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FPV Ground Station info


 
  
                                                           Back side of FPVpilot's Tracking Ground Station

           
 The FPV ground station is an important part of the pilots gear.
  It can be as simple as a monitor connected to the wireless RX or can be more complicated with things like Diversity RX, multiple monitors/goggles, video splitters, camcorders, antenna tracking, etc...
 Most FPV pilots have a case to house all the gear that they can set-up within a few minutes. It's important to keep your Ground Station ready to go and needs the same attention that is given to the FPV aircraft. Nothing worse then getting to the field to fly only to spend your time plugging things in, swapping cords, etc..so it's important to have as many devices tested, hooked up and ready to go before you leave to fly. I personally have all my gear attached to a tripod ahead of time and with a control panel that powers everything with the flip of a switch. Keeping a ground stations set-up simple no matter how much gear is involved. This will make your FPV piloting experience more enjoyable.  A basic Ground Station is nothing more then the wireless video receiver with antenna connected to a TV Monitor allowing you to view your aircraft from the pilot seat. For a basic set up I use a matching wireless video receiver, 7" LCD monitor, Pyle Video Splitter, Camcorder and a 3S 3cell 4000mAH lipo battery for the power. It's easy to out grow the basic Ground Station after getting into FPV piloting and many pilots expand to more complicated set ups that include Diversity systems, Antenna Tracking, Live Telemetry recording, Live Google Earth via laptop with wireless internet, etc....


A basic set up of a cable-less /wireless Antenna Tracking Station.


In this picture the two 5.8ghz receivers go through the video diversity where it picks the best incoming
signal out of the two 5.8GHz receivers. They can have the same or different antennas.
Then the best signal is sent to the 1.2 ghz 100mw video transmitter that then sends the signal off to the pilots goggle/monitor.


FPV video sent from aircraft on 5.8ghz and tracking station receives aircraft video on 5.8GHz vRX. Repeats video using 1.2ghz 10mw TX from tracking stations 5.8 vRX A/V output and sends signal to 1.2gGHz video receiver that is connected to monitor/goggles video inputs. This is how to eliminate cables exiting from the tracking station giving the ATpro-1000 and ATS-2200C full rotation with no need for gears or slip-rings that may cause poor performance and no RF issues or worries of servo wires/AV cables getting wound up. And by placing your antenna tracker further away you will not risk the RC radio saturating your incoming FPV video signal allowing for better video reception and longer range.




  Common items found with a ground station are:

LCD monitors and /or video goggles used for viewing in FPV. It's a good idea to use a resolution of 640x480 or higher.
Make sure they do not automatically go to Blue/Black screen when there's static.

  Wireless video receiver(s) used for receiving the wireless video signal from the aircraft/auto/boat.

 Video Splitters are used to send the video signal to more then one device from the supplying source like the wireless video RX. These are needed to keep the quality of the video signal. Using "Y" connectors instead of a Video Splitter will degrade the quality of the signal causing a darker and poorer picture ("Y" connectors are ok for splitting the audio).



Japan FPV, BEVRC and ReadyMadeRC sell the PV700 high quality digital video recorder DVR designed with FPV piloting in mind with 2.5 LCD screen and really good recorded video quality. Passes video signal through so no loss of video quality when recording rate is set to low quality. No Blue screen or blanking out if there's video static.





This photo shows how clean the FPV tray can be all wired up and ready to use with a
Turnigy 9X, 2- 900mhz Video RX'ers and EagleEyes Diversity. 
  Portable/mobile Ground Stations are nice for getting around
 when Hiking, Biking, ATV, etc...is involved.
Here in the above picture is the radio tray and has everything attached
for mobile FPV pilot ground station and can hold even more gear if needed like a SD DVR, etc...

Camcorders, laptop, SD recorder, CCTV DVR or other recording devices are a big part of the ground station and recording a flight is helpful if you should have a mishap like a crash. You can review the recording  allowing you to see what went wrong and/or where your aircraft went down. If you have a OSD/GPS on board then you can see the last location recorded and go right to the downed aircraft. Just for this reason it's a good idea to record all your flights even if you don't intend to watch them or make a video movie. As of now the DV Camcorder with audio/video inputs is the favorite among FPV pilots due to the high quality of Digital Video and never freezes up like DVR's. The newer type recording devices like SD card recorders, Archos, laptop USB capture, etc now have closer quality of DV camcorders but need a fast SD card like a Class 10 otherwise they can freeze or lock up the recording device.

You can also use a CCTV 4channel DVR like what FPV pilot "Crash9" uses for recording flights.
Most use 12 volts for powering and no Blue/Blank screen when there's video static when passing the video through the CCTV DVR onto a monitor. Can be set up to record up to 4 video signals at once and viewed in realtime which is nice if you want to see how your diversity video is working and what antenna/RX combo works best as you fly. Also after a flight you can watch the performance of 1 to 4 video receivers. When using the CCTV DVR with WiFi feature you could send the flight video over the internet to others in realtime.


Zmodo CCTV DVR with 500GB HD





Oracle Video Diversity system

Diversity Receivers are common and help keep a good wireless link to your aircraft avoiding unwanted video static. They switch between incoming signals from 2 or more wireless receivers tuned to the same band. This allows 2 or more antennas of the same or different type to be used. The diversity device will automatically chose the best signal and send it out to the monitor/goggles. If the other video receiver starts to get a better signal it will automatically switch to it. It is also possible to Daisy Chain diversity receivers by adding more then one. By adding another video RX/antenna each time you add another diversity unit. By doing this you can use multiple types of antennas pointed and different directions. There are two types of diversity systems.  Most Diversity systems used for FPV are sensing the voltage drop (RSSI) of the video to know when to swap to a video signal that has higher voltage. The better and more expensive diversity systems will analyze the video quality and then choose the better picture.


 

Maestro Servo Interface for when using a Laptop with ArduPilot Mission Planner Antenna Tracker.



Antenna Tracking is new to FPV pilots and uses an interface like EzAntenna Tracker, Maestro or EagleEyes that receives the GPS location of the aircraft and points the video RX antenna towards the aircraft using servos for Panning and Tilting the antenna. Mainly designed for directional antennas and longer range flights and not so much for short range since an Omni antenna will do as good or better flying close by. The Antenna Tracker interface does not include servo controlled pan and tilt mounts or antennas. AT's are best used with directional antennas like Patch or Yagi. How they operate is by sending a telemetry stream down one of the audio or video channels of the wireless A/V link via the On Screen Display modules (OSD) or they may use a radio modem like the Ardupilot system. This telemetry stream contains information about the plane's GPS location and other information that's available to the pilot through the OSD.  This info is shared with the interface (EagleEyes, APM, etc,) which in turn uses this info for pointing the tracking station at the aircraft. Another nice feature is the Telemetry Data can either be used for live tracking on Google Earth, or be recorded and decoded later with Google Earth. Most antenna trackers only work with the same manufactures OSD for example the EzAntenna tracker operates with the EzOSD, Eagle Tree's OSD Pro works with EagleEyes, Ardupilot works with  Mission Planner
(APM) Maestro servo interface, etc... Some FPV pilot's ground stations have become Antenna Tracking/Ground Stations since most of the ground station gear is attached to the tracker base. Things to keep in mind are that antenna trackers do not act fast when flying close by like within a hundred feet so doing circles around the ground station area is not recommended unless using it with an Omni antenna (whip) and diversity. Most trackers only need 360 or more rotation but keep in mind that when most antenna trackers reach the servos end point they'll have to suddenly pan in a complete 360 (rewind) to regain your aircraft's video link if you fly behind yourself doing circles. This could cause a momentary drop out in the video. This is where having a Omni (whip) connected with a diversity will come in handy. Trackers are better used for long range flights out in front of you and to the sides for best results which also will help keep the audio/video cables from getting tangled as there are video and audio cables connected that need to be routed to the pilots monitor. Some pilots use a low powered (10mw) wireless A/V system to avoid any wires from the tracker. At this time antenna tracker interfaces do not support continuous rotating servos but word has it they might soon. For best results use them with 90, 180, 360 degree or winching type servos that have end points. Antenna trackers are not that difficult to set up and only add a couple of minutes of more time to calibrate the direction your facing when it's time to fly.



Battery for powering the ground station. Make sure it has enough mAH to keep the ground station powered for more then a couple of hours. The more devices you have the higher mAH you will need. The last thing you want is to be flying and have your ground station suddenly shut down...now you can't see your aircraft nor are you recording it with it's location...so test your system and know how long you can keep your ground station gear powered.







 
 

A Diversity system like the Oracle will switch between 2 video RX picking the one with the better signal. This allows one video RX to have a whip antenna (Omni)  which is better at closer range and the other RX to have a Patch (Directional) for better long range performance.


 
                               
Laim's Ground Station

                    

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Crash9's
Extended Ground Station for use with a co-pilot or observer

 
 Ground station has a Quad DVR Multiplexer that allows the pilot to see not only the piloting view but also
has a second station that monitors the video RX'ers, antenna tracker RX and the piloting view all on one monitor
This allows real time monitoring and recording of all the antennas/video RX,ers at a glance. So the FPV pilot can see
what each antennas results are in realtime or after by viewing the recording. Great for testing new antennas or comparing
 them without worry of losing picture.



This the main piloting station.
 Notice the lower 7" monitor has the Quad view showing all the video receivers and how well the are
receiving video in real time. The diversity system puts the best video on the larger monitor (top).



This is the second station that houses the Quad DVR Multiplexer along with a lap top. The lap top has the Eagle Tree
data on the left and the 4 videos from each of 3 wireless receivers on right which are also being recorded. There's 4 video views starting with top left, Omni antenna, Patch antenna, Yagi antenna and the 4th video lower right is what is being chosen
 as the best receiving video and what the FPV pilot is flying by. The great thing is all 4 video views are recorded so if there's an issue with an antenna you can simply play back recording of all video receivers to trouble shoot.

Quad Multiplexers are cheap on ebay ($50) and used in the CCTV world as this is what they are mainly designed for.


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