The Guide to FPV Flying | First Person View System

In this article we provide advice on how to choose the hardware needed for an FPV setup, some useful tips about flying FPV and explain the different common configurations of FPV systems used in FPV drones.

Setting up an FPV system for the very first time can seem a little complicated, but the concept is actually pretty simple. This guide contains most if not all the information you need to setup and fly FPV for the first time.

What is FPV Flying

FPV stands for First Person View. In FPV flying, a camera is used to stream real-time video from onboard the quadcopter (or other remotely operated aircraft) to the pilot on the ground. This allows the operator to see as if they were in the ‘cockpit’ of the craft.

Other than FPV, there is also what we call “line of sight“, or LOS. Line of sight is the traditional method of flying RC models, just by looking at your craft while controlling it.

Traditionally a pilot controls an RC aircraft by looking at it through line of sight (LOS). But with FPV the pilot sees what the drone is seeing in real-time, which is why it’s also called video piloting.

Flying FPV can feel a lot like playing a video game. But if you crash in the game, your PlayStation isn’t going to hit your lounge wall at 90MPH! Believe it when we say, replacing a top tier FPV drone can be just as expensive as a new PlayStation (if not more).

The level of focus required while flying FPV is intense, and the speed and maneuverability of an FPV drone make it a truly sensational experience every time I fly.

Benefits of FPV

In addition to the excitement and addictiveness of flying FPV, there are many practical advantages as well.

Having an on-board view from your quadcopter eliminates many of the problems encountered while flying LOS, for example:

  • losing sight of the aircraft by flying behind obstacles or into the sun
  • when flying ‘nose in’ (towards yourself), left and right controls are reversed and it can be disorientating for new pilots

FPV makes precise control over the drone much easier, this really helps to take further advantage of the space you are flying in. FPV is allowing pilots to fly further, faster and more aggressively than ever before, it’s a much more interactive way to experience your whole environment, making the experience far more engaging for the pilot.

To summarize, FPV has the following advantages:

  • Allows you to fly behind obstacles
  • Fly further and faster
  • More precise and agile flying
  • More fun!

How Does FPV System Work

An FPV system is actually quite simple – video is transmitted from your FPV drone, and received by the FPV goggles.

Inside the FPV drone, there are a camera and a video transmitter (VTX).

And the FPV goggles is basically a display with a video receiver. Many FPV goggles have built-in video receivers so you don’t have to worry about it. But some require receiver modules, and that gives you flexibility based on your unique technical requirement.

In a nutshell, there are 4 main components in an FPV system:

  • FPV Camera
  • Video Transmitter (VTX)
  • FPV Goggles (with Video Receiver)
  • Antennas

An image from the camera is sent to a VTX. The VTX sends that image through the air with antennas to a VRX. Then the VRX feeds that image to a screen, or FPV goggles.

How Much FPV Setup Costs

The price for getting started with FPV flying can vary. Assuming you already have a working quadcopter, you can pay as little as $80 to get a basic FPV system. But if you want something with extra features and benefits, the cost can go up rapidly.

Here is the rough breakdown of the cost for each components:

  • FPV Camera: $10 – $60
  • Video Transmitter: $10 – $80
  • FPV Goggles (with video receiver): $50 – $600
  • Antennas: $10 – $100
  • Total: $80 – $840

Analogue and Digital FPV Systems

The FPV systems we used have mostly all been analog because of the latency issues and image dependability that came along with digital systems. 

Only until 2019, the FPV hobby has seen a massive move into the digital era with the help of DJI introducing their Digital FPV systems. You can learn all the info, pros and cons comparing to analogue in my DJI FPV system review.

I have been flying the DJI FPV system for over a year, and it’s awesome in my opinion. The video feed is much clearer and sharper, more robust against multi-pathing interference, and the range is actually comparable to analogue if not better.

To give you an idea, this is the video recorded in my DJI FPV goggles, it is what I was watching in my FPV goggles:

 

It is not cheap, especially for those who already own the analogue setup, they would be reluctant to buy everything again. But if you are just starting, you should seriously consider the DJI FPV setup :)

Analogue FPV Camera

Originally, FPV cameras were just re-purposed CCTV security cameras. They were generally small, lightweight, and easily fitted to compact unmanned aircraft.

Modern FPV cameras these days are purposely designed for the hobby with extremely low latency, while also providing the best possible wide dynamic range (WDR) for the rapid changes in lighting conditions that come with flying FPV.

Comparing to the DJI digital FPV system, analogue FPV cameras have lower, more consistent latency, which is preferred by racers. However it’s not capable of capturing the high quality HD footage that you see on Youtube, this normally comes from an additional action camera mounted on the drone, such as the GoPro, or Insta360 GO.

When choosing any cameras, the first thing we tend to look at is the resolution. But with FPV cameras, resolutions are more or less similar. Even when the manufacturer tells you their camera has higher TV lines (TVL – a measure of resolution in FPV camera), it’s usually just a inflated or purely made up number. There are other far more important factors to consider, such as latency and wide dynamic range.

Check out this comprehensive guide on selecting an FPV camera.

Analogue Video Transmitter and Receiver

If the FPV camera determines the image quality, the transmission system would determine your range, which comprise of VTX, VRX and antennas.

Learn about the basics of video transmitter in this post.

The most popular frequency used in FPV is 5.8GHz. Lower frequencies such as 1.2GHz and 2.4GHz can be used for FPV too, but the higher 5.8Ghz allows much smaller antennas.

Further Readings:

Antennas

Antennas are extremely important for reliable signal.

Without repeating myself, here is my tutorial on the basics of FPV antennas, and how to choose the best FPV antenna for your FPV drone. In this guide we’ll cover:

  • The different types of FPV antennas
  • How to read antenna specs
  • The Pro’s and Con’s of Linear and circular polarized antennas
  • Antenna Connector types

VTX and VRX are often supplied with cheap linearly polarized antennas (LP). These are simple and generally are durable in a crash. However they are not the best choice when it comes to range and signal reliability. We recommend getting some aftermarket circularly polarized antennas (CP) for your FPV system for optimal performance.

Check out this tutorial on why circular polarization is better.

Directional antennas with high gain allow longer range at the expense of a narrower angle of reception. A directional antenna must face towards the drone in order to get the best signal reception. The performance of directional antennas quickly decreases when the drone moves outside of this narrow angle.

For more information, here is an article on how antenna gain affects range in FPV.

FPV Goggles

The experience of flying with a pair of FPV goggles is hard to beat, on top of the immersed experience, the image is clearer, and the view is not affected by sunlight. They are also more compact and easier for transportation.

I have a whole article explaining the basics of FPV goggles, and what you should look for when buying one.

You can also use a monitor to fly FPV, with some advantages apart from just cost, such as allowing the pilot to easily switch between LOS and FPV. A monitor can also make it more convenient for those who wear glasses, though some manufacturers of goggles now offer diopter lenses, even catering to specific prescriptions.

I’d whole-heartedly recommend getting a proper FPV goggles over a monitor, but if you insist on a monitor, here are the things to consider:

  • Correct video Input: Make sure the monitor supports an AV input that is compatible with your video receiver
  • Size: In my opinion, the minimum screen size for an FPV monitor is 7 inch, any smaller and it becomes difficult to see clearly
  • Brightness and Backlight: It’s important to be able to adjust the brightness of a monitor, and one with a backlight will serve you better. Flying in sunny conditions can wash out the colour and make it difficult to see the screen, even if you use a sun shield
  • Non-Blue Screen: When receiving weak or no video signal, some monitors revert to a blue screen (or black). This is unsuitable for FPV, because when you’re on the verge of losing signal the screen will simply go blank, your quad will usually be far away at this point and invariably heading for the nearest puddle too! A screen that shows static when there is no signal is ideal, you might still recognize a vague image, allowing you to return to an area with better reception and avoid the dangerous zone. You can however, “fix” the blue screen issue by adding a DVR in between the VRX and monitor.

How to Calculate FPV Range?

By knowing the “dB” of your equipment, you can estimate how far your 5.8GHz FPV link can go.

Fresnel Zone

To ensure you have the best possible signal your VTX antenna should be within the line of sight of the VRX antenna at all times.

When you fly behind a tree, or a hill, your signal will weaken or even drop completely as you are outside of the Fresnel Zone. When this happens you might have video breakup or static on the screen. The problem becomes more pronounced with higher transmission frequencies. That’s why your 2.4GHz radio signal normally has longer range than your 5.8GHz video feed (given the same power).

Remember that since most mini quad frames are also made of carbon fibre, it’s important your antennas avoid having the signal blocked by the frame or other electronic components such as your HD camera. Antenna positioning and placement are key.

Antenna Diversity & Receiver Diversity

A diversity system allows multiple antennas to be used at the same time, but be aware of the difference between “antenna diversity” and “receiver diversity”. They might look the same from the outside, but perform differently.

“Antenna diversity” only uses a single receiver so the 2 antennas aid one another with signal reception. “Receiver diversity” is a better system as it has 2 (or more) individual receivers, each is equipped with an antenna and it will always switch to the receiver with the strongest signal.

Using diversity allows pilots to combine “omni-directional antennas” with “directional antennas” to get the best of both worlds.

OSD – On Screen Display

An OSD is basically flight information overlayed on top of your video. OSD is optional but crucial, having flight data available to you such as battery voltage, timer, battery consumption, speed, altitude etc. can be very useful.

Most Betaflight flight controllers these days have OSD capability built-in, so it’s just a matter of wiring and configuring in the software.

Here is a beginner tutorial on how to setup Betaflight OSD.

This is my Betaflight OSD setup for all my freestyle quads, simple but effective.

Noisy FPV Feed

Motors generate a lot of noise in your power system. If you are powering your FPV gear (e.g. VTX and camera) with the same battery as the one powering your motors, that electrical noise can get into your video feed, which results in jumping white lines across the screen. This is especially noticeable with sudden changes in throttle.

This is not something you should worry about right now, but it would be handy to know this if you encounter issues with FPV video noise.

FPV Latency

The latency in an FPV system is the amount of time it takes from your FPV camera capturing an image, to that image being displayed in your FPV goggles. The faster you are flying, the bigger impact latency is going to have. Each component in an FPV system can contribute a certain amount of latency, but for the components available today, latency is generally not something we worry about. But if you need more information regarding the subject, check out these articles.

FPV Tips and FAQ

Video Switcher

If you are running multiple cameras on your quadcopter, like an FPV camera and a GoPro, you might consider using a video switcher, so you can switch between these feeds on your FPV goggles or monitor by using a switch on your radio transmitter.

This is useful for those who are flying with their FPV camera, but also want to occasionally check what you are filming in the HD camera.

There are a couple of options I’ve tested recently:

Video frequency conversion

Some FPV goggles have a built-in VRX that only supports 5.8GHz, if you want to run 1.3GHz or 2.4GHz, you could make a “repeater” that receives the lower frequency signal and then re-transmits a low power 5.8Ghz signal to the VRX in your goggles.

Here is how to build a 1.2GHz-1.3GHz to 5.8GHz Wireless Relay / Repeater.

Can I use my iPad, smart phone or tablets for FPV?

You certainly can!

You can either send your live video via wifi, or use an analogue to digital video converter to display the footage on your mobile device.

However this is not recommended for piloting a fast moving quadcopter. Because the latency of the video stream will be so bad you could probably crash your drone before you even see it crash on the screen. For spectating this is probably okay.

Where do I place FPV components on the quadcopter?

Generally speaking, place your VTX antenna as far away from your GPS and radio receiver antenna as possible. You should also try to keep the wires for the FPV system away from motor/ESC wires, this helps prevent unwanted interference.

What is this “Jello” I hear all the time?

“Jello” is the vibrations from your motors and propellers passed through the frame and to the camera, causing blurry and shaky video.

You might not observe as much jello effect through the FPV camera as your HD camera due to the different camera sensors and how their shutter works. Generally speaking the rolling shutter in CMOS is far more vulnerable to vibrations and more prone to jello than the global shutter in CCD sensors. Some FPV cameras use CCD sensors, but nearly all HD cameras use CMOS sensors.

What to do with FPV camera audio?

Drone motors make a lot of noise, but some people actually prefer flying FPV with audio and feel that it gives a greater sense of being “connected” to the aircraft. Like a professional auto racer listening to their vehicle’s engine revs. If to you, all you can hear is the annoying sound of the motors and rushing air, you can just leave the audio wire disconnected. It’s a personal perference.

How do you learn to fly FPV?

I often get asked “what is the best way to learn to fly FPV?”. Some might assume they have to become really good at flying LOS (line of sight) first before they try FPV, but this isn’t necessarily the case.

LOS and FPV are two very different ways of flying. However, it is tremendously useful to master the basic LOS flying. Remember that your FPV system can fail, so having at least some skill at LOS flying will help you get your craft back in control in an emergency. Once you start to feel comfortable with how to move the quad around in line of sight, you can move on to FPV. With that said, this is just a safe way to go, you can start FPV without ever flying in line of sight, it’s all up to you.

Most pilots fly the ‘maiden’ (1st flight) of a new quad in LOS, before putting on their goggles, it is easier to see if any drift needs trimming out and helps to give an idea of how it responds to the stick inputs. Here is a discussion about when you are learning, sometimes something just clicks.

Finally, I cannot stress enough how useful FPV simulators are. They really help beginners pick up the basic skills needed very quickly. Sims can dramatically reduce the cost of broken parts as well due to trying maneuvers or tricks that are beyond your capability and just other pilot errors. Here is a list of popular FPV simulators.

Laws Governing the Use of FPV Frequencies

Different countries have different laws in place, restricting the frequency and amount of power you are allowed to transmit. Please check your local restrictions, and fly safely and lawfully. Here is a discussion on our forum about flying around the world legally.

Conclusion

Hopefully this article has helped you understand the basics of an FPV system and provided some useful tips about flying FPV. Feel free to ask questions in the comment below, and join our forum, IntoFPV.com if you want to stay connected with the community :)

Happy flying.

Edit History

  • Jun 2015 – Article created
  • Sep 2017 – Updated, added several new topics
  • Sep 2020 – Updated, added info regarding DJI

24 thoughts on “The Guide to FPV Flying | First Person View System

  1. kruno

    hi
    i have nova pro drone ,and want to fly ovar forest area ,,not fast just looking for animals ,record area etc
    but i need some range up to 3km or so
    i only have nova pro drone with gimbal and sj4000 cam ,not wifi ver
    how i understand i need tx rx for video and osd ,and lcd or some connector to ipad/win tablet
    or googles ,but googles are expensive for this ,,,recording video with slowish flying

    can u reccomend something that will fit my drone and on cheap side of budget ??

    thanks

    Reply
  2. Brandon

    Total noob here, first quad build and I have a simple question I’m sure. I have the matek xt60 pdb and a matek FC F405-OSD. Got almost everything wired but when it comes to wiring the “CURR”, “VCC” AND “G” I only have those options on the FC and only “VCC” and “G” on the PDB. Am I missing something? Should I just wire up the VCC and G? Will it matter that the CURR won’t be connected? Thanks in advance.

    Reply
  3. Magma6

    Happy to (re-)discover this entry, which show up in my blog feed thanks to the last update.
    Just a note to the editor: there is a big “edit fail” in your intro “What is FPV Flying?”…check the part before/around “playstation”

    Reply
  4. hardy

    Good explanation Oscar,
    I understood all of it, but now I have a concern about one thing:
    If I want to record the videos without watching it (like a spy camera or a Dashcam) can I do this…?
    and if I want to do this how can I do ? can i connect two or more cameras together in a video.

    Reply
  5. David

    I’m finding the hardest thing about FPV is orientation and I think it has something to do with the choice of lens on the FPV cam. I use a board ccd cam from a security cam. I have no idea what kind but, the picture is good and it handles light changes well. The picture doesn’t look anything like the picture of cam footage I commonly see on youtube and I can’t help thinking it’s because of the lens. I have no idea what the field of view or size specs of the lens are either. What lens should I be trying? I maybe should buy one of the popular sizes i.e. 2.8, 2.6, 3.6 and see or what? I have one of those all in one cam/tx from spectrum that seems the best overall as far as being able to tell where I am in the world but, don’t like it as a package for a race quad. Maybe if I soldered on an antennae extension cable to relocate the antennae or something. I don’t know I’m just rambling but, I think what I’m trying to say is it’d be great if more attention to lens choice were given in your otherwise fantastic FPV tutorial.

    Reply
  6. Kam Zadeh

    PLEASE HELP! Can I directly connect a small FPV camera to my Samsung Note 4 smartphone via OTG cable and USB cable by soldering FPV’s 4 wires to a USB port and bypassing RC wires, transmitters, receivers …? Is this at all possible and how?

    Reply
    1. Magma6

      I doubt your phone will like that: the FPV camera is not “speaking” USB but “Video signal out”.
      I never tried the cheap FPV gadget which use your phone/tablet as a screen but I guess most use an adapter “behind” the camera to send the video signal over WiFi more like a wireless surveillance cam will do.

      Reply
  7. Scott

    Wonderful site, thank you so much
    Could you please say more about the compatibility and advantages of different video antenna types.
    I imagine you have some great insights into techniques to avoid RF interference such as separation, placement, avoiding ground loops, using twisted pairs, filtering, and shielding for each type of signal or device, ie raw video feeds, servo leads, GPS antennas, ESCs, analog sensor signals, etc
    I’m especialy interested in using coax for servo and raw video signals, as I understand the shielding should be grounded only on the cleaner end so should not be used as ground for power.
    Is it true that while a twisted pair of power wires will reduce the emf given off by the wires it does nothing to protect from interference unless of course they are also shielded?
    Although populer ethernet cable can be a dangerous choice to power all but the smallest servo, it just to thin, and using multiple strands together should also be avoided to avoid loops, it does work well for signal wires using only one of each pair with the other tied to the shielding again at the clean end only since there is no differential signaling like used with ethernet (not needed for our realitivly short if noisy cable runs).
    For serial, I2C, CAN, and others, ethernet cable would also be a good choice, also using only one of each pair for each signal
    Of course only use finely stranded and shielded cat6.
    Shielded USB cable has larger power wires that can safely power a servo, though only one of the few that I cut up has much shielding between the power and signal wires.

    I have used thin satalite reciver coax for servo signal without issue, and would like to do the same for the raw video or would somthing bigger be better?
    Must the EMI shielded GPS stands be grounded to be effective?
    Any thoughts, corections to my thinking, or general advice would be greatly appreciated
    Keep that wonderful content flowing

    Reply
  8. paz

    “Can I use my iPad, smart phone or other tablets for FPV?

    You certainly can! You can either send your live video via wifi, or use anologue to digital video converter to display the footage on your mobile device.

    However I don’t recommend doing do, the delay will be so bad you will crash your multcopter.”

    Do you mean that fpv systems that use mobile-phones/pads are ‘all’ bad?

    Reply
  9. Joshua

    Hi Oscar, Very helpful for an FPV beginner!
    BTW, apparantly should be apparently @ TVL – Resolution section :)

    Reply
  10. Chad

    Oscar, As many others have said before, your blog is awesome. The thing I appreciate most is HOW it is written. So many manuals jump right into specific details without giving a general overview first. This method often leaves huge gaps in your UNDERSTANDING about a subject. Your links allow the reader to expand outward into the “spider web” that keeps growing. A simple “thank you” is not enough. Now on to my matter at hand.

    I have read and understand individual components and narrowed the field a great deal as far as I can tell. I am at the “compatibility” stage. For example, will a Dragon Rider DRAK TX (buddyrc.com/dragon-rider-5-8g-40-channel-adjustable-fpv-av-transmitter.html) work with any comparable RX such as Immersion RX’s? It would seem that the specs are right but there may be other issues which will degrade the overall performance. It seems it would be best to use as many devices from the same manufacturer as possible as they SHOULD have been tested as a SYSTEM. But in this case, I can see how the flexibility of the DRAK might be an advantage later.

    I have a list of components prepared for an FPV (thanks to your help) that I can provide.

    Reply
  11. sam

    ” You can either send your live video via wifi, or use anologue to digital video converter to display the footage on your mobile device.”

    Hi thanks for all the tutorials.

    Can you please elaborate more on how to get live video to smartphone. And if there is any lag you suggested any ideas on how dji does it without much lag??

    Im planing to build 5.8GHZ fpv for my RC car, which i drive withing 20 m radious , do you think i can still see the video sitting in my room, while driving it outside my house.

    thanks

    Reply
    1. Oscar Post author

      haha, it’s the same font used on facebook, which is read by more than 1 billion people in the world… this is the first complain i ever heard that has difficulty reading it…

      Reply
  12. Wilco

    Hi Oscar, Thank you for taking the time and effort to write the guide and all the other fantastic content on the site. Please keep it up. It’s highly appreciated!

    Reply
  13. Dj_Garfield

    Hi Oscar :)

    Allways the best of Multirotor Guide !!!
    You allways know how to talk about this Hobby , and make scientist syntax understandable for all People :)

    You become the must-have reference !!!

    Reply
  14. Sebastian

    Hi Oscar,

    respect to the effort you put into this hobby fible! I’m pretty long into this hobby, but still I’m learing when I read your blog entrys. This is such a good ressource. Thanks again for you efforts and keep it up ;-)

    Regards

    Sebastian

    Reply
  15. eephyne

    Very nice article, it’s always a pleasure to read them.

    For monitors you just forgot to talk about white noise/blue screen, which is really important when buying (even if it’s not notified everywhere…)

    Reply

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