If you have ever been interested in drones or quadcopters, then you have come across the acronym FPV. FPV (First Person View) — first-person view as in computer games. Every day, prices for quadcopters are decreasing and FPV drones are becoming available even in the budget UAV segment.
Flying a drone with FPV, you can literally feel like a bird. That is why this trend is rapidly gaining popularity. Seeing this, manufacturers have increased the production of drones with the possibility of FPV flight. The first-person view gave a big boost to the popularity of drones. Every day the number of people who are already flying or just going is growing.
Prices for FPV drones start around $100. Such drones are mainly needed to familiarize yourself with FPV flights and understand which drone will be next. However, there are two different FPV signal transmission technologies: digital (via Wi-Fi) and analog at 5.8GHz and 2.4GHz. Let’s look at them in detail.
What is FPV?
FPV in the field of drones or drone hobby — This is a real-time broadcast of video from the drone’s camera to the monitor, goggles or pilot’s helmet. In other words, this technology allows you to see what the drone “sees” at the time of flight. To carry out such a flight, a camera, a video transmitter and an antenna are installed on the drone. There are 3 in 1 (AIO — All In One) builds, which in hobby are often used on micro drones like Tiny Whoop. In this case, to implement FPV flight, the pilot needs either a remote control with a monitor and a receiver, or goggles with a built-in receiver.
*An example of an FPV AIO camera.
What is the use of this? First — feel some freedom of flight. Second — FPV allows you to fly a drone over long distances.
With FPV, you can see exactly where the drone is at any given time and navigate its surroundings. After we figured out what FPV is in the drone hobby, let’s look at the most popular video streaming methods.
FPV Types: Digital and Analog
As mentioned above, the transmission of a video stream over the air is implemented by means of a transmitter and receiver, which, in turn, can operate in various radio frequency bands — 900 MHz, 1.2 GHz, 1.3 GHz, 2.4 GHz, 5.8 GHz. In the amateur niche, the most commonly used bands are 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz. And the equipment used for data transmission can be of two types digital and analog. Each type has its pros and cons, but one is clearly better than the other. Let’s take a look at each in turn.
Analog FPV at 2.4GHz
Of the options described in this article, the 2.4GHz analog band is the least popular. The reason lies in the low quality of the frequency for receiving the FPV signal. The video picture at this frequency is more prone to blur and noise. All because of the large number of devices that surround us and operate at a frequency of 2.4GHz. From mobile devices connected via Wi-Fi to microwave ovens. They are all sources of this frequency interference. Accordingly, in the city, flying in FPV mode at a frequency of 2.4 GHz will be problematic.
FPV over Wi-Fi at 2.4GHz (Digital)
*From left to right: One of the options for smartphone holders (installed on the control panel of budget UAVs); One of the options for the budget FPV Wi-Fi camera with a built-in video transmitter and antenna.
The most popular technology through which FPV flight is implemented. It is installed mainly on budget drones. Almost every quadcopter under $100 will have FPV over Wi-Fi. The first reason for the popularity is a cheap Wi-Fi transmitter that is connected to the drone’s camera, the second is that there is no monitor in the package, its role will be played by a smartphone or tablet. In the case of analog equipment, the drone is equipped with an additional remote control with a monitor or glasses.
Therefore, FPV over Wi-Fi is the easiest and most convenient way to fly from the first person to date. After turning on the drone, you need to connect the gadget to a Wi-Fi point and go to the application. The disadvantages of digital technology are the signal transmission distance, limited by Wi-Fi capabilities, a large number of interference sources in the 2.4GHz band, and the biggest disadvantage is the image delay, the farther the drone is from the pilot, the greater the delay value, which subsequently negates all further flight in first person. This method is relevant only for the first acquaintance with FPV and nothing more.
Analog FPV at 5.8GHz
FPV at 5.8GHz is the choice of professionals and amateurs. Pros. Good balance between throughput and range. The delay of the picture is so small that it is imperceptible to the human eye. It is currently one of the best ranges for FPV flying. By default, it is installed on racing drones, since the delay of the transmitted image is optimal for high-speed flights.
The only downside is the price. Due to the additional monitor or glasses, the price is noticeably higher. You will also have to pay extra for a powerful transmitter.
Beginners are advised to start with budget FPV goggles with 5.8GHz analog technology.
FPV over Wi-Fi at 5GHz (Digital)
Broadcasting over Wi-Fi at a frequency of 5 GHz came into the budget niche not so long ago, which made it possible to significantly improve the quality of the video stream and the distance of removal. Therefore, when choosing a budget FPV drone, it is best if the Wi-Fi video transmitter of the model operates at a frequency of 5GHz.
For information: To attract the attention of the user, developers often use instead of the designation GHz / GHz, just “G” (for example, 5G or 2.4G). In fact, this has nothing to do with the fifth generation of mobile communication, but simply indicates that the control of the drone / transmission of the video stream is carried out at a frequency of 5GHz (or 2.4GHz, respectively).
The result is:
- Analog FPV at 2.4GHz legacy technology, almost never used
- Wi-Fi FPV at 2.4GHz is a new budget technology, but the picture is broadcast with a significant delay
- Wi-Fi FPV at 5GHz (5G Wi-Fi) is a new budget technology, the picture is broadcast with less delay compared to Wi-Fi FPV 2.4GHz, in better quality and longer range. The best option for entry-level quadcopters (for toys).
- Analog FPV at 5.8GHz is the best of the three, the choice of professionals and amateurs.
As you know, technologies do not stand still, and first-person flight is gradually entering the professional unmanned hobby, built on a more powerful digital filling, which is far from Wi-Fi technology, and by an order of magnitude outperforms analog FPV in terms of broadcast quality (HD quality with ultra-low latency). DJI Innovations was the first to offer such a digital FPV as a hobby that could compete with analog, with their DJI Digital FPV system FPV kit. The downside of this technology, as always, is only one — price.