FPV HUB

What is First Person View (FPV) for Radio Controlled Flight?

FPV is a method of navigating a remote controlled (RC) vehicle, usually an RC aircraft, by means of an FPV video goggles headset. This allows the viewer to see the direction of travel and perspective from on-board the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) via an onboard camera - connected to the video goggles by wireless video transmitter and receiver modules. First person viewing with video goggles give you a totally immersive experience as the pilot.

The basic FPV equipment requirements are an r/c aircraft, a tiny fpv video camera, a video transmitter, a set of fpv video goggles and a video receiver (although most video goggles now have a built-in video receiver, which makes for a simple wire-free set up).

Before he uptake of quadcopters from manufacturers such as DJI and Team BlackSheep, an electric foamy powered-glider style trainer, with a pusher configuration were popular. These can carry (and accommodate) the fpv payload without a struggle.

The video transmitters must either be on 2.4GHz or 5.8GHz for legal use in the UK. If you use 2.4GHz video gear then you cannot use 2.4 R/C gear and, even if you have 35MHz R/C gear, your video image will be totally disrupted if you fly where other pilots are using 2.4GHz R/C gear.

So if you fly at a club, 5.8GHz is the only realistic choice for your video frequency. But then you need to ensure that the 5.8GHz video gear is on the legal 5.8GHz channels and that the transmitter and receiver are capable of operating on the same channels... You should also pay attention to voltage: most of the purpose-built fpv video tx/rx equipment works on 5 volts. Some fpv cameras work on 12volts. Filling your model with step-down and step-up convertors is sure way of creating your own interference.

First person view enthusiasts also often develop the mechanics of their onboard camera, attached to the UAV or Drone (or quadcopter) via a camera gimbal, by means of head tracking module, so that when the user turns their head left to right, up or down, the onboard FPV camera also pans-and-tilts in the same direction with help of the servos and gimbal onboard the UAV.

By use of FPV video goggles, not only does the viewer see the flight path from perspective of the unmanned vehicle, but they can also use the video goggles headset as a means to capture and record digital videos of their flight, with help of an external or, as is more often the case nowadays, an in-built Digital Video Recorder (DVR).

Watch a video here:

Communications between the onboard cameras and goggles is delivered by the onboard transmitters and the ground station (located at ground level) - which hosts the video receivers and other RC modules, for cameras and gimbals etc. The ground stations used to primarily work on analog signals, but with improvements in uplink technology can now broadcast in full HD digital video quality.

Using multiple ground station can increase the quality of transmissions, as having a single ground station focused on video, whilst another is transmitting a RC commands to the camera and gimbal, allows the systems to work most efficiently in their given bandwidth and transmission strength level.

This type of multiple ground station implementation also allows a pilot to control the navigation of the drone, whilst another operator manages the control of any cameras and gimbals for video recording and photography, ensuring both safe flight and at the same time, achieving optimal image capture opportunities.

As each receiver requires an antenna, this then gives the opportunity to use higher gain (effectively more sensitive) antennas. Higher gain antennas can be flat panel or Yagi style. But as the gain increases, so the radiation pattern becomes narrower - which essentially means a high gain antenna needs to be pointed at the part of the sky where the model is flying. So some fpv pilots will use two panel antennas, one pointing ahead and left, the other pointing ahead and right, thus covering the flying area to be used. Or one panel pointing upwind where the pilot wants to fly, with an omni antenna on the other receiver to cover circuit flying. And there are countless other permutations including having a high gain antenna on pan and tilt mount and some gadgetry that enables 'antenna tracking' so that the antenna is always pointing directly at the model.

DVR recordings of flights are becoming ever more popular with users as the FPV experience moves from the niche hobbyist remit to the wider consumer market as drones become more reliable, robust and easier to use. This has also seen uptake from businesses for commercial video production, couriering, surveying, mapping and other various implementations.

When in use it is recommended that the pilot does not fly a UAV on FPV alone, as this leaves risk of limited view of the total airspace, so a co-viewer is often in place to monitor the drone's vector, aided with help from an FPV monitor and/or binoculars.

One of the leading brands of FPV video goggles for consumer are Fatshark, who have a range of FPV goggles developed specifically for RC vehicle FPV (as an alternative to other 'video glasses' that may be used for entertainment purposes, such as viewing films or playing video games). Fatshark are one of the market leaders in FPV goggles and have been in the market since 2004.

An FPV monitor, as seen here from Vonista, is also often used instead of FPV goggles, or in addition to goggles as a back-up tool.

History

Not directly linked to FPV, but the concept of remote flight, aided by use of technology, dates back to WW1, where records indicate the development of glide bombs by the Germans as the first iteration of weapons that we controlled using fly-by-wire methods. In WWII this was developed to RC missile management where the implementation of screens were used to guide anti-shipping bombs to their source.

Some online resources cite the beginning of FPV around circa 1999 in the US. The technology was limited at this time and was not designed for purpose, as is the case nowadays, but rather developed by users in their workshops from spare parts and monitors that were developed for non-flight purposes.

A French Canadian named Denis Gratton was the first to get a working system flying, and his videos were the catalyst that kick-started the whole movement.

Around 2007 Chris Anderson of Wired Magazine created what was to become one of the most popular drone information websites, DIY Drones, which also hosted a community forum around a range of related FPV and drone building subjects in the US.

In the UK the trend started to gather pace when companies such as FirstPersonView.co.uk started to develop a solution based on FPV gear from a number of specialists companies that were looking at new product development specifically for the purpose of FPV flying. FirstPersonView went on to sell the first ever complete FPV system in 2010 and the market has taken off from there.