18 Feb 19
Flying a drone FPV can be an exhilarating experience. Whether you are racing, doing freestyle or just having some fun it is an experience that is vastly different than piloting line of sight. It takes both practice and preparation but is well worth it in the end. I’ve outlined some of the steps in two previous articles How to Fly FPV part one and How to Fly FPV part two. If you haven’t read them make sure you check them out. Hopefully, you have already picked out your transmitter and quad, done some laps in the simulator and you are confident and ready to go. Here’s what you’ll need to do next.
Once you have chosen your transmitter (step one) and picked out your quad (step two) you’ll need to get a few other things dialed in before you are ready to jump into your first FPV race or rip your first FPV freestyle. You will, of course, need a pair of FPV goggles. There are tons of different options and it is definitely a good idea to try a few different options before you commit. You will also need to tune and set your quad up in Betaflight. While I won’t go into everything you need to know about Betaflight there are a few important little things you’ll want to know before you get flying. Let’s take a look at choosing goggles first.
You can’t fly FPV without goggles or a monitor. Full emersion in a pair of FPV goggles takes the experience to a whole new level. Choosing the right FPV set for you can be a bit of a challenge. If possible I highly recommend testing goggles out because everyone has different preferences. Fatsharks are the name most people think of when it comes to FPV goggles and for good reason. Their low profile design and features have made them an industry leader.
However, there are some other options I think people should consider. Box style goggles can be affordable and are often a good place to start. Other people prefer to fly using a monitor, and lots of people ask about using their phone as a monitor. When shopping for goggles I recommend getting something with a DVR so you can record your flights. I also recommend something with a diversity (dual) antenna system for better reception. Here are my top suggestions.
OTG FPV receiver ($20-30)
This tiny little dongle will turn your smartphone into an FPV monitor. If you have a VR headset or some Google cardboard you are on your way to a full FPV headset. There are two big advantages to this avenue. The OTG FPV receiver is probably the least expensive option out there and as you’ll see FPV headsets can get expensive quickly. Your phone screen likely has a much higher resolution than any pair of goggles on the market today. The picture will be limited to the quality (and likely low quality) of the camera but the quality screen will allow the image to be fairly clear. Plus you’ll get a DVR. This is an excellent place to start.
Eachine VR D3 ($60)
The Eachine VR D2 goggles used to be the pair that I’d recommend to beginner pilots. Now the VR D3 goggles have them beat. For around $60 you get a small, compact box style goggle with diversity antennas and a DVR. Not half bad. They telescope in an out for some focal adjustment. While I don’t think they are the most comfortable pair they certainly can get the job done. Their biggest advantage is their low cost.
Eachine EV200D ($299)
The Eachine EV200D goggles are the pair of goggles that I am currently flying with. They are a lower profile goggle and have some serious advantages over box style goggles. The EV200D have two diversity modules. That means they can use up to four different antennas. Because of this the reception is stellar. In fact, at my last indoor event, I had to remove my two patch antennas because I was picking up signals from pilots changing channels in the designated safe room. The EV200D also have a fan to keep them from fogging. Their 42-degree field of view is immersive and their 1280 x 720 screen offers a clear picture. They will work in both 16:9 and 4:3 and have HDMI in as well. You can adjust the IPD and even swap out the diversity modules with compatible Fatshark ones. Right now these are the goggles I’d recommend.
Fatshark goggles ($399-499)
When it comes to FPV Fatshark is the undisputed champion. They have a tried and true lightweight design that majority of the pros use. Fatshark makes a variety of different goggles. I fly with a pair of Dominator V2 and I love them. They are light and comfortable. I use a True D diversity module and it works fantastic. I have also upgraded to some TBS Triumph antennas and a Menace patch. My pair is a few years old and I’m considering upgrading to the Fatshark HDO. The HDO model is their top of the line setup. They have a 960 x 720 resolution with OLED technology giving the user a crisp view. The field of view is a fairly wide 37 degrees. The HDOs have an adjustable IPD and also support diopter lenses. You will still have to invest in a module and the True D is probably the best bang for your buck. It is hard to go wrong with Fatsharks if you have it in your budget.
DJI Race Goggles RE ($549)
DJI does make a set of goggles that will work with both your DJI drones as well as your 5.8 GHz FPV quads. Their Goggles RE are unique in this way. They are the only set that is compatible with DJI drones as well as standard FPV quads. DJI Goggles RE are quite large but comfortable and have a very nice screen and easy to use interface. They look and feel more like a traditional VR headset. I wouldn’t recommend them for an FPV flyer UNLESS you prefer to fly your DJI drones with goggles. With a $549 price tag, they are expensive. They do have a beautiful HD screen and can be used in a variety of different applications but this isn’t likely your best option for flying FPV.
Setting up your quad and Betaflight
Once you’ve picked up all your equipment you’ll want to get in the air. However, before you do it is important to check your settings in Betaflight.
Whenever you are working on your quad make sure you don’t have the propellers attached. Betaflight can be overwhelming but there are a few things you’ll definitely want to set up. You’ll obviously need an arm switch but after that, I recommend setting up a mode switch, turtle mode, beeper and enabling air mode. I recommend that whatever switches you choose you to stay consistent. Make the arm switch the same on every quad. Same with mode, beeper, and turtle. You want all of your drones to be set up the same so you won’t have to worry about what switch does what.
My setup is generally pretty standard. Starting from left to right SA=Turtle, SB=Beeper, SC=Modes, SD=Arm. Do whatever you think works best for you but you’ll want to make it consistent. Make sure you can reach your Arm switch quick and easy and typically it is best as either SA or SD. All of these things can be set up in the modes tab in Betaflight and you will want to make sure that they work properly before you plug in your battery.
Setting up modes is important for beginner pilots. I recommend having them on a three-way switch so you can fly Angle, Horizon, and Acro. Angle mode is the self-leveling mode most pilots start with and I recommend that as the default, or when the switch is in the up position. I make Horizon the middle spot so when you want to fly more aggressively you can but still have the benefits of self-leveling. Acro or rate mode is actually the absence of Angle or Horizon so to enable it you just have to make sure that Angle and Horizon are off. I do this with the third position of the three-way switch (SC).
Turtle mode and beeper mode are two important features that will save you time. Turtle mode will allow you to flip your quad over if you crash upside down. You flip a switch, arm the quad, then roll left or right until it flips over. Then disengage turtle and rearm your quad and you are on your way. It truly is a time saver.
Beeper mode is also a time saver. If you drone has a native beeper then flipping the switch will make the beeper sound and makes it easier for you to find your quad. If you don’t have a beeper on your quad and it is using D-Shot and Betaflight 3.2 or higher you can use the ESCs to beep on command. Don’t underestimate how helpful this can be. Sometimes you think you know where you quad landed but some tall grass or weeds make it difficult to locate. Definitely add beeper mode to your quad.
Finally, I recommend you enable air mode. There are two big advantages. One it makes doing flips and rolls easier by never reducing the throttle to zero. Secondly, I think it is a good safety feature. You will always see your blades spinning slowing when it is armed and I think that makes an incident where you unknowing spin you props less likely. You can enable Air mode in the configuration tab.
A couple of other little things that you will want to consider. Never fly your batteries lower than 3.2 volts per cell under a load. That should be 3.7 or 3.8 volts at rest. So if you are flying a 2S then 3.2 x 2 = 6.4 or a 3S 3.2 x 3 = 9.6. If you push them much harder they won’t last as long. They will also be more susceptible to getting puffy. A puffy battery can be dangerous and should be disposed of safely and quickly.
You will want at least a half dozen batteries. While flight times will vary most FPV quads are power hungry and won’t get much more than 4 minutes of flight time. When storing or charging your batteries make sure you are always around and doing so safely. I recommend using Lipo charging bags and ammo cans for additional safety. Never overcharge your batteries and store them at 3.8 volts per cell.
I really like having all of my stuff together and in one place. There are a few nice FPV backpacks that will make taking your gear out into the field easier. For my TinyHawk, I use this $25 case. Lowepro makes a nice FPV backpack for a little more room and some extra storage but will set you back $125.
I mentioned earlier that I upgraded the antennas on my Fatsharks. That is one way to definitely improve your reception. The TBS Triumph antennas are top notch and I’m a big fan of my Menace patch antenna. Just keep in mind that some circular polarized antennas can be “right” or “left” handed and you need to make sure they also match whatever version you put on your quad. You will also have to check your connectors some are SMA or RP-SMA. Make sure you take a look.
Make sure you check out the first two parts of this article. Flying FPV part one and Flying FPV part two. While I tried to cover the basics there is always more. Please feel free to leave comments or ask questions. Thanks for reading and happy flying.
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