FPV Guide for Multicopters | First Person View Bible

FPV is quickly becoming one of the most popular and unique sport all over the world. It gives every ordinary person the chance to be able to fly like a bird, and for me it’s just the most surreal and addictive experience.

In this article, we are going to look into what FPV is for multicopters, how FPV system is setup from basic to advance, how to choose hardware for FPV, and finally lots of useful tips and information around FPV.

What is FPV

FPV stands for First Person View. In RC hobby, FPV generally refers to the way an unmanned vehicle or aircraft being controlled by the pilot through an onboard camera. The real-time video stream enables the remote pilot to fly the multicopter (or drone if you prefer), without looking at it line of sight (LOS). Therefore FPV is sometimes called video piloting as well.

Some fellow FPV flyers would compare it to playing computer games. It’s kind of like that, only difference is if you are flying some $300 equipment in the air, which you spent days putting together. The level of focus makes this hobby real intense and sensational. FPV suits almost everyone, whether you are into fast racing style, or relaxing aerial filming, you will find yourself hooked.

Benefit of FPV

Apart from the addictiveness, there are advantages in flying FPV.

FPV flying is a more precise way of controlling your multicopter thanks to the first person perspective, especially if the environment is full of obstacles which might block your line of sight views. Therefore the quadcopter is able to fly at higher altitude and further distances.

It also makes the experience far more realistic for the remote operator, allowing them to better feel for the environment and more optimally navigate their crafts. To Summarize:

  • More agile flying
  • More precise control
  • Fly further and higher
  • More fun!

Cheap FPV Quadcopter Options

I strongly recommend building your own multicopter and setting up your FPV system, and this is what this article focus on. But if you don’t have the electrical skills or time, there are also other cheap ‘plug and play’ FPV quadcopter options available. One famous example would be the Hubsan H107D FPV Mini Quadcopter.

hubsan x4 fpv

This is a complete FPV system, the LCD screen and video receiver are built into the radio transmitter. It’s a relatively cheap way to get you into FPV flying, and a pretty good training platform.

How Does FPV Work

UAV Technology continues to advance, all aspects of the drone flying hobby just keep on growing and improving: reliability, safety, user experience, features, options and so on. “GPS Return to Home”, “Head Tracking FPV System”, “3D FPV Goggles”, “Object avoidance”, “Follow Me Feature”, You name it!

But back to the subject on FPV and how it works, the most basic FPV system consists of

  • a camera
  • a video transmitter (VTX)
  • a video receiver (VRX)
  • a video display device.

fpv-system-setup-basic-explain-diagram

The camera is mounted on front of the multicopter, which gives the pilot the feeling of being on the aircraft.

The live video is transmitted wirelessly on the video transmitter, and picked up by the video receiver on the ground. Video is then displayed either on a monitor or FPV Goggles.

More sophisticated setup may include GPS and all sorts of sensors, to provide comprehensive flight data on the screen using some On Screen Display device, OSD.

Here we will go into more detail about each component in the FPV system.

FPV Camera

FPV cameras are generally light and small so they can be fitted on a small unmanned aircraft. Just like choosing any other cameras, first thing to look at would be the resolution. But apart from that there are also other important factors in making the decision.

2-sony-600tvl-fpv-ccd-camera-without-case

Check out this comprehensive guide on selecting a decent FPV camera. As a summary here are the factors that you need to consider.

TVL – Resolution

TVL is the camera resolution measurement.

600TVL is kind of the standard now, and it’s good enough for most people and display devices. You can always fly with a lower TV Line camera such as a 380TVL, but the image is not as clear as a 600TVL camera. There are now 800TVL even 1200TVL, which is apparently better for larger screens and higher resolution FPV goggles.

Camera Type – CCD or CMOS

CCD and CMOS are two different imaging sensors in cameras. CCD is a bit more expensive than CMOS camera, but better for FPV due to the following reasons:

  • Less jello
  • Better light sensitivity
  • Greater dynamic range
  • Less noise

ccd-cmos-peroformance-compare

GoPro, Mobius, Runcam HD are all CMOS camera, and not the best camera for FPV in my opinion (Good for HD recording though). Although they all have video out, but the dynamic range and latency isn’t very good. For a more detail explanation why you shouldn’t use GoPro or Mobius for FPV, check out this post.

Video Output – NTSC / PAL

It really isn’t a big issue whether to use PAL or NTSC nowadays, as they are both supported by most FPV equipment.

PAL-NTSC-map-country

The main different is that PAL offers better resolution, while NTSC allows more frame rate. So if you want to have good picture, PAL is good. But if you want more fluid footage, NTSC does a better job.

PAL: 720 x 576 @ 25fps
NTSC: 720 x 480 @ 30fps

Latency

Latency in FPV camera is important, especially to those who fly proximity and racing. With delay in video feed will result in slow pilot response. Dedicated FPV board cameras are generally much better in terms of video lag, compared to those HD recording camera such as GoPro or Mobius.

However this is not something the seller would indicate on their products, so before making a purchase make sure you find out about this attribute from other users’ reviews.

Video Transmitter and Receiver

Video Transmission is the heart of FPV system. It determines how reliable your video link is and how far you can fly without video cutting out.

5.8Ghz-200mW-video-transmitter

FPV Frequency

Before going into specific products, you need to first understand the frequency these video transmitters and receivers operate on.

The common frequency used in FPV are:

  • 900 Mhz
  • 1.2 ghz
  • 1.3 ghz
  • 2.4 ghz
  • 5.8 ghz

Here is a guide on FPV frequency, explains what the advantages are with each frequency.

Basically the lower frequency has better penetration ability, but they have huge antenna. Note that not all frequency are legal for FPV in every country, check your local regulations before deciding.

The most popular frequency right now is probably 5.8Ghz because:

  • Legal in most countries
  • Small antenna
  • Cheaper
  • Widely available
  • little to none interference with 2.4Ghz radio

Each frequency has a number of channels. for example the 5.8Ghz has 32 channels. It gives the pilots the choice to choose different channels when flying together, so they don’t knock each other’s video out.

Not all video transmitter / receiver can run on all channels, it’s brand dependant. Make sure your VRX matches your VTX.

Video Transmitter Power

You will see video transmitters rated at 25mW or 200mW or 600mW or even 1000mW (1W). The larger the power, the greater the range. But you can’t just blindly choose one with huge power.

First, you need to check if it’s legal to run that FPV frequency at the given power in your country (region).

Secondly, the increase of range is very ineffective with increase in transmitter power. To double your range, the power has to increase 4 times in theory. Let’s say if a 200mW VTX gives you 1Km range, to get 2Km, your transmitter power has to be 800mW at least.

I personally find it unnecessary to go extreme on frequency and power. Many people runs 5.8Ghz 250mW on their mini quad and getting more than 1Km range (with some good antenna). Most people don’t even fly that far out normally anyway. However 5.8Ghz is not so good when there is obstacles in between the pilot and the multicopter, such as trees or buildings.

Antenna for VTX and VRX

When it comes to Antenna for your video transmitter and receiver, there are a few concepts you need to familiarize yourself with first.

  • Antenna Polarization: Circular or Linear
  • Antenna Gain: Directional or Onmi

FatShark-SpiroNET-5-8GHz-CP-Antenna-inside-open

Although VTX and VRX come with stock antenna, they are not the best when it comes to range and can be affected by interference easily. They are what we call Linear Polarized antenna. It’s recommended to get circular polarized antenna for your FPV system for optimized performance. Check out this tutorial on why circular polarization is better.

Directional antenna has even further range, but you have to point your antenna towards the multicopter at all time (bad signal when your copter is on the far left/right or behind you). For more detail, here is a guide on how antenna gain affects range in FPV.

Types of Antenna

There are many types of antenna used in FPV, I will list the most popular and common types of antenna.

  • Onmi Directional Antenna – This include the stock whip antenna that comes with your VTX or VRX. They have equal range from any direction, and they are very easy and cheap to make.
  • Cloverleaf and Skew-Planar Wheel – These are circular polarized antenna usually with a small gain. When you look at the 3D range diagram, it appears to be a doughnut shape, less range above and below the antenna, but further range all around it horizontally.

cloverleaf-antenna-wire-soldering7 cloverleaf-antenna-range

helical_antenna_5_8_fpv patch_antenna_5_8_fpv

Antenna Connector Type – SMA and RP-SMA

When choosing antennas for video transmitter and receiver, make sure the type of connectors are compatible. Check out this post for the SMA / RP-SMA differences.

sma-pr-sma

FPV Goggles / Monitors

Many people get stuck when choosing FPV goggles or monitors. FPV goggles are way more expensive than a monitor, that’s why when I started, I was using a cheap LCD 7′ monitor that lasted a year before I upgraded to a proper FPV goggles.

7-LCD-Monitor-Screen-fpv-stand

I really enjoyed flying with my monitor, I could switch between flying Line of sight (looking at the multicopter), and FPV easily, especially useful for landings. But I enjoy flying with a pair of FPV goggles even more, as I am able to see things more clearly, and feels more in control. Also a pair of goggles is easy to carry around, the battery last a lot longer than the monitor, and isn’t affected by sun light at all.

FatShark-Dominator-HD-goggle

Apart from price, it’s also a personal preference. Some people enjoy the immersive flying experience with FPV goggles, but some might find it causing headache, or feeling uncomfortable wearing them. Also eye conditions could affect your usage of goggles.

If you are interested in goggles, it’s best to borrow a pair from your friends, and try it on before making the decision. Check out this FPV Goggles comparison for more technical information.

Tips for shopping Monitors

If you decided to go for a monitor, I think there are a few things you should look at:

  • Correct video Input: make sure the monitor supports AV input, that works with your video receiver.
  • Input Voltage: make sure the monitor can be powered by 2S or 3S LiPo.
  • Features: some comes with built-in VRX, DVR, they are no necessary but would be useful.
  • Size: I think 7 inch monitor is pretty good for FPV, it’s not too bulky to carry either. Of course larger monitor gives you better image detail.
  • Brightness and Backlight: important if you are expecting to fly under the sun. Although you could use a sun shield, it won’t block the light completely and you will still have trouble seeing the screen if it’s not bright enough.
  • Blue Screen: When losing video signal, some monitors just turn blue screen (or black). This is considered not suitable for FPV, what you want is a screen that shows static when signal is gone. That’s because sometimes you might still be able to make up a vague image from it which lets you to turn back or do your stuff.

OSD – On Screen Display

An OSD is used to overlay flight information about your multicopter into your FPV live video. This is totally optional, but having flight data like battery voltage, GPS information, speed, altitude and so on would be extremely useful.

MINIM-OSD minimosd-kv-mod-connection-naze32-d4r-ii-rx-fpv-camera-vtx-setup

For example on all my quadcopters, I have an OSD to report at least the battery voltage level, so I know when I should land.

Here is a complete OSD guide for beginners.

Input Voltage and Voltage Regulators

You need to make sure your FPV equipment is powered by appropriate voltage. Most FPV equipment input voltage are rated for 12V these days. If you are powering your quadcopter with 3S LiPo (11.1V), you can also power your FPV systems directly with your main battery.

voltage-regulator

However if you are running 4S LiPo or more, you can power your FPV gear with a separate 3S LiPo, or you can use something called ‘Voltage Regulator’, to step down voltage (from 4S 16.4V to 12V for example).

LC Filter (Power Filter)

Motors generate a lot of noise in your power system. If you are powering your FPV gear with same battery, the noise could get into your video transmitter and camera, which results in jumping white lines across the footage. It’s especially obvious when you throttle up.

lc-power-filter1 lc-filter-circuit

LC filter (aka power filter) is used to reduce noise in power supply. They can be bought ready made, or you can DIY your own power filter.

FPV Tips and FAQ

Video Switcher

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

fpv-video-switcher

 

It’s especially useful for those who are flying with their FPV camera, but also want to occassionally check what you are filming with the HD camera.

Video frequency conversion!

Some FPV goggle has built-in VRX that only support 5.8ghz, if you want to run 1.3Ghz or 2.4Ghz, you can make a box that connect up 1.3Ghz VRX to 5.8Ghz VTX for conversion.

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.

Where to put my FPV components on the model?

Generally speaking, place your VTX antenna as far away from other antenna as possible, e.g. your RX antenna, your GPS antenna.

What is Jello I hear about everywhere?

Jello is the effect where vibration gets into the camera from maybe your motors, propellers, or simply badly tuned quadcopter.

You might not observe jello when flying FPV, but horrified how much vibrations you have in your recorded HD footage. This is because it affects CMOS type cameras more than CCD camera due to how camera shutter works.

What to do with FPV camera audio?

If you are not using it, simply ignore it, or cut the wire off.

How to learn flying FPV?

Someone asked me what the best way is to learn flying FPV. Some might assume they have to become really good at LOS (flying line of sight), before they start FPV. Personally I find LOS and FPV two very  different ways of flying. Once you master the basic control with LOS, you can move on to FPV if you want.

Also Quadcopter Simulators really help beginners pick up the basic skills quickly, and reduces the cost of broken parts due to silly errors. Here are a list of RC Multicopter simulators.

That’s all

Hopefully this article has helped clear up some of the basis of FPV flying. Do your research, ask questions, make sure you understand it before buying.

Feel free to joinour facebook group: www.facebook.com/groups/Copter.Fans/.

18 thoughts on “FPV Guide for Multicopters | First Person View Bible

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. Joshua

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

    Reply
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. 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
  11. 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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Are you Robot? *

I don't look at blog comments very often (maybe once or twice a week), so if you have any questions related to multirotor please post it on this forum IntoFPV.com... You're likely to get a response from me faster on there.