Get "Into" Your Drone with First Person View


Piloting an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV or simply, drone) is fun, but what about stepping into a virtual cockpit? Drones and other remote-controlled flying machines have always offered an exciting flying experience, but with First Person View (FPV), you can get to be at the heart of the action. A combination of a tiny camera, radio transmission, and a viewing monitor or headset can make for a realistic viewing experience that can completely, and literally, change your perspective on UAVs.

What makes up an FPV system?

An FPV system requires multiple pieces working together. You’ll need a camera, which acts as your eyes, a viewing device, such as a monitor or a headset for viewing the camera feed, and a radio transmitter/receiver set to link the two. So let’s have a closer look at some of the components.



Tactic DroneView 720p FPV Camera with Wi-Fi

The cameras used in FPV systems are usually small. Very small. With most drones (aside from the ones designed to take pictures and videos) aerodynamics and payload are important considerations—not to mention that finding space for a boxy action camera aboard most smaller drones is nearly impossible. Unfortunately, this means that the image quality coming out of these cameras is not quite on the same level as those found on dedicated camera drones. Despite that, it’s not like the feed is going to be recorded for serious video production, and for FPV systems that are predominantly analog, the quality will suffice. Some smaller drones have built-in FPV cameras and transmitters that only require a back-end; however, if you want to customize your own rig, B&H offers a selection of cameras for analog and digital setups.

Radio transmitters/receivers and monitors


Amimon Connex Wireless HD Video Link Receiver

Like the cameras above, quite a few drones already feature built-in radios for relaying video information to a ground unit or compatible receiver. As mentioned previously, the majority of FPV systems currently use analog transmission on the 5.8 GHz spectrum. Since these systems use the same frequency block, compatibility between different drones, FPV systems, and receivers is usually not an issue. If you are putting an FPV system together yourself, ensure that the transmitter you have selected has the correct connections for power and the camera you wish to use.

Receivers come in two different configurations, either built into a display or headset, or a separate unit with a video output. It’s difficult to beat the convenience of an all-in-one monitor/receiver solution, which for the most part, are a plug-in-and-go solution. Though, if you already own a monitor you like, a discrete receiver solution may be the one you want.



FlySight SpeXman One Dual Diversity 5.8 GHz Headset

Viewing options are not just limited to monitors. Many UAV enthusiasts prefer the experience of being inside a virtual cockpit. For that, FPV goggles are available. These goggles are popular among racers and enthusiasts because it’s likely the closest to a “first-person” experience one can get from piloting a small UAV. Some models even have extra features such as DVR for recording your flight sessions. Many models also have built-in wireless receivers for compatible transmitters.



Spektrum Ultra Micro FPV System with Teleporter V4 Video Headset

It is possible to build your own FPV system from parts that you chose and install it on your own. But for those who are less experienced, or if you just want the peace of mind that all the parts will work, out of the box, everything you need to start putting an FPV system together can be found in a kit like this kit from Spektrum. When considering a digital system, a kit is probably the best way to go. Unlike analog systems, digital systems, like this Amimon CONNEX ProSight don’t all use the same standard and they handle the video signal differently. While that may seem like a disadvantage, digital does have its benefits. The main advantage to digital systems is the video quality. While most (if not all) conventional analog systems are stuck in the realm of SD video, digital systems can support HD resolutions for sharper, more realistic video.

Closing notes

Whether you are a racer, an enthusiast, or just a beginner, FPV can really add a new dimension to your drone hobby. But, before you go out and explore the skies, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, I can assure you that your drone or UAV hobby does not exist in a vacuum. Do some research (if you haven’t already) and get in touch with your local RC club. Chances are they have loads of valuable information on UAV and FPV hardware, as well as any local or national restrictions that may apply to that equipment. Some items listed might require an Amateur Radio License. For a brief primer on some of the regulations on UAVs, check out our Explora article Drones and the Law.

Do you think FPV will improve your UAV experience? Tell us how in the Comments section, below.