What is First Person View
FPV - First Person View flying and Drone Racing
FPV flying is a sport, hobby or commercial practise that makes use of First Person View (FPV) video goggles to help the pilot of an RC aircraft - most notably nowadays a quadcopter or other multirotor (and historically an RC plane, blimp or glider) - experience flight as if they are onboard looking out from the aircraft or ‘drone’ via an FPV system.
First Person View (FPV) systems are comprised of a number elements, including an FPV camera, video transmitter (vtx) and video receiver module, as well as antennae and connectors. Other elements, such as a DJI iOSD mini, can be included to provide the pilot additional flight information in an on screen or ‘heads-up display’ format.
There are various ways that you can set up an FPV system depending on which type of RC aircraft or multirotor you are flying (based on it’s size for exmaple), how far you are flying (there are restrictions in countries such as the UK on how powerful your video transmitter is, which can limit distance from pilot to aircraft: in the UK this is 25mW, but in some cases up to 200mW), or if you are using an analog or digital FPV system.
Traditionally FPV systems were analogue. These were relatively low cost and delivered enough clarity from video transmission for the pilot to navigate the drone without too much interference, if they flew within the correct range. These systems draw power from the drones main battery so FPV flying in most cases does have an impact on flight times, albeit a negligible impact. In addition to FPV video goggles, pilots can also opt to have one or multiple FPV monitors (a separate screen usually attached to the radio controller), that allow them to view (and share) the live video transmission from the main FPV camera as well as additional or alternate camera feeds, such as night vision or thermal.
However, more recently digital systems have been developed that can transmit video feed in HD and this provides a much improved live video downlink either over the 2.4 GHz or 5.8GHz bands. Smartphones are now providing an additional screen with a better quality user experience as they can also integrate with features such as the quadcopters gimbal control and even flight controller, whilst providing a screen for HD (often 720p) live video feed. Smartphone integration is becoming more popular with brands such as 3DR and DJI, whereas other quadcopter manufacturers like Yuneec have opted to build the FPV screen into the quadcopters radio controller itself.
How is FPV used in the real world?
FPV has been used across wide range of drone and RC flying activities; from helping in search & rescue missions and helping to identify missing persons, to more commercial applications such as wind turbine inspections, through to academic fields like archaeology site digs and mapping.
Wildlife Conservation has also be helped by providing those involved a lower cost means to identifying and monitor animals without having to incur the cost and disturbance that a helicopter can create, or in areas and conditions where manned aircraft would find it too risky to fly. You can find out more about FPV and legal flying at wikipedia too.
Drone Racing and FPV flying as a sport
Quadcopters have really ‘taken off’ across the world over the last few years and most notably in the areas of high quality video and nature photography, particularly with brands such as DJI, Yuneec and 3DR investing heavily in developing platforms for both the novice, advanced and professional user. These products are often at the higher end of the price range and integrate with or provide high end cameras, stabilized camera gimbals and intelligent flight controllers to help maintain a smooth flight.
However, on the other end of that scale is the the FPV drone racing quadcopter. Often a much lower cost quadcopter, this is built for low weight, high speed, high maneuverability and with a much more accessible price tag than the DJI Inspire 1 for example.
FPV racing quadcopters are often 250mm sized (but range from 180 to 400) and are composed of lightweight durable materials such as carbon fiber, though some, such as the Gravity 250 frame, are made of High-density polyethylene (HDPE). The Gravity frame is so tough the manufacturers even provide a lifetime warranty! The frames need to be tough as pilots often end up flying at high speeds into a flag, tree or wall.
Watch our FPV Drone Racing Video
FPV or ‘drone’ racing is a fast growing sport in countries such as the USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand and France, to name a few. The US Nationals was the first widely publicised national drone racing event to take place, this happened in July 2015, and this has helped spark similar events in countries such as the UK.
Drone racing provides the pilots a high octane, low to the ground and highly immersive experience. With races courses created out of almost any environment, from derelict buildings through to woodlands, but most organised events take place across a marked track of flags and race gates in a field or large indoor venue.
This low level high paced flight mode is often called the Formula One of the drone world, as it leaves the pilot’s hand shaking from the adrenaline of the FPV experience when travelling through the air at speeds of 60 mph, similar to what one may expect when driving a high performance car or bike.
Many FPV drone pilots use a single FPV camera when racing, but they then also use a secondary camera, such as a GoPro or Yi camera, to record the footage of their flight. Most FPV cameras do not provide the functionality to record what they are transmitting locally, but you can record the video feed in some FPV video goggles or a DVR.
You can also find issues between drone racers flying a 3s or 4s set-up, this is based on the type of battery used but also influences the motors and frame size. 4s is a more powerful quadcopter set up.
FPV racing has become increasingly popular due the accessibility of the sport, where quadcopters can be built as a kit or bought as an ‘Almost-Ready-To-Fly’ product, which then needs additional parts such as the radio controller and FPV system and a battery to get you racing (after some practice of course)!
The rules for FPV and quadcopter flying in the UK
FPV and quadcopter flying in the UK is a great past time or even job (a PFAW from the CAA is required for any aerial work where you are paid for the flight), but there are rules you must comply with to keep your flying safe and legal. You can view information on best practises at our Drone Pilot's Guide.
You can find out more about FPV Systems and kit at our Drone Pilots Guide.
Watch our UK Drone safety and legaly flying video
FPV and Drone Racing Guidelines, Associations and Clubs
For more information about FPV Drone Racing, guidelines and clubs in your local area then why not join up as a member of FPV UK, where your membership also provides you a £5m public liability insurance policy for FPV. Click on their logo below to find out more: