An Introduction to FPV

by | Jan 19, 2015 | FPV, theory | 0 comments

We all know humans can’t fly. Our bones are far too dense and flapping our arms does not produce adequate lift to overcome the pull of gravity, but luckily we can use technology to give us the experience of flying. I’m not talking about flying in airplanes though, or a hang glider, or jumping out of airplanes, or using a zip line. We can actually use multirotor aircraft to give us the impression of flying using a technology called FPV. I think “flying” with an FPV-equipped multirotor is even better than any of the aforementioned technologies though because multirotors are infineitely more agile. Flying with FPV is more like being a bird and less like being thrown through the air. It is an amazing, and very fun, technology.

This page is the start of a series of posts I am going to write about FPV technology. This page gives an introduction to the technology. Later posts will discuss selecting all the many components necessary for an FPV setup, adding FPV to a multirotor, and flying with FPV. For now though, let’s start on this complex subject by building a firm foundation of introductory knowledge.

What is FPV?

FPV stands for “first person view.” It is a video technology that allows the pilot of a remotely-control vehicle to see as if they are onboard the craft. In other words, FPV allows the pilot to watch a video feed and feel like they are in the cockpit.

Flying FPV is really useful for many applications, from racing, to exploring volcanoes, and much more. If you are daring enough to risk crashing your quadcopter really hard into a tree, multirotor racing is a great experience that many mutirotor pilots enjoy. Otherwise, you can just fly around interesting settings like in the video below:

Below is a fantastic video showing several shots of how it looks to fly FPV, this time in a very extreme setting. You can see how amazing flying FPV is; it really lets you see the world from a perspective that would certainly be impossible for humans to achieve without the technology. Aside from the FPV shots, I think this is a great video showing the amazing applications for which multirotors find a use.

Before you start with FPV

FPV flying is an advanced, and difficult to master, multirotor technology. Even though it might seem like flying with a first-person perspective would be easier than flying while watching the multirotor from the ground, in many ways flying FPV is actually more difficult. Successful FPV flying requires knowledge of all sorts of different systems:

  • electrical power systems
  • videos systems
  • wireless video transmission systems
  • optical systems
  • camera stabilization systems
  • safety systems

Besides knowledge of these many multirotor systems, you will also need to be highly familiar with your multirotor’s capabilities and its limitations.

Aside from all that, FPV is expensive. The FPV equipment alone can cost more than some entry-level multirotors; the absolute bottom end of the price range for FPV systems is around $100, but more sophisticated systems can easily run up to $400 or more. Many pilots use GoPro cameras for both FPV feeds and video recording, those cameras cost at least $300 all by themselves. The point of this is that you should also make sure you are a good pilot before getting into FPV. You don’t want to crash into a tree and destroy a $300 camera.

All of this might sound a bit daunting, but if you have enough experience with multirotor aircraft to know the technology well, and if you are a good pilot, FPV can be an extremely rewarding addition to the hobby. The feeling of seeing the world like you are flying high in the sky is nothing short of amazing. I personally love flying FPV, and many other pilots do as well, so I would highly encourage you to give FPV a try.

There is one more really important thing to know before you get started with FPV:

Getting an FCC License to Fly FPV

If you intend to fly your FPV-equipped multirotor in the United States, you will almost certainly need to get a license from the FCC. I am not an expert in law or governmental regulations, but from everything I have read, almost every FPV system, and all the ones I write about on this site, will require you to get an FCC amateur radio license to operate lawfully. Don’t worry though, getting a license is easy, and it does not take long. Nevertheless, I think the subject is worthy of its own post. To find out more about getting a FCC license to fly FPV, check out the aptly named, Getting a FCC License to Fly FPV post.