First, let me open by saying that FPV is not easy and requires time and effort for true success. However, those who put in the effort are rewarded with an exciting new hobby. Understanding your aircraft and FPV system is important to getting the most out of your FPV experience. If you are impatient, easily frustrated or discouraged, know that the keys to answering your questions can likely be found in this guide or our instructional videos. Truly successful FPV flying requires knowledge of all sorts of different systems including:
Wireless transmission systems
Standard DC circuits
Electric power systems
Luckily, if you already fly an RC airplane, three of those items are at least somewhat familiar. In this guide, I will try to cover all of them. So what exactly is FPV? FPV or first person video (or first person view, your choice) is a method of flying a model aircraft, helicopter or multicopter via an onboard video camera. It gives a different perspective of the flight of the model. The pilot now sees directly from the aircraft, instead of as a third party observer. Some pilots fly this way for the great aerial views. Some fly it because it feels more like actually flying a real airplane. And a select few (including myself) do it because it is a challenge to be conquered. It’s this third group that is generally the most successful in their ventures.
What is all that equipment?
Really, the FPV “gear” is little more than a wireless security system fitted to an airframe. Granted, there is much modification involved and quite a few extra “accessories” are available specifically for the purpose of FPV, but almost nothing is new technology. The cameras and transmitters are analog. The cameras are basic CCD cameras. The airframes are just typical flying models. The only new technologies out there are the autopilot systems and antenna trackers. We will get into these in the advanced section. So how does it work? It’s quite simple. Your onboard camera is connected to a video transmitter which transmits the video back to a receiver. The receiver decodes the signal and sends it to a viewer (whether goggles or a TV screen) where the pilot watches the flight in real time.
Choosing your airplane
By far the most popular airplane type is the pusher prop plane. This puts the propeller behind the camera giving an unhindered view of the world in front of you. Some pull their cameras back a bit to put their nose in view so it feels like they are inside the plane, other stick the camera right on the nose so there are no obstructions. Flying wings are a great example of a pusher ship. However a flying wing is perhaps the worst choice for a beginner due to control difficulty.
Having a prop out in front isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For some, seeing the spinning prop gives a more realistic feel to the plane. Also it may be necessary for flying powered gliders where the prop opens up and takes up much of the video screen. The third option is the twin motor. Twin motors tend to be powerful, stable pattern ships. They are not necessarily easy to fly, and thus I recommend these for more experienced pilots or as a second FPV ship.
Some common airframes:
Multiplex Easy Star (also called and EZ*)
AXN Floater Skywalker (EZ* clone)
Multiplex Funjet (advanced pilot only)
Parkzone Stryker (Advanced)
Falcon EPO (advanced/intermediate pilots)
RiteWing Zephyr (advanced pilots)
GWS Slow Stick
Multiplex Easy Glider
Multiplex Twin Star (intermediate)
Eflite P-38 Lightning (advanced)