Getting Started with FPV Piloting New FPV planes coming out all the time. Flying Wings can make a nice Fast FPV Platform HobbyKings FPV 168 Fiberglass plane FPVpilot's 6061 Aluminum Quad
piloting is becoming a big part of the radio controlled
hobbies and this site is here to help others gain some understanding
as what it takes to get involved.
This latest way to pilot RC can make most hobbyist confused when researching for it along
with all the information on the net so we'll stick to the basics here.
Regardless if FPV piloting is for you or not, we hope you gain some
information that will help you in the future with your RC hobby.
want to help the new FPV pilot who is looking for the fun part of this
hobby and not wanting to spend hours or days deciphering all the web/forums
info relating to FPV. You can easily get lost in all the "jibber jabber"
and different equipment being used and developed for it. We hope to
make it easier to understand so you may better enjoy this exciting part
of the hobby.
In no way do we think we'll be able to answer all of
your questions but hope this site will help you with the basics. If you
have questions that haven't been answered here please check out the
FPV Links Page for more info.
600 Helicopter for FPV that carries a second HD camera.
What it takes to get Started in FPV Piloting:
If you are new to wireless video the first thing is to purchase a
wireless video system that will fit your needs from a good FPV vendor
like HobbyKing.com, Hobbywireless.com, readymadeRC.com, etc....
First you must consider what type of FPV
piloting you will be doing like long range (2 miles or more) or short range (less then 1 mile).
Long range will require more equipment and a powerful wireless
transmitter 500-1000mw (milliwatts) and is recommended to be done by experienced FPV pilots. Shorter range requires less
power like anywhere from 10mw to 300mw. More watts = further distance.
For FPV pilots a 500mw system is the most popular since it can have as
much as 2-3 miles of range without drawing a lot of power like a 1000mw
system. It's recommended to have more wireless video range then RC radio
range so if you happen to lose the RC link at least you well be able to
see the aircraft's view and OSD info. Helpful if the aircraft should go
down making retrieving it much easier. A 500mw or above system will normally have more range then a factory stock RC radio.
We are going to assume that you already have flown RC and have a RC Plane, Helicopter, Car, Boat,
HAM lic. and are familiar with the radio controlled hobby.
If not we
suggest you start with a Radio Controlled Aircraft/Vehicle and become
good at controlling it before you try FPV piloting. Even though
some hobbyist may think it's easier to control a RC aircraft/vehicle
through the use of FPV it might not be for you. Take your time getting
into this hobby as it can be addicting once your in First Person View from a flying camera :).
Custom homemade PVC pipe plane is strong and light weight.
Designed for Heavier payloads and longer flights.
What you will need to get :
1. Small light weight security type color camera like the KX-131(5 volts), WDR600N/WD700N (Hi-Res 12v) CCD imager is preferred for pilot camera. Available from site like:(HobbyKing.com, Hobbywireless.com)
are 2 types of camera imaging sensors used, CMOS and CCD. Both have
positives and negatives for FPV. Most CMOS will adjust to brightness and
contrast for each pixel giving a better picture then CCD along with
using slightly less power. Most commonly used in DSLR and HD cameras. The CMOS camera draw back is it scans
each image line by line which can cause waves or ripples in the video
if there are vibrations from the aircraft. Also sudden turns or
movements can look less natural. More vibration dampening is recommended.
CCD cameras are more popular
with FPV pilots because they capture the image frame by frame which
allows for better picture when there's vibrations and quick movements.
They handle low light conditions better then CMOS and can have more pixels
for the size (more pixels the better the resolution/clearer picture).
The draw back is they consume more power along with blurring when going
from dark to bright objects like ground to sky (CCD cameras like the WD600N don't have this issue).
5 volts and 12 volts systems are common. Some prefer 5 volts because of
the other electronics they are powering use the same voltage like
servos and such so they might share the power source(not recommended). Most 12volt cameras are really stepped down to 5 volts with a built in regulator.
volt cameras are popular because a separate power source like 3s 3cell
11.1 volt (12.6v) lipo battery commonly used with RC aircraft easily powers the system along with the video
transmitters which now are mostly if not all powered by 12 volts. 12 volt systems are becoming
the most popular and are recommended.
2. Wireless video Transmitter and a matching Receiver
are a few frequency bands to choose from when it comes to purchasing a
wireless video system, 900MHz, 1.2ghz, 1.3GHz, 2.4GHz and the more resent 5.8GHz.
popular video transmitter as of now is the 900MHz with 500 milliwatts
due to the fact it has more range at less powerdraw as the other
bands. 900mhz can get around obstacles like
trees and buildings better then the other frequencies. Works with all RC Transmitters like 2.4gHz
radios without causing interference. The draw
back is some countries do not allow 900MHz for public use so 1.2Ghz,1.3GHz or
5.8GHz is recommended. Milli-watts (mw) are important for range so if your
going to fly at a far distance then 500mw is going to allow for 1-3
miles/2-3 km Line-of-Sight, where 10mw will give you much less like
200-300 yards 500mtr. Some countries do not allow more then 10mw so check your local laws. Wireless video sellers well also have a matching receiver to go along with the frequency you choose or a complete RTF FPV system. If you have restrictions on power output another and better option is using a directional antenna for the receiver .
3. TV monitor
7" display or larger without Blue screen. The larger the monitor the better. Or video
goggles with a minimum resolution of 640x480 if you plan on using an OSD
and want to be able to read the text clearly. Most popular are "Fat
Shark Preditor". If using a monitor you will need to block
out the sun light from hitting the screen. Most FPV pilots build an
enclosure like a shoe type box around the display with a opening for
viewing through. When you choose a monitor make sure it has a option to turn off the Blue Screen that happens when there's static or no video input. Why? because when you fly FPV your using a wireless system that may have moments of video static where you can still see the image to fly by where if the monitor goes to Blue/Black screen mode at the hint of video static it will leave you without video for up to 5 seconds or longer if the monitor is still seeing static. So your basically Blinduntil the monitor gets a perfect signal which could lead to a lost aircraft and/or crash. Video Goggles like the FatShark brand don't go to Blue/Black screen either as most goggles. Some goggles have corrective lens inserts for those that wear glasses. If your a person that has special corrective eye glasses then a monitor is the better choice.
There are a couple of brands like Feelworld that have 7", 8" and 10.1" monitors designed for FPV that have no Blue screen and a ok picture resolution...but not great since they are cheap LED screens.
Sending the FPV video through a recording device first like HobbyKings DVR will
allow you to use any size monitor or goggles without seeing the Blue/Black screen if
static or sudden loss of video happens.
You will see the video with static allowing you to still fly.
4. Separate battery
to run the video equipment inside the aircraft is highly recommended.
Using the aircraft's battery can make for poor video and if the battery
runs out you will lose your video feed (Video Drop Out) making it
impossible to see where the aircraft might land/crash. Try to keep all
your wireless video equipment using the same voltage like all 5volts or
all 12volts, most companies have both. 12 volt systems make the most
sense because a 3s 11.1 volt lipo can power these systems without having
to use a voltage regulator like 5 volt systems need. It's not
recommended to power 5 volt wireless gear with the radio RX power source
even though they have the same voltage. Doing this may cause glitching
and/or shorter radio range.
Not all wireless systems are "Plug N Play" so some soldering
skills maybe needed depending on what you purchase. Some systems come
with bulky RCA/BNC stereo/TV connectors which most serious FPV pilots
like to replace with smaller, lighter servo type connectors especiallyif
space and weight are a issue. Most FPV plug n play systems use 3 pin servo
type connectors that match what most OSD's and data loggers use.
HobbyWireless WDR600/700 CCD color camera is one of the best. Basic Plug n Play 900MHz video system from HobbyKing
Skywalker EPO foam FPV plane is popular among FPV pilots. Skywalker X8 FPV wing for heavy payloads and long range flights.
Phantom FPV Flying Wing EPO Airplane with1550mm span
Crash9's Phantom FPV Flying Wing with GoPro and
WDR600 FPV cameras mounted on Panning servo.
A good platform
for FPV is a well built RC Aircraft/Vehicle keeping in mind that you
will be adding more weight for a Video Transmitter (about 2oz), Camera
(1.5oz) and a separate power source (battery 2oz) and that's just the
Another thing to consider is the type of aircraft.
Electric RC has come a long way in the past 8 years with
Brushless Motors and Lipo batteries that allow for more power and longer
flights then the older NiCd batteries. There recommend for FPV over gas (nitro fuel) and don't have
the mess associated with fuel that can also cause problems with camera gear.
Trainer aircraft make the best FPV aircraft
platform and some modifying of the equipment location may be necessary
to keep the Center of Gravity (CG/CoG) correct along with a more powerful
motor, larger prop, etc...Alway's try to keep the CG where the manufacture of the aircraft recommends and check it before every flight. the CG can change a lot by just placing the battery forward or back so never fly without doing a pre-flight check that includes checking the CG.
A RC car or truck is also a good way to get into FPV
even if piloting aircraft is your goal. Vehicles are easy to control
and are a great way to get use to the 2D view. They will allow you to
test the wireless systems and other gear without the risk of a crash not
to mention they are a blast on a extremely bad weather day when flying is out.
FPV pilots prefer to see part of the aircraft's nose and some don't
want anything but the view so final camera placement will be up to you.
popular planes for getting started in FPV are the Multiplex (MPX) Easy
Star 2, Skywalker, Blixer, X-5 wing, etc,, which are made from a durable EPP/EPO foam. There's
also the electric HobbyKing FPV-UAV-168, GWS Slow Stick, EPP
Flying Wings, HobbyKings EPP-FPV and more. Even though you might be a expert RC pilot we
suggest starting with something like an Easy Star 2 or Blixter when first piloting in
It's also a good idea to have a plane/heli
dedicated just for FPV as removing/changing back and forth will cause you some
headaches. Once you have the aircraft chosen you will need to install
your wireless camera gear. It's a good idea to keep the wireless video
TX 6" to 10" or more away from the planes RX and antenna (your results may vary..always Range Test 1st).
If using GPS try to keep the GPS antenna far away as possible from the
video TX. When ever possible keep servo wires separated from video
wiring. Also use twisted or braided servo wires. This will help keep any interference down to a minimum or none.Some of the best FPV camera placement is usually in the cockpit area for planes and between the skids for heli's.
Another great way to practice FPV is to use a simulator like Great Planes "Real Flight" G3/G4/G5/G6 RC Flight Sims which allow you to fly from the cockpit view (not able on photo fields sims like the Phoenix,etc).
Using the simulator for FPV helicopter practice helps tremendously not
to mention cutting down on repairs from crashes and saving your money while
a good idea to place a name tag on all your RC aircraft. A lot of
aircraft have been return by good people that came across a downed RC
aircraft by the info placed on them. Sometimes hours, days, weeks or
even years later.
Something like: Reward if found Please Phone. 555-555-1212.A reward can be as little as $5 or as much as you want as it depends on you.So tag your RC aircraft !!\
FPV Wing with 2 camera system. WDR600 for FPV piloting and a GoPro2 for HD video.
Most popular recommended set-up for basic First Person View, FPV piloting:
1. ** Multiplex Easy Star ,HobbyKing Blixer or Skywalker v6
Futaba (7-14channel) if you plan on using a Plug n
Play head-tracker (Head-Trackers not recommended for beginners)
3.WDR600-700 (12v) camera (mounted on Pan & Tilt servos if using Head-Tracker)
4. 100mw to 800mw 900MHz wireless audio/video transmitter with whip antenna.
5. Matching wireless receiver with a patch antenna (standard whip is fine for short range flights under 2000')
6. 3s 3 cell (for 12v) 1000mAh or higher Lipo battery for powering wireless video gear
7. Video goggles or monitor with good resolution and (640x480 min. if planning on using a OSD.)
If using a 2.4ghz radio like Spektrum/JR/Futaba/Turnigy it will be necessary to
use a 900MHz(.9GHz) or 1.2GHz, 1.3 GHz (UK), 5.8 GHz wireless video
system and not a 2.4GHz system due to interference with 2.4GHz radios.
** Video Transmitters can get HOT
and need cooling like good airflow or a heatsink or fan. Never power a
wireless video transmitter for more then a couple of minutes without
proper cooling as doing so may ruin the range of the transmitter causing
it to be much shorter....but it will still work so always range test if there is a chance it has been overheated.
5.8GHz wireless video system
MPX Twin Star II set up with 2 cameras & 2 down-links (900mhz & 1.3ghz).
Observer controls the second camera.
Your First FPV Piloted Flights
you have done a range test you should fly your new FPV plane in normal
view until you get the hang of how your new plane flies and get all the
trims set to your liking. Record your flight and review it so you'll be
familiar with the surroundings and you'll also be aware of any video
drops/static before flying FPV. When you feel comfortable to move on to
FPV it is recommended that you don't use Head-Tracking (HT) with a pan
and tilt set-up for your first few FPV flights and that you use your
camera in a fixed position Pointing Straight Ahead (don't point camera
down). This will help with visual flight (VFR) in allowing you to put
the horizon in the center of the screen during level flight. You will be
better able to till whether your climbing, descending or banking a lot
This will also help you become oriented with your aircraft and what to expect while flying FPV.
good idea and can't be said enough is "Have a Spotter" to watch your
aircraft. Having a spotter is a important FPV tool and if possible have
your spotter hooked to your radio with a buddy box/trainer cord. If you
become disoriented or lose video feed you'll be able to select your
trainer switch allowing the spotter to take over your aircraft until you
can regain it. Don't fly over 400' altitude (in US) keeping in mind
that your spotter must be able to see your plane and it's orientation.
Try to keep level flight and refrain from doing loops, rolls, hammer
heads, etc.. until you become a good FPV pilot.
Piloting by FPV
takes a lot of concentration and might seem hard at first so if your
thumbs (fingers) are shaking that's normal for most newbie's but should
go away after a couple flights.
Don't fly to far!!! A lot of first time FPV pilots fly out of radio range on there first flights
and it's easy to do so Stay Close by and expect shorter flights since
most new FPV pilots also tend to use more power draining the battery
Practice flying slow at a safe altitude (100'+) and Close by (400'-).
this time some RC clubs may not allow you to fly FPV so check with your
local club if you intend to fly there. Most FPV pilots fly in
unpopulated areas in the middle of nowhere which is highly recommend for
FPV pilots....just make sure you know the area and landmarks. It's a
good idea to do a regular view flight first when flying at a new
location while recording it. Review the video to get a better
understanding of your location from the sky view.
be done without FPV piloting until you become comfortable with flying in
this mode. Just like when you first started to fly it will take some
practice and will be rewarding when your able to do it.
FPV Traxxas E-Maxx or other RC truck can be great for tearing up the track from the drivers seat.
Taking it to the Next Level
you get the hang of FPV piloting you might want to add a GPS along with
a On-Screen Display (OSD) like the Eagle Tree "OSD pro" can give you
more info on your aircraft. This can be a good tool and the information
can be recorded to your laptop, DVR, etc... Also recording the GPS
information can help recover a lost aircraft if it should go down. Just
review the recording and get the location of last position and using
another GPS to guide you to the location of your downed aircraft.
problem with GPS on a RC plane is the lag time. This causes the
information on the OSD to be behind on location, speed and heading. 10hz
GPS modules or faster can give faster info updates and highly
The lag is usually only about .5 to 1 second and if you
keep your maneuvers slow it shouldn't be an issue. Another thing to
keep in mine is the GPS gives you ground speed and not airspeed. So if
your climbing, lets say vertical, your ground speed may only be a couple
of mph/knotts where airspeed could be 25 mph.
Long Range Systems (LRS) are also available for persons that have a HAM lic. There are systems like DragonLink and EZUHF that can allow a RC aircraft to reach 15 plus miles. Long Range flight requires a good understanding of wireless video antennas and RC signal and is not recommend for New FPV pilots. It's best to gain hours of FPV flight time first.
You also may want
to get a set of video goggles (if your not already using them) and then adda Head-Tracker with your FPV camera mounted to Pan & Tilt servos.
This allows the FPV pilot to look around while flying. If you chose to
do this first start with the pan only until you get use to it, and then
add the tilt.
Good luck, Have Fun and BE SAFE!!!
Not all radios are compatible with using a Head-Tracker Gyro (HT)
set-up. Check manufacturer for compatibility with your RC radio.
Happy first time FPV Pilot and third ever RC flight. It can be that easy
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even death. BE SAFE!!!** R/C models should be flown under the
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