame, motors, esc’s, vtx, antennas, camera, flight controller, goggles
So now we have covered the hardware its over to you guys… what do you want to know next? Throw me some suggestions and i will put together a topic that covers them in detail for you.
Thanks for reading and have fun flying FPV