Welcome to the world of FPV (First Person View) drones! This comprehensive tutorial is designed to guide you through the fascinating and adrenaline-filled journey of building, flying, and tuning FPV drones. Whether you’re interested in racing, freestyle flying, or simply exploring the sky from a unique perspective, this tutorial will provide you with valuable insights and practical advice to help you get started. From understanding the essential components and selecting the right gear to learning how to fly safely and optimizing your drone’s performance, we’ve got you covered. Let’s embark on this exciting adventure together and discover the limitless possibilities of FPV drone flying!
The Short Answer
While I highly encourage you to explore the entire tutorial for an in-depth understanding, here’s a concise roadmap to help you get started in the world of FPV drone flying.
- Step 1: Purchase a radio controller compatible with FPV simulators (check out my top recommendations here)
- Step 2: Download your preferred FPV simulator and start practicing (explore my suggested FPV simulators here)
- Step 3: Dedicate 10+ hours to simulator training, while researching different FPV drone types and flying styles to determine the best fit for you
- Step 4: Build or buy your first FPV drone, or opt for a beginner drone kit – preferably something sturdy. Aim for 100+ crashes under your belt before investing in a premium or more expensive model, which can save you money in the long run
If you ever need assistance or guidance, don’t hesitate to reach out. Leave a comment below, search online, or join our forum at “https://intoFPV.com“. Consulting with experienced pilots and having them review your parts list before ordering can help you avoid costly mistakes and save money as you progress.
What Is An FPV Drone?
FPV stands for First Person View.
An FPV drone is a type of drone equipped with a camera that streams live video to a set of goggles worn by the pilot. This real-time “first-person” view allows the pilot to control the drone as if they were in the cockpit, while remaining on the ground. Flying an FPV drone using goggles provides an immersive experience, allowing you to see the world through the drone’s eyes.
FPV drones are popular for racing and freestyle flying, as the pilot can navigate through obstacles and perform aerial maneuvers with greater precision and control than with a traditional line-of-sight view. They are also ideal for capturing stunning aerial photography and videography, providing unique and cinematic footage that would be difficult or impossible to achieve with other camera types. The live video feed allows the pilot to adjust the camera’s angle and settings in real time for optimal results.
FPV flying requires intense focus, and the speed and agility of an FPV drone make it a truly sensational experience. To fly an FPV drone, the pilot wears goggles to view the live video feed from the drone’s camera while using a remote controller with joysticks for flight control. It’s almost like playing a video game, except crashing has real-world consequences – such as damaging a top-tier FPV drone that can cost as much as a new PlayStation!
While some FPV drone pilots fly professionally (racing, videography, etc.), the majority fly FPV on their days off as a hobby. The FPV drone community is supportive and enthusiastic, creating a welcoming environment for like-minded individuals to connect and share knowledge.
This guide will teach you how to build, maintain, and repair an FPV drone, as well as how to fly and tune it for optimal performance. Building and tuning an FPV drone is a rewarding technical endeavor, requiring skills in electronics, mechanics, and software. The hobby offers a fantastic opportunity to learn new skills and engage in problem-solving.
How Much Does an FPV Drone Cost?
Getting into FPV drones is comparable in cost to DJI camera drones. Here’s a rough breakdown of the expenses involved in building a basic FPV drone and acquiring all the necessary equipment:
- Radio controller + Simulator: US$100-US$300
- FPV Goggles: US$100-US$700
- FPV Drone: US$100-US$400
- Batteries, charger and other accessories: US$100-US$400
The total cost of building an FPV drone can range from approximately $400 to $1,800, depending on the quality and performance of the components you select. I have provided an example of one of the most affordable yet decent-quality builds you can achieve in 2023 in this post.
If the idea of building a drone from scratch seems overwhelming, there are complete ready-to-fly bundles available. These packages include all the components needed to start flying, and while they may have lower quality and fewer features, they are often more affordably priced. I will discuss this option in greater detail later in this article.
Practice in Simulators
Get a taste of flying FPV without a real drone – try a simulator
Learning to fly an FPV drone in a simulator is a safe and cost-effective way to get started and improve your skills without damaging your real drone or causing injury. I strongly recommend getting some flight time in a simulator (ideally 10+ hours) before buying or building your first drone.
Simulators can teach you the basic controls of an FPV drone and help you develop the muscle memory your hands need. The physics of modern FPV simulators are incredibly realistic, making the transition from a simulator to a real FPV drone relatively seamless. Additionally, simulators allow you to practice advanced maneuvers and techniques, such as flips, rolls, and acrobatics, without the risk of crashing your drone.
Here is a list of FPV simulators.
FPV sims are all excellent in their own ways. If you have a decent gaming PC I’d probably recommend Liftoff and DRL, and if you have a low spec PC, then Velocidrone is more likely to work better. Sims like Liftoff and Velocidrone have built-in tutorials to help you learn how to fly and learn Acro mode, which is what you really need.
Each FPV simulator has its own unique strengths. If you have a decent gaming PC, I’d recommend Liftoff and DRL. If you have a lower-spec PC, then Velocidrone might work better for you. Sims like Liftoff and Velocidrone include built-in tutorials to help you learn how to fly and master Acro mode, which is essential for FPV flying.
To use an FPV simulator, the first item you should purchase is a radio controller that supports FPV simulators. This means USB HID/joystick support that is plug-and-play, without the need for dongles or adapters.
All my radio recommendations support simulators, so you’ll be able to use them to fly your FPV drone later on.
Avoid using Xbox controllers or keyboards, as they won’t provide the same benefits. Using a proper radio controller will help you build muscle memory and ensure you get the most out of your training.
The Types of FPV Drone
What is a drone?
The term “drone” has become synonymous with any unmanned aircraft with an onboard camera, and sometimes a camera is not even necessary for the title! Other than for military use, drones have historically been used for aerial photography and were large with a heavy payload capacity for carrying cameras and equipment.
Here’s a list of commonly seen drones in the hobby.
What is a multirotor?
Multirotor (or multicopter) refers to any “copter” with more than one main motor or propeller. For example, a tricopter has 3 motors/rotors, a quadcopter has 4, a hexacopter has 6, an octocopter has 8, and so on. They all fall under the “multirotor” category.
Here are the different configurations of multirotors.
What is a Mini Quad?
A mini quad is essentially a small quadcopter but is often simply called an FPV drone. Mini quads are designed to be fast, agile, and crash-resistant, allowing pilots to fly faster and push their limits.
Since their invention, FPV drones have become more powerful, featuring more powerful motors, higher battery voltages, and range. This has led to incredible power-to-weight ratios and top speeds of up to 180mph (290km/h) for the fastest racing drones.
What is a Micro Quad?
A micro quad is an even smaller mini quad with 3″ or smaller propellers and a frame size (wheelbase) of 150mm or less. The size of an FPV drone is determined by the maximum propeller size it supports.
5-inch FPV drones are versatile, with a great balance between power, efficiency, and agility. They are suitable for freestyle, racing, and even long-range flying. Components are widely available and easy to work with. They can carry an action cameras like GoPros. A typical 5″ FPV drone weighs around 500g-700g, including the battery, and has an average top speed of 120km/h.
I have a tutorial to show you how to build a 5″ FPV drone from scratch: How to Build an FPV Drone Tutorial
Typical build specs: 4-6S lipos 1000mah-1800mah, 22xx-25xx motors 1600-2800kv
4-inch drones gained popularity due to the 250g weight limit introduced in some countries, because 4″ is the biggest drone size that can achieve this weight limit without giving up too much performance.
Typical build specs: 3-4s lipos 600-900mah, 13xx-15xx or 18xx-22xx
2-Inch, 2.5-inch and 3-Inch
2-inch and 3-inch drones are popular because of their small size and decent performance. They can do nearly anything a 5-inch drone can do, except for carrying a GoPro.
Typical build specs: 2-4S lipos 300-800mah, 13xx-15xx
Tiny Whoops are small, ducted FPV drones designed for indoor flying. They are lightweight (around 20g to 30g including battery), easy to fly, and relatively inexpensive. Their built-in prop guards (or “ducts”) protect people and objects from the propellers. On the flip side, the ducts make them heavier and reduces performance, making them less ideal for outside use and windy condition. Here are what I think the best tiny whoops currently on the market.
Typical build specs: 1S LiPo 300-350mah, 06xx-08xx motors brushless or brushed motor
Ultralight drones are small, light, and designed for performance. Because their skinny frames look like a bunch of toothpicks tied together, these drones are also called “toothpicks”. They are not made for crashes, but for pure performance by making them as light weight as possible. I have a tutorial explaining the considerations that go into choosing parts for a Toothpick build. You can buy one pre-built and I tested a bunch to find out which is the best.
Cinewhoops are 3″ or smaller drones with propeller protectors (ducts) designed for capturing cinematic footage with an HD camera like a GoPro. They are meant for slow, smooth flights and not for freestyle or acro flying, and they are safe for indoor flying.
Learn more about cinewhoop in this post.
6 Inch and 7 Inch
6-inch and 7-inch drones can have a higher top speed and can carry more payload than a typical 5″ drone, such as a larger battery, therefore they are suitable for long range. However they tend to carry more momentum and are not as agile as the smaller 5″, therefore they are not as popular for freestyle and racing.
Typical freestyle build specs: 4-6S lipos 1000-1800mah, 6-7 inch props, and 22xx-25xx motor 1500-2400kv
Typical long range build specs: 4-6S lipos 1500mAh or li-ion 3000mAh, 22xx-23xx motor 1300-2100kv, equipped with GPS
X-Class and Beast Class
X-class and Beast class drones are the largest and most powerful in this list, and are not recommended for beginners due to their high cost, maintenance, and potential danger. X-class drones have frame sizes between 800mm-1200mm and use 9-13 inch propellers, while Beast class drones use sub-800mm frames. Both classes are typically used for racing or high-performance flying.
Typically build specs: 8-12S lipos 4000-5000mah, 9-13 inch props, and 3xxx-4xxx motor.
Cinelifter drones are octocopters in X8 configuration (looks like a quadcopter but each arm is equipped with two motors), usually running 6-8″ propellers. They are designed to carry high-end cameras for professional shooting.
What size is right for you?
For beginners, a 5″ FPV drone is highly recommended due to its versatility in flying style, it can do almost everything: freestyle, racing and cinemaphotography. It’s powerful enough to carry a GoPro and is the most popular size, making it easier to find help and support online. Ultimately, the size of the drone you choose will depend on your flying preferences and goals, as well as the regulations and restrictions in your area.
Identify Your Flying Style
Before choosing what type of drone you want to build or buy, it’s essential to identify your goals in flying FPV and understand your flying style. The common flying styles in FPV are:
- Long range
- Cinemaphotography (cinematic)
Freestyle flying is all about creativity, tricks, and maneuvers. There are no rules to how you can fly, so the sky is the limit (and the ground, so try not to crash!).
For freestyle flying, prioritize durability and responsiveness. Choose motors with high torque, ESCs with sufficient current handling capabilities, and frames with strong materials and a robust design.
FPV racing involves competing against other pilots on a designated course with gates and flags. Speed, agility, and durability are crucial in racing.
Opt for lightweight frames, powerful motors, and ESCs that can handle high current. Low-latency FPV system with adjustable power output are also crucial. Additionally, a high performance radio link with low latency and high refresh rate are important to maintain precise and reliable control at high speeds.
Long-range flying aims to cover great distances while maintaining a low-key, efficient cruising style. Efficiency and reliability are key for this type of flying. Here are some tips to long range flying.
Choose motors with lower KV ratings for better efficiency, and use larger capacity LiPo or Li-ion batteries to extend flight time. Consider deploying GPS and telemetry for navigation and real-time data monitoring. Long-range radio systems like Crossfire or ExpressLRS are recommended to ensure a strong signal even at great distances.
Cinemaphotography, or Cinematic FPV flying focuses on capturing smooth, stable footage in epic locations, without too many acrobatic moves. The ideal build for cinematic flying depends on the specific job.
Consider using drones specifically designed for this purpose, such as Cinewhoops or 5″-7″ freestyle builds carrying GoPro. Larger drones (5″, 6″, or 7″) can provide more stability and better wind resistance, while smaller drones can access tight spaces for unique shots.
Affordable FPV Drone Kits for Beginners
Getting started in the FPV hobby can be expensive, but there are affordable ready-to-fly (RTF) kits available that include everything you need to begin your journey. These kits are a great way to test the waters without investing a fortune upfront.
One example of a well-rounded, beginner-friendly FPV kit is the BetaFPV Cetus X FPV Kit. This kit includes a drone, radio, FPV goggles, battery, and charger. Before taking your drone to the skies, you can use the included radio controller to practice flying in FPV simulators like DRL, Liftoff, and Velocidrone. Once you’re comfortable in the simulator, you can try flying the Cetus micro drone in the house or local parks.
The Emax TinyHawk II Freestyle is another great option. This drone is more advanced, and offers excellent performance and value for mainly outdoor flying, and you can continue using the same FPV setup for future builds.
It’s important to note that while RTF kits provide a budget-friendly entry point, they often include lower-quality goggles and radio controllers with limited features. As you progress in the hobby, you may outgrow these components and need to invest in better equipment.
If you’re confident that you’ll stick with the FPV hobby and have the budget to do so, consider purchasing higher-quality goggles and radio controllers from the beginning. This way, you can avoid the need to replace them as you advance in the hobby, ultimately saving money and enhancing your flying experience from the start.
Should You Build or Buy Your First FPV Drone?
As a beginner entering the world of FPV drones, you might be wondering whether to build or buy your first drone. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages. Here are some factors to consider:
Build Your First FPV Drone
Building your first drone has several benefits:
- Experience and Skills: Gaining hands-on experience with drone components and assembly will enable you to diagnose, repair, and upgrade your drone in the future.
- Budget: Building your own drone can be more cost-effective, especially if you already have access to the necessary tools and parts.
- Customization: By choosing your own parts, you can tailor your drone to your specific preferences and needs.
While there are affordable DIY kits available such as the Eachine Tyro79, they may be lower in quality. If you prefer higher-quality components, you can purchase parts separately and follow expert recommendations.
Buy a Pre-Built FPV Drone
If you’d rather spend more time flying and less time building, a pre-built drone might be a better choice. Keep in mind that the closer a pre-built drone is to “perfect,” the more expensive it will be. And if you break it, you’ll likely need to learn how to solder and repair it anyway.
In conclusion, building your first FPV drone can be a fun and rewarding experience that teaches you valuable skills for maintaining and upgrading your drone. However, if you prefer to focus on flying, a pre-built option may be more suitable. Regardless of your choice, consider seeking advice from experienced pilots before spending money. Online forums, like IntoFPV, are great places to connect with knowledgeable pilots who are happy to help newcomers to the hobby.
Parts and Equipment
Before diving in, make sure to read:
- How to build an FPV drone – explains how to build a quadcopter from scratch
- FPV Acronyms – A list of common technical terms and acronyms used in FPV
Here is the anatomy of an FPV drone:
An FPV drone consists of the following parts, with buyer’s guides for each component:
- Frame: a structure where all the components sit on and provides protection to the electronics – how to choose an FPV drone frame
- FC (Flight Controller): the brain of a drone, it has sensors that take measurements and a processor that runs all the calculations – how to choose a flight controller
- 4x Motors – how to choose FPV drone motors
- 4x Props (Propellers) – 2x CCW and 2x CW rotations – how to choose propellers
- 4x ESC’s or 1x 4in1 ESC (Electronics Speed Controller): it takes signal from the flight controller, and control the speed of the motors – how to choose ESC’s
- LiPo Battery – how to choose LiPo battery
- FPV Camera – how to choose an FPV camera
- Video Transmitter (VTX) – how to choose a VTX
- FPV antennas – how to choose FPV antennas
To fly your quadcopter in FPV, you will also need the following equipment:
- Radio transmitter (TX) and receiver (RX) – how to choose a radio transmitter
- FPV Goggles – how to choose FPV goggles
- LiPo Charger – how to choose LiPo charger
- Beeper with built-in battery
You should also acquire these essential tools::
- Soldering iron and solder
- A set of hex screwdrivers (e.g. 1.5mm, 2mm, 2.5mm) for M2/M3 bolts: AliExpress | Amazon
- An M5 (8mm) nut spinner or socket ratchet for propeller nut (or you can just use your big pliers): AliExpress
- Wire Cutters
- Cable ties
- Electrical Tape
- Smoke stopper
Selecting the right components for your first build can be challenging. If you’re unsure, consider using popular components to ensure more available support if you encounter issues. Do your research, and don’t hesitate to ask for help on forums like IntoFPV.
To give you an idea, check out the gear I use and the quads I fly.
To avoid hardware incompatibility, consider following someone else’s parts list. Hardware compatibility primarily depends on mounting sizes, which vary for different components like FCs/ESCs, cameras, motors, and propellers.
Flight controllers (FCs) and electronic speed controllers (ESCs) come in three main sizes:
FPV Camera Sizes:
FPV cameras have different widths, such as:
- Full size (28mm)
- Mini (21mm)
- DJI OG Cam (20mm)
- Micro (19mm)
- Nano (14mm)
The camera size you need depends on your frame’s compatibility. You can mount other camera sizes using 3D printed camera holders.
Motor Mounting Sizes:
Motor base mounting sizes typically use four screws in a square or triangle pattern. Common sizes include:
- 19mm (7″ quads)
- 16mm (5″ quads)
- 12mm (Ultralight 5″ or heavier 3″, 4″ quads)
- 9mm (3-4″ toothpicks)
- Triangle pattern, 6.6mm spacing (whoops/tiny <2″ quads)
Propeller Mount Types:
Propeller mounts on motors vary by size:
- M5 threaded shaft (5″ or larger quads)
- T-Mount (1.5 or 2mm shaft with two M2 holes on each side) (micro quads)
- Push-on 1 or 1.5mm shaft (tinywhoops/<2″ quads)
[image props sizing diagram]
For smaller components like radio receivers, video transmitters, buzzers, and capacitors, mounting is more flexible and situational. Use materials like zip ties and double-sided tape to secure them in place.
Ensure electronic parts have compatible voltage ratings. Most components can handle either 5V or battery voltage (e.g., 7V – 36V or listed as a cell count like 2S to 6S). Overvolting can damage components and potentially cause a fire.
Getting LiPo Batteries and Charger
For LiPo batteries, typically a 4S 1500mAh (or 6S 1100mAh) on a 5″ drone would give you 5 to 7 minutes of flight time. You can start with a set of 4 batteries for practicing, but you will probably need more later on as you improve and want to fly longer.
- Batteries Recommendation: https://oscarliang.com/lipo-battery-guide/#Battery-Recommendations
- Charger Recommendations: https://oscarliang.com/choose-lipo-battery-charger-power-supply/#Top-LiPo-Charger-Recommendations
Getting a Backpack
To make it easier to carry your drones and all your gear for flying, consider getting a backpack designed specifically for FPV gear. These backpacks are designed with compartments and straps to securely hold your drones, radio, goggles, batteries, and other accessories.
Backpack Recommendations: https://oscarliang.com/?s=fpv+backpack
After finishing your build, you’d want to configure the drone before flight. There are two components you want to configure: the flight controller and the ESC. You will need to download two different software programs to configure them because they are running different firmware.
I have tutorials that dive into detail on how to do software setup. Just do a search on my blog, or follow instructions in one of my build guides. For example, this guide for Betaflight: https://oscarliang.com/betaflight-firmware-setup/
The most popular flight controller firmware is Betaflight, and the most popular ESC firmware is BLHeli_S or BLHeli_32, depending on the hardware you have. You can’t go wrong with these choices. Anyway, here I will give you an overview of the firmware we use in the hobby.
There are quite a few flight controller firmware options available for FPV drones, but it doesn’t matter – just use Betaflight. That’s what the vast majority of the people in the hobby use. It’s free, open-source, performs extremely well, and is updated frequently. It has a huge selection of flight controller available. Apart from freestyle and racing, Betaflight has added features geared for long-range such as GPS Rescue Mode (similar to Return to Home).
KISS (closed source) is another firmware that is easy to set up and flies well. You will need to purchase KISS-specific hardware to use their firmware.
iNAV (open source) is also very popular with long-range and autonomous flyers. They do not support as many flight controllers. Apart from multirotor it also support fixed wing aircraft.
Every ESC has its own processor, and there is “ESC firmware” running on it. The language spoken between the flight controller and ESCs is called “ESC Protocol.”
The most popular firmware which runs on 99% of all FPV quad ESCs are either BLHeli_S or BLHeli32. BLHeli32 is newer of the two and uses a faster processor. Flight performance-wise, there is very little difference, but BLHeli32 is more future-proof.
The main ESC protocol used today is DShot, more specifically, DShot300 and DShot600, with the number indicating the speed of the protocol.
Check out this post to learn more about ESC firmware and protocols.
How Does an FPV Drone Work?
Here’s a brief overview of how the various components work together in an FPV Drone:
- The pilot controls the drone using a radio controller with two joysticks. The stick commands are sent wirelessly to the radio receiver installed inside the drone.
- The flight controller takes commands from the radio receiver, combines them with data from the gyro sensor, and calculates the speed at which each motor should move.
- The ESC (Electronic Speed Controller) converts the signal from the flight controller and controls how fast the motors should spin to generate the desired thrust.
- A drone is typically powered by a LiPo (Lithium Polymer) battery.
FPV System Explained
The FPV (First Person View) system is a crucial aspect of an FPV drone, providing the pilot with a real-time video feed from the drone’s perspective. There are four main components involved in an FPV system:
- FPV Camera: Mounted on the drone, the FPV camera captures the live video footage of the drone’s surroundings.
- Video Transmitter (VTX): The video transmitter takes the video feed from the FPV camera and broadcasts it wirelessly on a specific frequency.
- FPV Goggles (with Video Receiver): The pilot wears FPV goggles, which receive the video feed from the VTX and display it on built-in screens. The video receiver (VRX) can either be integrated into the goggles or added as an external module.
- Antennas: Antennas play a vital role in the FPV system, as they help transmit and receive the video signal between the VTX and VRX. High-quality antennas can improve the range, signal quality, and reliability of your FPV system.
Analog vs Digital FPV Systems
When choosing an FPV system for your drone, it is essential to understand the differences between analog and digital FPV systems. Each has its own set of advantages and drawbacks.
- Analog FPV Systems: Analog systems have been the standard in the FPV community for many years. These systems are generally more affordable and offer lower latency. Furthermore, the smaller size and lighter weight of analog VTX make them more suitable for micro FPV drones, such as Tiny Whoops. However, analog video quality is noticeably lower, often suffering from static and breakups throughout the flight.
- Digital FPV Systems: Digital systems, such as DJI and Walksnail Avatar, provide a significant improvement in video quality compared to analog systems. With resolutions up to 720p or even 1080p, digital FPV feeds deliver clearer and sharper images, with minimal breakup and increased resistance to multipath interference. This enhanced video quality allows for a more immersive FPV experience. However, digital systems tend to be more expensive and may have slightly higher latency, which could be a concern for competitive racers.
In summary, deciding between analog and digital FPV systems depends on your priorities and preferences. If you prioritize image quality and an immersive FPV experience, digital systems are the way to go. However, if you are focused on racing or flying micro drones and are looking for a more affordable option with lower latency, an analog FPV system might be a better choice.
For more guidance on choosing the right FPV system, consult this dedicated post: https://oscarliang.com/fpv-system/
The 5.8GHz (5800MHz) frequency band is the most commonly used for broadcasting FPV video feeds. This frequency is separate from the 2.4GHz band used for radio control, ensuring minimal interference between the two systems.
Analog FPV video transmitters and receivers typically support 40 channels or more, allowing multiple pilots to fly simultaneously without causing interference with each other’s video signals. This also enables spectators to tune into various FPV drones’ channels and watch the action in real-time.
When flying with others, it is essential to maintain good FPV etiquette. If you crash and need to retrieve your drone, remember to unplug the battery as soon as you pick it up. Failing to do so could cause your video transmitter to interfere with other pilots’ video signals, as your transmitter will be much closer to their receivers than their drones. By following these guidelines, you can help ensure a smooth and enjoyable flying experience for everyone involved.
You can learn more about FPV frequency and good practices in this tutorial: https://oscarliang.com/fpv-channels/
Stay line of sight for best signal
To maintain the best possible signal, ensure that your VTX antenna is within the line of sight of the VRX antenna at all times during flight.
When flying behind obstacles such as trees or hills, your signal may weaken or even drop completely due to being outside of the Fresnel Zone. In these instances, you may experience video breakup. This issue is more pronounced at higher transmission frequencies, which is why the 2.4GHz radio signal typically has a longer range than the 5.8GHz video feed, given the same power and antenna gains.
It’s important to consider antenna positioning and placement for optimal signal quality. Since most FPV drone frames are made of carbon fiber, which can interfere with the signal, try to mount your antennas as far away from the frame and other electronic components as possible (including HD cameras). Proper antenna positioning and placement can make a significant difference in your FPV experience.
How to Get Those Beautiful FPV Footage?
If you’ve ever watched a breathtaking FPV video on YouTube and wondered how the pilot captured such high-quality footage, you should know that the secret lies in using a separate HD action camera.
Footage recorded in the FPV goggles is typically far from 1080p HD quality, let alone 4K. To capture the stunning visuals you see online, pilots often use a separate HD action camera, like a GoPro or a similar camera, mounted on the drone with a 3D printed TPU mount.
To learn more about HD Action Camera used in FPV drone, check out this article: https://oscarliang.com/action-camera/
Learning How to Fly FPV Drones
One might think that mastering line of sight (LOS) flying is necessary before attempting FPV, but this isn’t always the case. LOS and FPV are two distinct flying styles. Nonetheless, being able to control your quad in LOS is valuable, as your FPV system could fail, and having some LOS skills can help you regain control in an emergency. Ultimately, it’s up to you whether to start FPV without any LOS experience.
FPV simulators are incredibly beneficial for beginners, as they help you develop basic skills quickly and reduce the cost of broken parts due to pilot errors or attempting maneuvers beyond your ability. Check out this list of popular FPV simulators: https://oscarliang.com/free-quadcopter-simulator-drone-multirotor-trainer/
Transferring the skills learned in a simulator to real-life FPV drone flying may take some time, but eventually, everything will click, and the sky will become your playground!
For more information on learning FPV flying, have a look at these articles and explore some motivation and advice for mastering FPV:
Don’t Fly Auto-Level Mode
While self-level flight mode (such as Angle Mode and Horizon Mode) are easier and tempting to rely on, if you want to get good with flying FPV drone, it’s crucial to learn Acro Mode.
This article explains the differences between Acro mode and self-level mode: https://oscarliang.com/rate-acro-horizon-flight-mode-level/
Acro mode may seem challenging initially, but once you master it, you gain complete control over your quad. Betaflight offers an Acro Trainer mode to help you get used to Acro without the risk of flipping or spinning out of control.
Auto-level mode acts like a pair of crutches, helpful for balance but limiting in more dynamic situations. Once you’re comfortable with acro mode, auto-level mode will feel restrictive, and it can foster bad habits that are hard to unlearn.
Flying with Other People
When arriving at an FPV meetup, the first thing you should do is determine which video transmitter channels are in use by other pilots.
DO NOT power on your quad before confirming your video channel, especially when there are other pilots in the air! If they are in the air, wait until they land before you power on.
When two quads share the same VTX channel or have frequencies too close to each other, one can interfere with their video feed. Interference can cause accidents, as the image in the goggles may disappear entirely while flying, leaving the pilot “blind.”
Always warn other pilots before powering on your quad.
Even if you’re not on the same channel, some low-quality VTXs can emit power through the entire spectrum during startup or channel changes, causing brief interference for everyone else.
You can also switch on your video receiver first to scan which channels are in use before turning on your video transmitter.
With proper equipment and frequency management, up to eight pilots can usually fly simultaneously. However, having four pilots is more common for an interference-free race.
Safety Rules for Flying FPV Drones
Safety should always be your top priority.
Keep in mind that FPV drones are extremely fast and powerful, capable of causing serious injuries to people and animals, as well as damaging property. Adhering to safety rules is crucial, as disregarding them not only affects the pilot and potential victims but also the reputation of the hobby itself.
- Check your local rules and regulations regarding FPV, and RC model flying in general.
- Obtain insurance coverage for your drone activities.
- Use a spotter or fly with a buddy.
- Choose your flying location sensibly, avoiding crowded or risky areas.
- Never fly too close to or above people and animals.
- Disconnect the battery immediately after retrieving a crashed quad.
- Do not attempt to catch an FPV drone in mid-air.
- Never use damaged LiPo batteries and dispose of them properly. Here’s a guide on how to dispose LiPo battery: https://oscarliang.com/dispose-lipo-battery-safely/
For more information on FPV safety, refer to this detailed article: http://intofpv.com/t-safety-first-and-foremost
How to Tune FPV Drone
Tuning your FPV drone helps optimize its performance and stability.
It’s recommended to use “Blackbox” to tune your drone. Blackbox is a powerful tool that records flight data during your drone’s flight, providing valuable insights for tuning. By analyzing the data, you can fine-tune your drone’s PID settings and filters to achieve better performance. For a comprehensive guide on tuning using Blackbox, check out this tutorial: https://oscarliang.com/pid-filter-tuning-blackbox/
If Blackbox seems too complicated, you can still manually tune your drone without Blackbox. Although you may not achieve the same level of performance optimization as with Blackbox, you can still improve your drone’s performance from the default settings. To manually tune your drone, follow these steps: https://oscarliang.com/fpv-drone-tuning/
Remember that tuning is a personalized process, and what works for one pilot may not work for another. It takes time, patience, and practice to find the ideal settings for your FPV drone.
Throughout this comprehensive FPV drone tutorial, we’ve covered essential topics such as understanding drone components, choosing the right gear, building or buying your first FPV drone, and tips for flying safely and effectively. We’ve also delved into the different FPV systems, and the importance of proper tuning and software setup.
As you embark on your FPV journey, remember that practice, patience, and a commitment to safety are crucial. Consider starting with simulators and building your skills gradually, and never hesitate to ask for help from the FPV community. Stay up to date with the latest advancements in FPV technology, and most importantly, enjoy the incredible experience that FPV flying has to offer. Happy flying!
- Sept 2015 – Article Created
- Dec 2016 – Article revised, added “The Origin of Drone Racing and the Types of Drones”
- May 2017 – Added “Buy a Radio First and Learn How To Fly”
- Aug 2017 – Updated
- Apr 2019 – Updated
- Aug 2020 – Rewritten
- Apr 2021 – Merged with FPV system guide
- Feb 2023 – Updated guide
I rarely give comments about web pages, but this is one of the best, well-documented sites that I’ve ever found. Very informative, it contains a lot of information and is very detailed, if you write a book I’ll buy it! I’m starting into this world, which is very difficult for beginners; this page has everything you need to know to begin your FPV journey.
Thanks again, Oscar!
Just getting into quads, this was hands down one of the best articles I’ve found. Very informative. Really appreciate this piece – Thank You!
I have a new quadcopter, I hope it helps me set it up
Setting up FPV with X-Plane would be the ultimate.
Is it possible to set up just the FPV camera, antennas, VTX and a video receiver that outputs to HDMI (instead of goggles)?
I am interested in low latency wireless video, but the project is not FPV related otherwise. Any advice would be appreciated, this site is amazing. Thanks Oscar!
bit late to this but yeah, you can buy just a receiver like the avatar or hdzero VRXs and link them to a screen or for analogue you can buy a receiver with a screen built in.
ive been try to just link/bind with no luck, its become so frustrating that ive become exasperated with people trying to help and i know that’s not right, now its seems no-one will touch my problem, i’m really not unreasonable, but why in the world is this so damn difficult? never flown even a moment!
I have the freybott lumeniere and all the stuff to get it going, but I am just stuck and unbelievably humbled at my stupidity!
What radio system are you using?
Also try joining our forum, lots of helpful people over there: https://intofpv.com
I am new to FPVAnd I boughtAQX7S In do not know the first thing about setting it up,Let alone what switches to add.I have watched play YouTube videos But they did not help me any.Please help me becauseI am tired of using the controller is drawn as a paperweight.
Join our forum if you have any questions, tons of helpful and friendly people there. https://Intofpv.com
How to setup switches: How to Setup Switches in OpenTX Mixer/Inputs (Taranis, Nirvana, T16)
Very beautifully explained!!
Language is clear!!
Just check UKs OFCOM website and looks like the Ham radio license thing for over 25mw is not a thing :(
“There is a belief that the use of higher power equipment can be authorised by applying for an Amateur Radio licence. This is wrong. Amateur Radio licence expressly prohibits use in any aircraft or airborne vehicle. This restriction is not relaxed for radio-controlled models, airplanes and balloons.”
Thanks for sharing and keep updating this post oscar
really a lot of useful information here before we as a beginners to start
very good article, thank you!
Me and my friends are just starting with Drone and we need a lot of knowledge regarding to how to choose, how to play……
I want to translate the articles into Chinese to share with my friends.
is it allowable or not?
I’m just starting getting into drone flying and racing and this is a great article for beginners!
That’s okay as long as you link back to the original article at the beginning of your translation :)
Thanks a lot Oscar!
just found your blog today and it already helped me with so meany of my questions
mind blowing article i was never seen this type detailed website or article , i am very proud you sir.
Thanks so much for the info! You may wish to include a link to the Academy of Model Aeronautics (www.modelaircraft.org). Joining this national group offers liability insurance plus political lobbying for your dues. Well worth the money! There are many more benefits as well.
very good article, thank you!
Amazing article. I’m just starting getting into drone flying and racing and this is a great article for beginners!
Hello Oscar, I have a beecore F3 EVO board with a spectrum dx6 transmitter, I can see all the menus and adjust values in cleanflight. But I cannot see the motor menu. I can see the receiver menu and the bars move with the transmitter movement. When I plug in the motors they just run up and I have no control over them. The low throttle value is set at 500 to see if that would stop the motors but it does not. Do you have any suggestions on how to fix this problem.
kind regards Frans
Looks like the link to “How to choose mini quad motors” is incorrect as it ends up linking to a glossary page. Looks like the correct url is: https://oscarliang.com/quadcopter-motor-propeller/
thank you so much for the correction!
I am an older guy who saw his first FPV race and am interested in learning to fly a drone. I have been flying R/C planes for 30 years or so and have never flown an FPV drone. I have already bought a google/tx/rx/from a Chinese vendor and will hopefully try out the simulator programs on my IMAC before crashing my wallet and first drone (LOL). Thank you for your very complete article.
Thanks Ron, keep us updated :)
by the way here is a great forum worth joining and sharing your progress and asking questions: http://www.intofpv.com
This is an old thread so I’m hoping someone stumbles across it with an answer — my husband and I recently stumbled upon an ESPN special on drone racing and my husband’s eyes lit right up; he owns two drones that he flies both for work (aerial footage of solar arrays) and pleasure, so he has *some* experience, although I’m not sure how much that helps or does not help in this arena. Question is::: is there any way to gift him an experience, like one hour racing a drone through a “course,” much as you could purchase a Nascar driving experience, or does nothing like that exist (yet)? I’d love to do something like this for his birthday. Thanks!!
From what you described, it sounds like he’s already had some experienced with GPS assisted drones, which I am afraid to say, very different from the type of drones for racing.
To put it simply, it’s like for someone riding a bike with assisted wheels, and putting them on a unicycle LOL
But having some flight experience will definitely help him in flying a race drone.
It’s not cheap getting a whole Race drone setup though, and you don’t know if he likes the things you get.
I would suggest getting a drone racing simulator, and a proper radio transmitter that he can use for the simulator, such as the Frsky Taranis QX7 or X9D Plus. He can use the exact same radio for his drone in the future.
I would suggest to let him do the research on an actual drone, then plan and buy the parts by himself. You would end up with a much better quality/value product, that he personally likes :)
Thank you for responding! Sounds like there’s no such thing as renting a racing drone and/or buying a racing experience just for the day/couple hours. I’m not looking to buy him a racing drone myself, for all of the points you brought up, just to get him a sort of “test” experience. But if/when he’s ready to do that on his own, this is certainly a great starting point. Thanks again!
No, there is no racing drone renting services yet as far as i know :)
But the closest thing is to find a local drone racing club, and join them for a session to see how things work, and possibly to get them let you have a go on their drones LOL :D Although people would normally be very reluctant to do that for beginners who’s had no previous drone racing experience.
Good writeup, a thought would be that the nighthawk etc are becoming outdated, and now you can buy good arf racing quads (not sure which in particular, but there have been a few lately which are a very good price/quality and are prebuilt).
I Oscar, I found a small but interesting typo: 70 miles/hour = 110Km/hour (not 11) ;)
LOL you are right :) thank you for pointing it out!
As someone else has said
to finish first, first you have to finish