How to get into FPV flight (first-person view controlled drones)

Seeing those awesome FPV videos that randomly pop up in my YouTube recommendations, I wanted to try out this hobby. But it looked like you need tons of technical skills and money to get started. But it is not as bad as it seems!

The sky is not the limit by Johnny FPV

It is not as expensive as it seems (at least as a starter), but you still need to buy a lot of equipment. So before buying all that stuff, try out FPV in a simulator. The two most popular simulators are Liftoff and Velocidrone. The first one looks a lot prettier, but also has higher system requirements. Velocidrone is more accurate and has larger (and more) maps and more advanced features. Have a look at them both, but for beginners, I would recommend Liftoff. If you want the cheapest option, go with FPV Freerider.

Liftoff: FPV Drone Racing

If you own an Xbox controller you can start training right away in the simulator. But if you want a more realistic experience or do not have one, go buy a transmitter. You will need one anyways later. And if you decide not to go into drones, you can always start with RC cars or planes, with that transmitter.

So what transmitter should you buy? Go have a look at Joshua Bardwell’s list. It highlights the downs and ups of the most relevant models really well. I choose the Radiomaster TX16S, since it supports multiple protocols and seemed to have the most features for little money.

Now after you trained a bit in the simulator, you will notice that you get better quite fast. At this point you probably know weather you want to go forward with this new hobby. So lets get into it and buy our equipment.

First, choose your FPV googles. Again, have a look at Joshua Bardwell’s list. I bought the EACHINE EV800D, since it was rather cheap and I did not want to invest to much money yet, because I might want to switch to a digital system later anyways. It also includes a diversity module, meaning you can have two different antennas (e.g. one directional and one unidirectional, like the ones included), and it chooses always the one with the best signal.

The EACHINE EV800D googles.

You can also use your FPV googles together with the simulator, but you probably need some cables/adapter for this. But don’t let it fool you, the image of an actual FPV camera is terrible.

If you want to record your footage, you also need an micro sd card. But do not use one with more than 32 Gb, since I found that when using those the headset will randomly switch off at the worst times possible.

You also need a charger to charge your LiPo batteries.

Prepare to buy some tools and replacement parts in order something brakes and you have to fix it.

The Beta85 Pro 2

Finally it’s time to choose your drone. I can really recommend the Beta85 Pro 2 (make sure to choose the model with a receiver which is compatible with your transmitter), since it flights really well, does not need any assembly and even includes a battery. You can fly it indoors (because the propellers are protected by the frame) as well as outdoors. I had quite some fun with this little guy. Small quadcopters like this are known as “tiny whoops” and fly very similar to larger drones but are cheap and do not break that fast. Before starting with the Beta85 Pro, I bought the Eachine tyro89, because I wanted to assemble the drone myself. But it came with defects parts and the others broke really fast. I basically had to replace every part but the frame and flight controller.

To configure your flight controller (the hardware on your drone that controls it), you are probably going to use Betaflight. Even though the flight controller on the Beta85 comes pre-configured, you still have to calibrate the orientation and link the buttons on your transmitter. There are tons of tutorials out there on YouTube.

Now go out to the field and have fun!

A cutout of the image that you see in your googles when flying a FPV drone.

M. Sc Informatics Student in Munich, Germany. Full-stack software engineer.

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