FPV stands for First Person View and describes a method of piloting a remote controlled (RC) aircraft by means of a camera mounted onboard the aircraft or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
The camera is wired to a video transmitter that sends the video signal to a receiver, allowing the RC pilot to control the aircraft and various other functions remotely.
Many times the camera is mounted on a gimbal or servo, which allows for a better view of the surroundings. The gimbal stabilizes the camera while the servo(s) (either pan or pan/tilt) improves the range of view.
FPV piloting requires several important skills that will be discussed more fully below.
First, one must be able to fly a regular RC plane or helicopter. If one doesn’t know how to fly RC planes or is just getting into the hobby, it’s best to purchase a small, light, and slow-flying trainer aircraft, such as the Easy Star II.
Although fast flying wings and large, twin motor models may sound exciting, it’s important to start small, light, and slow.
In fact, starting with a plane that is too difficult to fly may cause one to lose interest quickly, and prevent one from advancing to all the interesting technologies after basic RC flight is mastered. An alternative is to purchase a quadcopter, hexacopter, or similar helicopter type aircraft.
The type of starter aircraft depends on a few factors, such as budget, personal preference, and previous experience with RC models. Many manufacturers provide starter RC planes, but the most recommended models are typically the Easy Star II, Skywalker, or Bixler variants.
FPV Electrical Wiring
Once line of sight (LOS) control is mastered, setting up a basic FPV plane is the next step. The same trainer aircraft can be used, but in order to advance beyond the basic ready-to-fly (RTF) store bought models and into the world of FPV, one must learn at least the basics about electric circuits and wiring.
There are many tools and video clips available that show how to create basic circuits useful for setting up a starter FPV system. Basic components such as the FPV camera, transmitter, receiver, and appropriate antennas are the minimum hardware required.
A decent soldering iron, various types of extra wire, and common tools such as wire strippers, electrical tape, shrink-wrap may be come in handy. Others have produced excellent tutorials on basic FPV system setups and wiring diagrams.
This presentation by AliShanMao on FPV system setup has proven useful for many people. Message boards such as at RCGroups and FPVLAB are excellent starting points for understanding the basics of FPV system design.
FPV Antenna Design
FPV antennas. Left: Circularly Polarized; Right: Linearly Polarized.
The FPV antenna, which is installed on the RC plane, allows the video signal, audio signal, RSSI signal, or any other signal to be transmitted from the plane to the pilot on the ground.
In the past, FPV antennas were linearly polarized, but several well-known FPV pilots have developed exciting circularly polarized designs. These circularly polarized antennas allow for long range FPV and improve signal transmission on rainy or snowy days.
Several companies and individuals now sell custom designed and fabricated antennas in several types of polarization. Perhaps the most well known provider of these antennas is ReadyMadeRC.
FPV for You
Whether you are just starting to learn about RC or you have been flying LOS controlled RC aircraft for some time, the world of FPV welcomes all. We look forward to seeing your videos, build logs, and comments out in the community.