So you are new to FPV drones and wondering where to start? You have come to the right place! This is the first tutorial you should read on this blog, it explains the basics of buying, building and flying an FPV drone for beginners.
The Short Answer
I strongly recommend going through the whole tutorial, but if you are feeling impatient, here are the steps to learn about flying FPV drones.
- Step 1: Buy a radio for flying in FPV simulators (see my radio recommendations here, they all support sims)
- Step 2: Download and practice in an FPV simulator of your choice (see my FPV sim recommendations here)
- Step 3: Spend 10+ hours in the sim. Meanwhile, learn about all types of FPV drone and flying style and decide what’s right for you
- Step 4: Build or buy your first FPV drone or beginner drone kit, ideally something durable. Get 100+ crashes under your belt before seriously investing in something more premium/expensive would save you money
If you need help, don’t hesitate to ask. Just comment down below, google it, or use our forum “https://intoFPV.com“. Get someone experienced to go over your parts list before ordering will potentially save you a ton of money down the road.
What is FPV drone?
FPV stands for First Person View.
An FPV drone is a type of drone that is equipped with a camera that streams live video to a set of goggles worn by the pilot, giving the pilot a real-time “first-person” view of the drone’s as if they were sitting in the cockpit of the aircraft while controlling it on the ground.
FPV drones are commonly used for racing and freestyle flying, as the pilot can navigate through obstacles and perform aerial manoeuvres with greater precision and control than with a line-of-sight view. They are also popular for aerial photography and videography for capturing unique and cinematic footage from perspectives that would be difficult or impossible to achieve with other types of cameras. The pilot can see exactly what the camera sees in real time and adjust the camera’s angle and settings accordingly.
To fly an FPV drone, the pilot wears a set of goggles to view the live video feed from the drone’s camera. The pilot then controls the drone’s flight using a remote controller with joysticks. It’s almost like playing a video game, but if you crash in the game, your PlayStation isn’t going to hit your lounge wall at 100MPH! 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 manoeuvrability of an FPV drone make it a truly sensational experience.
More and more FPV drone pilots are now flying on a professional level (racing, videography, etc), but the majority of us just fly them on our days off as a hobby. The FPV drone hobby has a strong and friendly community. The hobby provides a great opportunity for liked minded people to connect together and share knowledge and experience.
With the help of this guide, you will learn how to build a drone, how to choose components and repair it. You will also learn how to fly your FPV drone and tune it to perform exactly the way you want it to. Building and tuning an FPV drone can be a challenging and rewarding technical experience, as it requires knowledge of electronics, mechanics, and software. The hobby can provide a great opportunity to learn new skills and problem-solving.
How Much Does FPV Drone Cost?
Getting into FPV drones is cost-comparable to DJI camera drones. Here are some estimated costs for building a basic FPV drone and getting all the needed equipment:
- Radio controller + Simulator: $100-$300
- FPV Goggles: $100-$700
- FPV Drone: $100-$400
- Batteries, charger & other accessories = from $100 to $400
So the total cost of building an FPV drone can range from around $400 to $1800 depending on the quality and performance of the components you choose. I showed example of one of the cheapest builds you can get in 2023 (with decent quality components and equipment) in this post.
If building a drone from scratch is too much to swallow, there are also complete ready-to-fly bundles you can buy. They include all the components you will need to start flying, might be lower quality and fewer features, but for a much more affordable price. I will talk about this in a bit more detail later in this article.
Practice in Simulators
You can get a taste of flying FPV in a simulator, you don’t need a real drone
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 injuring anyone. I strongly recommend getting some flight time in a simulator (ideally 10+ hours) before buying/building your first drone.
Simulators can teach you the basic controls of a FPV drone and build up muscle memory your hands require. The physics of modern FPV simulators are exceptionally realistic, the transition from a simulator to a real FPV drone is relatively indistinguishable. Additionally, simulators allow you to practice advanced manoeuvres 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.
To fly in an FPV simulator, the first item you should buy is a radio controller that supports FPV simulators. That means USB HID / joystick support that is plug and play without any dongles or adapters.
All my radio recommendations support simulators, so you will be able to use it to fly your FPV drone later on.
Don’t bother using XBox console or keyboard because it’s pointless. Only using a proper radio will build up muscle memory and provide the full benefit of the training.
The Types of FPV Drone
What is a drone?
The word “drone” is being used a lot these days and 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, most “drones” were historically used for aerial photography (AP) and were large with a heavy payload capacity for carrying cameras and equipment.
Here is a list of drones that are commonly seen in this hobby.
What is a multirotor?
The word Multirotor (or Multicopter) covers anything that is a “copter” with more than 1 main motor or propeller. For example, a “tricopter” has 3 motors / rotors, a “quadcopter” has 4, a “hexacopter” has 6 etc. But these are all “multirotors”.
Here are the different configurations of multirotors.
What is a Mini Quad?
A mini quad is basically a small multirotor (more specifically, a quadcopter). But most people just call them FPV drones these days.
Mini quads are designed to be fast, nimble and crash-resistant, so even when you crash you can usually just pick it up and take off again. This resilience gives pilots the confidence to fly faster, through smaller gaps, and constantly push their limits to the next level.
Since this fantastic invention, we’ve seen huge progress in the power of FPV drones, increasing propeller sizes, higher battery voltage, larger motors, all coming together to give insane power-to-weight ratios of over 15:1! Turning these little toys into insane rockets, the fastest racing drone in the world is capable of reaching 180mph(~290Kmh) in a matter of seconds.
What is a Micro Quad?
A micro quad is basically an even smaller mini quad that have 3” or smaller propellers, with a frame size (wheelbase) of 150mm or less. There is no rules really, if it’s small, it’s a micro quad :)
The size of an FPV drone is determined by the maximum propeller size it supports. For example, a 3″ drone is designed to spin 3″ propellers.
5-inch is probably the most versatile type of FPV drone. It has excellent balance between power, efficiency, and agility, and it’s great for both freestyle and racing and even long-range. Components are widely available, and they are physically larger, therefore easier to work with. They are pretty powerful and can easily carry an HD camera such as the GoPro.
A typical 5″ FPV drone weighs around 500g-700g including battery, with an average top speed of 120km/h.
I have tutorials that show you how to build 5″ FPV drone step-by-step: How to Build an FPV Drone Tutorial
Typical build: 4-6S lipos 1000mah-1800mah, 22xx-25xx motors 1600-2800kv
4 inch is the middle child. This category started to get more attention when the 250g weight limit was introduced in some countries, while the 4″ is the biggest size that can achieve that without impacting performance too much.
However when building and choosing parts for a 4″ you have to be careful, because there is no parts that are specifically designed for 4″, and you have to use parts either from a 5″ or a smaller 3″.
This results in the lack of standard when it comes to motor mounts and flight controller stack size. Some frames use 13xx-15xx motor while other uses 18xx-22xx motor. (What’s Motor Size) The same goes for the stack, some uses 20mm stack while other uses 30mm stack (flight controller mounting explained).
Typical build: 3-4s lipos 600-900mah, 13xx-15xx or 18xx-22xx
2-Inch, 2.5-inch and 3-Inch
2-inch and 3-inch are becoming very popular, due in part to regulatory law that makes you register any quad over 250g. The other reason, electronics are getting smaller and more reliable, these small drones can do pretty much anything a 5 inch drone can do (if you are not flying with a GoPro).
Typical build: 2-4S lipos 300-800mah, 13xx-15xx
Tiny Whoops are small ducted FPV drones that are designed for indoor flying. They typically have a 55mm, 65mm or 75mm diagonal motor distances (wheelbase) and weighs around 20g to 30g including battery. Here are what I think the best tiny whoops are currently on the market.
Tiny Whoops are popular because they are small, lightweight, and easy to fly. They are also relatively inexpensive and low ni power, and are often used for indoor racing. The built in prop guards (aka “ducts”) can protect people and your TV from props and let you bounce off stuff and recover. On the flip side, the ducts make them heavier and reduces performance, making them less ideal for outside use and windy condition.
Most people fly them in Angle mode (stabilized mode) and race them that way too, but they’re not nearly as good for flying in Acro – which is the ultimate goal for those who prefer to fly outside and doing freestyle and racing on full size quads.
Typical build: 1S LiPo 300-350mah, 06xx-08xx motors brushless or brushed motor
The ultra-light (or toothpick) class gets its name from the frame looking like a bunch of toothpicks tied together. As you can probably guess, they are not made to withstand crashes, but to get the most performance out of them. But they are actually pretty crash resistant because they are so small and light.
They are also very quiet, as to not annoy people and pets, and when flown on 1 to 3S batteries, typically still pretty safe around people even though they don’t have prop guards.
They can range in performance from “tame” to “extreme” – some of them can approach the level of performance in a traditional 5″ prop mini quad in terms of power to weight and sheer speed.
You can buy one pre-built and I tested a bunch to find out which is the best.
These are 3″ or smaller drones that are equipped with propellers protectors (ducts), and carries an HD camera like the GoPro for capturing cinematic footage. They are designed for slower and smooth flights, not for freestyle and acro flying.
6 Inch and 7 Inch
This category of quad is making a comeback due to the gain in popularity of long-range flying. It is not to say that you cannot use these for freestyle. These quads are not as agile as the 5-inch and tend to be “more floaty”. The components vary quite a bit for this category depending on the style of flying you want to achieve. A 7″ has higher top speed and can carry more payload than a 5″ for carrying a better HD camera or heavier battery pack.
Typical freestyle build: 4-6S lipos 1000-1800mah, 6-7 inch props, and 22xx-25xx motor 1500-2400kv
Typical long range build: 4-6S lipos 1500mAh or li-ion 3000mAh, 22xx-23xx motor 1300-2100kv, equipped with GPS, barometer, 433MHz or 900MHz radio system
X-Class and Beast Class
X-class and Beast class quads are the biggest in this list, and they are similar.
For a quadcopter to be considered an X-Class, the frame size should be between 800mm-1200mm (diagonal motors distance). The props size generally are 9-13 inches. X-class was created for spectators to be more easily see visually during the race. That’s because the smaller 5-inch FPV drones, which most race events are held for, are extremely difficult to view from the stands.
Beast class uses all the same components of an X-class, but it uses a smaller, sub-800mm frame. Beast class is supposed to perform more like a 5-inch quad than X-class.
These types of quads are not recommended for beginners at all. They are expensive to build and maintain, and they are very dangerous. Remember, with great power comes…..
Typically build: 8-12S lipos 4000-5000mah, 9-13 inch props, and 3xxx-4xxx motor.
Octocopter in X8 configuration (just like a quadcopter, but each arm has two motors, so 8 motors in total), usually running 6-8″ propellers. These are designed to carry expensive high end cameras for professional shooting.
What size for you?
As your first build, I strongly recommend building a 5″ FPV drone because it’s the most versatile platform for both freestyle and racing. It’s more than powerful for carrying a GoPro. It’s the most popular size, so it’s relatively easier to get help.
The size of FPV quads have changed quite a bit throughout the years. At the beginning, 6 inch quads were the normal. Then came 5 inch, which became the common face of FPV for a long time.
But as electronics get smaller and regulatory laws change, smaller drones are gaining more and more attention and popularity. The trend now is going smaller.
Of course, there is always exception to the trend. Long range has brought back 6-7 inch quads. And X-class and Beast class have made 12-13 inch quad popular. It is even hard to call the latter two “mini quads” anymore.
Before choosing parts for your FPV drone build, you should recognize what your goal is (what is your flying style). The common flying styles are:
- Long range
- Cinemaphotography (cinematic)
Although not all sizes can achieve all the styles, but people still try.
Freestyle is about free flying and doing tricks. There is no rules to how you can fly, the sky is the limit. And also, the ground, so try not to crash :)
Racing is competing against other pilots flying through a designated course, usually consisting of gates that you have to go through and flags you have to fly around. Get the most powerful parts that can take abuse while keeping the weight to minimum, this is what FPV racing is about (plus the skills).
Long Range is trying to achieve long distance flight. With this style it’s mostly low key cruising, trying to be as efficient as possible by holding throttle steadily to minimize current draw and maximize flight time and distance. Here are some tips to long range flying.
Cinemaphotography in FPV (or cinematic flying) is usually referred to a relaxed flying style without too much acrobatic moves, flying in epic locations such as mountain, over water, car chasing, etc. There is no specific build for cinematic flying, it all depends on the job. Popular builds for making cinematic footage are:
- 3″ Cinewhoop
- 2″ Naked GoPro builds
- Regular 5″, 6″ or 7″ carrying GoPro, using Hypersmooth or Reelsteady for stabilization
FPV Drone Kit for Beginners
This hobby is not cheap. A pair of decent FPV goggles can cost $500+, a good radio setup can cost $250+, an FPV drone $300+… and what if you realize you don’t enjoy flying FPV drone after all?
Introducing complete RTF (read to fly) kits that are affordable, and they come with absolutely everything you need to start flying: the drone, radio, FPV goggles, battery and charger.
I recently reviewed the BetaFPV Cetus Pro FPV Kit and it’s a pretty good setup. Don’t even rush to fly the drone, you can connect the included radio controller to your computer and fly FPV simulators such as DRL, Liftoff and velocidrone. Once you get a hang of it in the sim, you should have no problem flying the Cetus micro drone in the house.
Once you outgrow the Cetus drone, consider upgrading to the Emax TinyHawk II Freestyle, it’s great value and flies pretty well. At this point you will have a perfectly functional FPV setup and a well perform micro quad for outdoor flying.
HOWEVER, the problem with RTF kits like these, as good as they are – is that the goggles and the radio controller lack features and are relatively low quality. They work, but won’t give you the full experience. And you will probably soon outgrow them, meaning you will probably end up spending money again. If you have the budget and are confident that you will stay in the hobby, buy the best possible goggles and radio you can afford, so you don’t need to replace them later.
Should You Build or Buy Your First FPV Drone?
If building a quadcopter from scratch sounds too challenging, there’s an abundance of choice for ready-to-fly quads that perform extremely well. However I do recommend building your first drone for the following reasons:
- Experience and Skills: The skills and knowledge you will learn from building your own FPV drone can enable you to diagnose, repair and upgrade your FPV drone later on
- Budget: Building your own drone can be more cost-effective if you already have access to the necessary tools and parts
- Customization: Every pilot has specific preferences and needs, you can get exactly what you are looking for from picking your own parts
There are cheap DIY kits, which includes all the parts. These kits tend to be pretty low in quality (you get what you pay for after all), but they are good enough to teach you how to build an FPV drone and fly. But if you want quality stuff, get the parts separately following my recommendations.
Building your own drone requires time and effort to research, acquire parts, and assemble the drone. If you have the time and interest in building your own drone, it can be a fun and rewarding experience. However, if you’d rather spend more time flying and less time building, a pre-built option may be more suitable for you. But there’s no perfect pre-built drone, and the closer they are to perfect, the more you have to pay. And, if you break it… you will have to take it apart, learn how to solder and repair it. So even if you buy a pre-built drone, eventually you’ll have to learn how to build.
For these reasons, I would recommend building your first quad. Once you know the in’s and out’s, you can then do whatever you want :)
Whether you are buying a pre-built drone or building it yourself, you should make a shopping list, and have it checked by someone experienced. If you want some advice on selecting components, ask on my forum IntoFPV forum. We have a wealth of experienced pilots and are always ready to welcome new members and answer questions.
Parts and Equipment
- 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, I have a buyer’s guide 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 takes measurements and 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
Additionally you will also need the following equipment to fly your quadcopter in FPV:
- 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
When starting out you can get by with just a few basic 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
There are many other useful tools you can consider to have which will make building and repairing your quads more enjoyable!
This can be tough for your first build. If you are not sure what to get, it’s a good idea to get what’s popular so if you run into problems, there are more people who might have the answer. Do your research and if in doubt, ask on our IntoFPV forum!
Take a look at the gear I use and quads I fly, this might give you some ideas.
The best way to avoid incompatible hardware would be to follow someone else’s parts list. But for hardware compatibility, it comes down to mounting sizes.
There are different sizes for FCs/ESCs, cameras, motors, and props
For FC/ESC, there are three main sizes: 30.5×30.5mm, 20x20mm, and 25.5×25.5mm.
[xxx] FC/ESC sizing diagram
FPV camera sizes differ in width: Full size (28mm), Mini (21mm), DJI (20mm), Micro (19mm) and Nano (14mm). There are some outliers, mostly in the smallest sizes, but those are usually well documented. Which camera size you should get depends on what your frame supports. You may mount other camera size by using 3D printed camera holder.
After you have chosen a frame you should look out for the motor base mounting size. For most motors, it’s 4 screws in a square pattern, measured across (or as a circle measured as its diameter): 19mm (7″ quads), 16mm (5″ quads), 12mm (Ultralight 5″ or heavier3″, 4″ quads), 9mm ( 3-4″ toothpicks), and in a triangle pattern, with the holes spaced 6.6mm apart for whoops/tiny <2″ quads.
There are different types of propeller mount on motor, 5″ or larger quads have a M5 threaded shaft, while motors in micro quads uses T-Mount (a 1.5 or 2mm shaft with two m2 holes on each side), and tinywhoops/<2″ quads may use only a push-on 1 or 1.5mm shaft.
[xxx] props sizing diagram
For smaller components like radio receivers, video transmitters, buzzer and capacitors, it’s pretty flexible when it comes to mounting and it’s situational. You can mount them wherever you see fit using basic materials like zip tie, double sided tape etc.
Electronic parts have a rated minimal and maximal accepted voltage. Majority of the components can either take 5V or battery voltage (e.g. 7V – 36V or it’s listed as a cell count such as 2S to 6S). “Overvolting” may damage component or even cause 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/best-4s-6s-lipo-batteries/
- Charger Recommendations: https://oscarliang.com/best-lipo-battery-chargers/
Getting a Backpack
Get a backpack designed specifically for carrying your drones and all your gear for flying: 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 to configure them because they are running different firmware.
I have tutorials that dive into detail 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 depends 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 available for FPV drone, but it doesn’t matter, just use Betaflight – this is probably what 95% (just a guess) of the people in the hobby use. It’s free, open source, performs very well and being updated frequently. It supports virtually every flight controller available on the market (or should I say most FC are made for Betaflight?). Apart from freestyle and racing, Betaflight has added features geared for long range.
KISS (close source) is another popular firmware that is very easy to setup and flies very well. You will need to purchase KISS specific hardware to use their firmware.
iNAV (open source) is very popular with long-range and autonomous flyers. They do not support as many flight controllers.
I also have to mention Cleanflight. Betaflight branched off from Cleanflight and Cleanflight slowly disappeared.
Every ESC has its own processor and there is “ESC firmware” running on it. The language spoken between the flight controller and ESC’s are 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 are 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 FPV Drone Work?
The Pilot controls the drone using a radio controller which has two joysticks. The stick commands are sent wirelessly to the radio receiver installed inside the drone.
The flight controller takes commands from radio receiver, combines with data from the gyro sensor, and calculate what speed each motor should move
The ESC converts this signal from the FC, and controls how fast the motors should spin, in order to generate the correct thrust desired.
A drone is normally powered by a LiPo battery.
FPV System Explained
In a nutshell, there are 4 main components in an FPV system:
- FPV Camera
- Video Transmitter (VTX)
- FPV Goggles (with Video Receiver)
There is a camera connected to a VTX, and the VTX broadcasts the video feed wirelessly to a VRX which is either built into the FPV goggles, or added to them as an external module.
Inside the FPV drone, there are a camera and a video transmitter (VTX).
Analog vs Digital FPV Systems
Before picking FPV goggles, you should decide on which FPV system you want to pick. It’s not an easy decision, I have a post dedicated to help you decide which FPV system you should get.
There are 4 main FPV systems – analog, DJI (digital), Walksnail Avatar (digital) and HDZero (digital). The digital FPV systems offer 720p feeds (some even offer 1080p), while analog video quality is noticeably worse with static and breakups throughout your flight.
I’ve been flying digital FPV system since the initial release in 2019. Video image quality is so much clearer and sharper, there is no breakup and it’s more robust against multi-pathing interference. If you want the full FPV experience, digital FPV system is the way to go.
Despite lower image quality, analog still offers some advantages such as low cost and the lower latency which is preferred by hardcore racers. Also analog allows for much smaller VTX and antennas, making it more suitable for micro size FPV drones like Tiny whoops.
5.8GHz (5800MHz) is the frequency band that we commonly use for broadcasting the video feed. The frequency we use for radio control is on 2.4GHz, there’s almost no interference between radio and video.
Typically video transmitters and receivers support 40 channels or more. This allows multiple people flying at the same time. Spectators can also tune into FPV drones and watch the actions.
If you crash, you should unplug the battery as soon as you pick it up. If you walk back to your seat with the quad powered on, it will interfere your buddy’s video signal if they are still flying (because your transmitter is now much closer to your friend’s receiver than their own quad is).
Stay line of sight for best signal
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 get weaker 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 and same antenna gains).
Remember that since most mini quad frames are made of carbon fibre, it helps to mount your antennas as far away from the frame as possible to avoid getting blocked (not just frame, but any electronic components for that matter such as your HD camera). Antenna positioning and placement are key.
How to Get Those Beautiful FPV Footage?
You just watched a surreal video on Youtube, and you are wondering how that guy captured those high quality footage.
DVR footage from an analog feed is far from 1080p HD quality, let alone 4K quality. Most of the beautiful footage you see online is usually recorded with a separate HD camera.
The most popular way is to put a GoPro (or similar camera) on the drone with a 3D printed TPU mount. You can also use an FPV camera system like the Runcam Split or Caddx Tarsier, that can record HD videos at the same time.
Lastly, the new kid in town is going digital with the DJI FPV system. With the DJI system, you are seeing HD FPV feed and record in 720p which is still far better than analogue.
Learning How to Fly FPV Drones
Some might assume they have to become really good at flying LOS (line of sight) 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 be able to control your quad in line of sight. 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.
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.
It takes time to relate what you learn on a simulator to an FPV drone in real life. Don’t worry it might take a few days, then it will just click and all of a sudden the sky becomes your oyster!
Don’t Fly Auto-Level Mode
If all you want to fly is a DJI camera drone, or other GPS assisted multirotors, auto level is perfect and it’s fine to just fly like that. But if you want to get into racing and freestyle flying, you have to learn to fly in acro mode. The one exception is flying Tiny Whoop indoors, they are actually flown in angle mode most of the times. That’s why a Tiny Whoop flying indoors is not the best way to learn acro mode.
This article explains the differences between acro mode (rate mode) and self-level mode.
Acro mode might seem hard at first, but once you have learned it you are free to control your quad exactly how you want it. Betaflight has an Acro Trainer mode that will help you get used to Acro without the ability to flip or spin out of control.
Auto level is like a pair of crutches, great if you can’t balance yourself, but try using them while running a 100m sprint! Once you have learned acro mode, auto level will feel like a hindrance, it can also teach bad habits which can be difficult to shake.
While learning how to fly in a simulator, you should also start doing research on quadcopter parts, and plan your build. Move on to the next section to learn more about parts and equipment.
Flying with Other People
As you arrive at the FPV site, first thing you want to do is to work out who is using which video transmitter channel.
DO NOT power on your quad before you get your video channel confirmed, especially when there are other people in the air!
When 2 quads are on the same VTX channel, or when frequencies are too close to each other, one can disrupt the video feed of the other. Interference on 5.8GHz frequency can cause accidents because the image in the goggles can disappear entirely while flying, leaving a pilot “blind”.
Always warn other pilots before you power on your quad.
Even if you are not on the same channel, some low quality VTX can emit power through the whole spectrum on start-up and changing channels. This can cause a split second of interference to everyone else.
Alternatively you can always switch on your video receiver first, and check which channels are being used before you switch on your video transmitter.
With proper equipment and frequency management, normally up to 8 people can fly at the same time, but typically 4 pilots is more common for an interference free race.
Safety Rules for Flying FPV Drones
Safety should always come first.
Remember that these racing mini quads are really FAST and powerful! They can cause some nasty injuries to people and animals, and damage to property. We have zero tolerance for people ignoring safety rules, because it does not only affect the pilot and victim, but also the reputation of this hobby.
- Check your local rules and regulations regarding FPV, RC and Model Flying in general
- Buy Insurance!
- Get a spotter, or a fly buddy!
- Choose your flying location sensibly
- Never fly too close to or above people and animals
- Disconnect battery immediately after picking up the crashed quad
- Do not try to catch a multicopter in mid-air
- Never use damaged LiPo, and dispose of LiPo battery properly
Please also read about this article that explains FPV safety in a bit more detail.
- 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