Hello folks, this is my introduction to my FPV configuration and some general FPV information. As you saw in the last post a nice video showing on-board recorded video, and also FPV video.  I found that particular video after deciding on doing FPV and ordering some equipment, there are many great FPV videos on the net on Vimeo and You Tube.   FPV is First Person View, which means you fly the model aircraft, boat or car as if you were actually inside of it. I have done on-board video before with a helicopter and camera rig. One person flew the helicopter while the other ‘flew’ the camera mechanical undercarriage and shot video but never FPV flying, it should be fun!

NOTE: all links in this post open in new windows or tabs, you will not be lead away from this site.

The systems usually consist of the following components in addition to the normal R/C and power equipment.

  • Small video camera on the vehicle
  • Video/Audio transmitter on the vehicle (usually 900Mhz, 1.3Ghz, 2.4Ghz or 5.8Ghz)
  • A compact On Screen Display (OSD) which merges vehicle information onto the video such as GPS info, battery info, motor, temperature, signal strength, battery consumption, etc.
  • Video receiver (sometimes two attached to two different antenna types for better reception)
  • Video display (television, video goggles, laptop, etc)

With these basic components above you can build and FPV flying/driving system. More advanced systems include features such as the following.

  • Head tracking for video goggles.  The camera on the plane will pan and tilt in response to the movement of your head so you can ‘look around’
  • Diversity video switch or diversity receiver for switching between to the receiver which has the strongest signal
  • Digital video recorder for recording your flights, could be a purpose built DVR or a laptop with capture device
  • GPS system for OSD. The GPS allows the OSD to show location, altitude and speed. Some OSDs allow the GPS to be used for limited autopilot to return the aircraft to home and orbit in local airspace if radio signal to controls are lost and also for setting way-points and displaying them on screen like a satnav for a car, sort of!
  • Autopilot systems for planes are available on more advanced systems, but this moves into UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) territory and is not necessarily limited to first person piloting.

As you can see there are many options available. For my personal system I have gone with the following equipment (prices in USD on 3/25/2010)

Main Video Equipment

Flight Data / On Screen Display (OSD) Equipment

Video Transmitter and Flight Data Equipment Batteries

Test Aircraft

Additional Flight and Video Receiver Batteries from HobbyKing (for existing heli/biplane and new Skyfun jets)

Progress So Far

I have received the video components (camera + accessories, 900Mhz 500mw video/audio transmitter, dual output receiver, Trimersion goggles) from DPCAV, HobbyWireless and the video goggles from ‘SafeSeller’ on eBay. All items arrived very quickly in good condition.

I experimented with the video goggles watching movies on my DVD/Blu-Ray player and also played with them a bit on the PC in BattleField Bad Company 2 (videos contain bad language). The head tracker works like ‘mouselook’ so it worked pretty well with that game, but ultimately the resolution on these affordable goggles is only 640×480 and it is very hard to make out targets you are shooting at.

Tonight I started hacking into the Trimersion goggles for my purposes. I will post a separate blog entry on these goggles and my progress hacking those over this weekend.

There is quite a bit of good information about them on RCGroups.com (create an account and search on ‘Trimersion’). Information such as hacking them for your own radio equipment, stereo (3D) vision, improving the existing built in video/audio Tx/Rx for you FPV purposes, if you wish, and so on. There are many other types of goggles of varying price as well and if you search for ‘FPV video goggles” on Google you will get many results. Another very good resource for FPV Information is FPV-COMMUNITY.COM there are many European posters who work with limited output power but have great solutions, great airplanes and a ton of great FPV videos. Make sure you bookmark the site.

HAM / Amateur Radio License (USA)

There are FCC regulations regarding all of the RF equipment you use. It is particular important to note that some video downlink transmitters will require an Amateur Radio license for use. Video transmitters which offer multiple channels to select from may not be permitted in the US since they can operate outside of the amateur radio bands(frequency ranges). You will find many dealers in the US only sell single channel video transmitters.  Several years ago a dealer was cited by the FCC for selling Unauthorized RF devices.

It is your responsibility to determine if you require a license from the FCC in order to transmit on the frequencies you will be using, at the power levels you will be using. I will also cover more of this in a future post.

There is good news however, the Technician class license should be all you need to use higher power transmitters. To qualify you need to go to a local testing location with a drivers license or equivalent ID and $15 and take the test. I would highly suggest doing some studying on the material first though. The questions involve general knowledge questions, questions about electronics and questions about RF and basic practices. Most people should be able to pass these if they study. You do not need to know morse code.  Once you pass the test your information will be sent to the FCC and your HAM callsign assigned to you, once you’ve got all that done, then you can legitimately use the equipment. $15 bucks to legitimately do higher power FPV is a good deal. This also opens you up to using different bands for your R/C Control radios and use specialized equipment without risking trouble.

While it is quite possible to buy and use the equipment without proper licensing, it is also illegal and threatens the general hobby and continued availability of this equipment to hobbyists. Those who are not able to self-regulate within a hobby risk the government taking over the regulation and making things very difficult for everyone who wants to explore this part of the hobby.

For more information please go to the “Amateur Radio Relay League – the national association for Amateur Radio” web site to find study resources, sites with sample tests and other information you may be seeking.

Tags: , , , ,