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What is FPV? Our Handy Guide to First Person View

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What is FPV? Isn't this question lingering around your mind for some time now and you are not getting the convincing answer? Well, we have got so many queries from our readers to write a post about FPV and how it particularly applicable to drone & quadcopters.

The growing passion for UAVs around the globe and continuous technological advancements in the field has brought many revolutionary changes in today’s drone. Whether it is taking crisp and clear aerial images or flying the drone at super fast for racing, nothing is left unachieved. In fact, drone racing is the new trend you get to hear about among the drone enthusiasts.

FPV is one such technology that is been included in the drones that have made drone flying a lot more fun and drone racing a lot safer. So, what is FPV is all about? Well, FPV stands for First Person View and is nothing but a great luxury offered to see the bird-eye view of the surrounding in real time when the drone is flying up in the sky.

I am sure there will be lot many questions going hectic inside your head by now. Don’t worry, we, the drone trends are here to help you.

Here, in this post, we will be talking about the FPV technology of drone in detail – the type of FPV camera to be used, advantages of FPV technology and much more.

What is FPV?

FPV aka First Person View in a drone lets the pilot see what the drone is able to see while flying up in the sky. The pilot can see this real-time video on the ground station’s screen, smartphone screen or use dedicated goggles.

So, in short, you will be sitting in the drone’s cockpit (virtually of course!) and seeing the things from drone’s perspective.

I know I know, the FPV feature definitely makes the whole drone flying experience extremely fun and the immersion effect you get to experience in an FPV drone is too tempting for the true drone hobbyists out there. But apart from fun and drone racing, the game-changing technology has got some serious real-life applications that have made UAVs a lot more useful than being just a toy.

FPV technology in detail

So now it is clear that FPV is the real-time video transmission from drone to the controller. In this section let us see how this actually works.

Basically, an FPV system needs a transmitter, receiver, camera and a display. Out of these the video transmitter and video receivers are pretty much straightforward. Most of the today’s drone feature transmitters that work at a 2.4GHz frequency. There are also some of the quads like Hubsan X4 that work on 5.8 GHz for interference-free transmission.

Also, talking about the display unit, in most of the cases, it will be the remote control’s screen or the smartphone screen. The advanced FPV drones feature a widescreen on their RC with a bright display. Some pilots also prefer using dedicated goggles to enjoy the immersion effect of FPV drone flying. Overall, it boils down to one’s personal preference anyhow.

Immersion effect using FPV goggles

Though some of the users complain that the goggles are often misleading and distracting since they are too fast, there is a big group of goggle fans as well.

Wearing an FPV goggle for the exhilarating flight with an FPV quad is every drone addicts secret fantasy. You will literally have the feeling of sitting in the cockpit, thanks to the total immersion effect provided by the FPV goggles.

Camera for FPV

The main aspect of the FPV system is its camera unit. Here comes the big question - whether to use a dedicated FPV camera or the action cameras that are meant for photography?

Well, this is a serious question and deserves a detailed answer.

For FPV - Dedicated FPV Cameras or Action camera?

There are drones the boast high-end action camera like GoPro, Runcam HD etc. Yes, you can still connect a video transmitter directly to the camera to get the live video feed. In fact, it is quite common that you get to see the live video in case of the aerial photography drones as well.

However, the big drawback of using action cameras for FPV is its latency issue. Though the delay in transmission is as less as 100 to 200 milliseconds and is less significant in case of general flying, believe it is too slow for drone racing. Typical speed of a racing drone would be 45 to 50mph. That means, with the delay of 100 ms, you drone will be 6 feet away from the location comparing to the (so-called) live video you are watching! So there are more chances of hitting the obstacles on the way.

That is why it is advised to use dedicated FPV cameras to enjoy the FPV feature.

With the assumption that you are using a dedicated FPV camera to benefit the most from the technology, we are going to talk about the different type of sensors used in an FPV camera. Do you feel, we are going to go little deeper into the technology here but it is not rocket science after all. I am sure, the true drone enthusiasts will definitely enjoy and benefit from this.

Image sensors of FPV camera – CCD or CMOS.

Most of the DJI quad users must be well aware of the term CMOS since quadcopter from DJI like DJI Spark, Phantom 4 Pro Plus use CMOS sensors for the live video transmission.

Now the immediate question would be what are CCD and CMOS sensors and which one is better?

CCD stands for Charge-Coupled Device and CMOS stands for Complimentary Metal Oxide Semiconductor. This is just for your information. I know, you are not going to write any examination on this but want to beat your buddy in the next drone race!

Now the big difference between these two sensors that you must be concerned is their image quality.

In terms of image quality, CCD sensors are better. This is mainly because the CCD cameras use global shutter and capture the entire image at once. Whereas the CMOS cameras use rolling shutter i.e., they capture images from top to bottom pixel by pixel.

When the drone is flying up in the sky, vibrations are common and hence images from the CMOS camera may have annoying jello effect. You will not face this issue with a CCD sensor. Also, with wide dynamic range, CCD sensors gives detailed images even in too bright and too dark conditions.

We recommend CMOS sensors.

Hold on a second, though the image quality from the CCD sensors is better, most of the FPV drones include CMOS sensors. The main reason behind this is, CCD sensors are expensive. On top of that, CMOS sensors are light in weight and consume less power compared to the CCD sensor. So, an FPV drone with CMOS sensors offer long battery life and will be less expensive.

The other two important terminologies that you often get to hear while talking about drone cameras are - LOS and FOV. LOS is nothing but the Line Of Sight and FOV is Field Of View. In simple words, LOS tells what you can see and FOV is all about how much you can see from the camera.

Please note that in the product specification, the FOV will be specified by the lens focal length in millimeters, not in angles. The below table helps in finding the approximate FOV for the lens with different focal length.

Focal Length FOV

1.2mm 185 Degree
1.7mm 170 Degree
2.1mm 158 Degree
2.5mm 147 Degree
2.8mm 130 Degree
3.0mm 127 Degree

Higher the FOV, you get to see more through the camera’s eye.

Advantages of FPV drone

In case of consumer drones, FPV is mainly used for fun and drone racing. But for commercial drones, FPV is a great breakthrough in the unmanned aircraft technology. Here we have listed some of the practical uses of FPV in commercial drones.

Drones in agriculture

Aerial surveillance of the farmland is quite useful in agriculture for the obvious reason of saving time. Using an unmanned aircraft, one can monitor acres together of land in less time comparing to the manual effort required for the same. Agriculturist can monitor crop analyze the soil quality, examine soil properties and water usage periodically.

The entire task becomes much easier and hassles free. On top of that, maintaining the statistics also becomes a lot simpler.

Drones in disaster management

Resource mismanagement and chaos are quite common during calamities whether it is a man-made or natural calamity. During those tough time, drone helps a lot in managing the situation more accurately. In most of the cases, it is very difficult or almost impossible for humans to go to the place where the unfortunate incidence has happened. Whereas the small-sized UAVs, can easily penetrate into such places and collect the information and pictures of debris with their powerful camera.

Rescue operation using Drones

Yet another challenge, the true race against time – Rescue operation. Drones are useful in such situations where work needs to be done fast and smooth at the same time. With the drone having night vision cameras, it is easy to find and help the missing persons even during night and tough terrains.

Infrastructure improvement

Using drones to ensure the safety of the infrastructure including wind turbines, gas lines, power lines, buildings and bridges under construction are quite common these days.

By now, we think you have understood that the application of drone in a day to day life, starting from drone racing, goods delivery to carrying out serious military operations is simply never ending! Everytime a new technology is introduced in the UAVs, they become more and more useful and relevant in one or the other field.

About the Author Drone Trends Team

This article is brought to you by Drone Trends's Editorial team. Drone Trends team is passionate about drones and quadcopters.

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