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I'm approaching the drone world and I'm studying the basics before buying the first one or attending a course.

I would use them for personal pleasure, not for work nor for racing or group flying. But I'd love the FPV way to fly them. Most of the drones on the market have a smartphone holder on the remote so you can see the video stream in real-time when flying.

I'm also aware that you can put the smartphone inside a "headset" (like the ones for VR). Hence, if I'm not wrong almost any drone can be used with an "FPV" approach.

What I'm asking here is if my assumption is correct, or perhaps there are drones specifically built to be flown in FPV. Again, I'm not interested in racing or acrobatic features.

I'm thinking for example about the latency of the video streaming: if I fly keeping an eye on the drone I can live with some latency, but if I rely on the camera only I guess the latency should be as low as possible.

Bottom line: can I pick up any drone out there or should I pay attention to some specific features?

UPDATE

After the very useful information I received now I better understand the scenario, so I have to update my question - hoping to not going off-topic.

My final use of the drone is for surveillance on my farmland and helping with farm works. I thought FPV was the best choice because I would "feel" flying above, but now I'm not sure if I was right.

So any hints about this application (specifically about the FPV topic) are gladly appreciated.

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I'm not sure I entirely understand what you're specifically asking about when you say "is FPV a category of drones", but here's my answer:


Fundamentally, all FPV (First Person View) means is that the pilot maneuvers by using some sort of camera feed from the drone. It is true that this often requires that the drone have special hardware (e.g. camera and VTX) to support this feature, but I wouldn't say that this means FPV represents a special subset of RC aviation.

For example, FPV flight is one of the core tenets of RC multirotors (including quadcopters) and it would be difficult to find a modern commercial or hobbyist multirotor aircraft without the ability to easily add hardware to support FPV. (assuming it isn't already supported "out of the box" and excluding ultra-cheap models for <$50 USD)

I don't think you've really described whether you're interested in purchasing a Ready-to-Fly (RTF) model or assembling your own from parts, so it's hard to make more specific recommendations as to what to look for in product listings. Generally, though, FPV is a major selling point for any drone, so it likely isn't supported if not explicitly mentioned in the product listing.

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  • $\begingroup$ Sorry for the missing information. I was going to find an RTF model but as an electronic engineer I'm very interested in assembling my own as well. My budget is > $500 so I guess there are chances to find a suitable model that supports FPV. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Dec 29 '21 at 8:15
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ifconfig's answer is probably what you're looking for, but I thought this might help answer your question: FPV is more a category of drones than a way to fly them.

For example, you can fly any drone (speaking generally) smooth and slow, or perform sharp maneuvers, depending on what you feel like. Regardless of how a drone is built or what type of components you have, you can fly it in a great variety of styles.

The category of drone, on the other hand, is something that is specific to the drone and is not dependent on how you fly. A cinematography platform has a professional camera and is usually large, a helicopter has fewer rotors than a quadcopter, and an FPV drone has the capability to stream video to a first-person view monitor. None of these things necessarily limit how you can fly, they only categorize the drone by what components it has.

The fact that a drone has FPV capability doesn't dictate whether you can fly it around trees or just in a straight line, it only means that the drone has certain components that put it into the category of "FPV". Hence why FPV is more a category of drones than a way to use a drone.

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I'd say that yes, it is a category (although you can also FPV a plane or car too)

IMHO, FPV (or race) drones have fixed cameras and are flown entirely by the camera.

The alternative are photography drones, which have a gimbaled camera. The gimbal isolates the camera from the movement and attitude of the drone, which gives steadier video and the choice of camera direction, but it means that half the pilot's effort goes into aiming the camera and the attitude of the drone is not intuitive. As as result these drones need a GPS and barometer, and a flight controller that positions the drone relative to these inputs. That makes them easy enough to fly that you can concentrate on aiming the camera and framing the shot.

This gives a very different flying experience. With an FPV drone you tell the drone "pitch forward at 10 degrees per second" until you judge that it's at the right angle, then you tell it to hold it's attitude while it speeds up, and you adjust the throttle to maintain height and the other controls to steer. With a photography drone you just tell it "fly north at 10mph" and it works out what angle is required and compensates for cross winds. The experience is more like being a movie director than a pilot.

That different flying experience has led to two very different hobbies. FPV for the fun of flying, and aerial photography.

Of course, you can fix a gimbled camera and fly it FPV, but it's an expensive and fragile way to do it. Similarly lots of FPV drones have HD cameras and take nice video, but they are limited in the angles they can take, and typically built for speed and power (and strength) rather than duration.

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Your question might not be too much related to the aircraft, but more about the level of the gimbal movement freedom and controllment.

Here is the phenogram diagram for your reference.

UAV -- Hardware -- Quadcopter -- With Gimbal & Camera -- Gimbal mode: Free
                                                      \_ Gimbal mode: Follow
                                                      \_ Gimbal mode: FPV (Locked mode)

The most freedom of camera operation is the first type. To operate this type of drone, you may need a second operator, whose role is to be responsible for the operation of the camera movement.

The type of drones is also the most expensive one. It is also a standard to define the professional drone or consumer drone.

Almost all of the consumer drones use follow-mode gimbal in the current market.

And, if you lock the gimbal with the aircraft, it will be like what people say the "FPV mode".

-- Update:

Refer to DJI's terminologies:

Free Mode: Pitch, roll and yaw are all controllable, meaning the gimbal can move independently of the product's yaw. In this mode, even if the product yaw changes, the camera will continue pointing in the same world direction.

Yaw Follow Mode: Pitch and roll are controllable. Yaw will follow the products heading.

FPV (First Person View) Mode: Only pitch is controllable. Yaw and roll will be fixed relative to the product while pitch remains controllable.

Illustration:

enter image description here

As you can see in the illustration, the drones can all be exactly the same, but the camera's gimbal makes different.

A drone that can provide Yaw follow mode can also provide FPV mode, but a drone with FPV mode gimbal cannot provide the Yaw follow mode.

This is because the drone with FPV mode gimbal has only one degree of movement freedom in its gimbal.

Just a quick comparison

enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ Interesting, thanks! May you just describe a little bit more the "follow" mode? I'm not sure to fully understand how it works. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Jan 16 at 8:12
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    $\begingroup$ I've updated with DJI's terminologies as above. $\endgroup$
    – Cray Kao
    Jan 16 at 10:05
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    $\begingroup$ The difference between them is the degree of control of the gimbal. $\endgroup$
    – Cray Kao
    Jan 16 at 10:07
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FPV is a specific build and is NOT a good choice for your application. The primary use for FVPV drones is chase, which could be for pleasure, could be business, etc.

If you want to chase animals, perfect fit.

A typical race or freestyle drone is ALL POWER and short battery life. Even adjusting pitch and KV you will still have shorter flights than a non-FPV. Your best bet is a sub-250 gram DJI unit.

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