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There are a large number of beginner and starter kits out there for people looking to get into multirotor FPV flying, all touting their various advantages over the competition.

What should I look for (or avoid) in an FPV drone kit, as someone who hasn't flown FPV before?

6

There are quite a few aspects of FPV, so a I’ll give a summary here. I’ll try to be concise so if any extra info is required or wanted, please let me know.

The first thing to look at when you’re flying FPV is the kind of aircraft, all the way up from a small Tiny Whoop to an X class (please not for beginners though!). In general, the larger props tend to give more flight time up to a point - it’s generally agreed that 7 inch props should be used for long-range because of this.

Video Transmitters

Another important thing to look at on your aircraft (excluding the advantages of different flight controllers etc, which I would love to talk about but would end up writing a massive wall of text) is the video transmitter, or VTX.

When looking at these, the first important thing is to check your local laws about what frequencies and transmitter powers you can use. Once you know that, keep in mind that more power tends to equal more range in open spaces, but can lead to more interference in places like abandoned buildings.

Another important fact to remember about the VTX is that you should manually select the channel on your VTX AND goggles as auto-scan sometimes picks the wrong channel and will cut out after a few feet. Also, never turn on your VTX without an antenna installed, or you risk damaging it. It is perfectly normal for your VTX to get warm on the bench when there is no airflow.

Finally, you will see people talking about Smart Audio - this is just a way to control the settings on the VTX from your transmitter.

Other hardware

Motors are very important. If possible, get brushless motors as they last longer and are more powerful.

When getting your first FPV quad, check out how repairable it is. It’s almost certain that at some point you will need to repair or modify it, so it’s good to know that before getting the quad.

Check what voltage your quad is designed to run at. If you have too little voltage, your quad will be underpowered, but if you have too great a voltage your quad may burst into flames (possibly a slight exaggeration to get a point across).

The ESC or Electronic Speed Controller is what tells your motor what to do, and you need one for each motor. If possible, get BLHeli_32 ESCs as they are more modern and natively support bidirectional Dshot so you can enable something called ‘RPM filtering).

When looking at flight controllers, the higher the value of X is in the naming format FX, the better. At the time of writing, F4 is the most common and F7 is becoming more popular. As I said, I won’t go into too much detail, but the higher the number, the more processes the CPU can complete per second so the more filtering and other leaguers you can have.

Goggles

There are two main types of goggles - box goggles and slimline goggles.

In general, slimline goggles are more expensive, lighter, arguably more comfortable and tend to have a narrower field of view and better quality displays. Box goggles, on the other hand, have massive screens and tend to be cheaper, however they are larger and heavier so may be less comfortable.

If possible, get goggles with a diversity receiver (or if you get Fat Sharks of Orqas, get a diversity receiver module like Rapidfire). This has two receivers and can either merge the two signals into one (cleaner) signal, or just automatically pick whichever signal is the strongest.

RC Transmitters

The most commonly used protocol at the moment is FrSky's D16, with Crossfire becoming more and more popular not only for long-range, but just for general flying.

When picking your transmitter, look for Hall gimbals, which use the Hall Effect to measure movement instead of potentiometers, so last longer and (apparently- I haven t used them) feel nicer.

Much of your transmitter will be personal preference, about the ergonomics and whether you pinch, thumb or hybrid-pinch.

Batteries

For anything more than 1S, you need a balance charger to make sure all the cells have the same voltage. To find the nominal voltage of a battery, multiply the number of cells by 3.7, as the nominal voltage of a single cell is 3.7.

I will leave you with this - don’t leave charging batteries unattended - LiPos are very dangerous if mistreated and can burst into flames if damaged or overcharged.

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4

Here is my advice for getting started in FPV.

Step 1: Get a Radio, Fly a Simulator

The first step is to buy a quality radio. Pilots who are used to video game controllers might like a FrSky X-Lite or TBS Tango 2 while others may prefer the FrSky Taranis Q X7. While FrSky radios are the most popular, there are also other great options like the Jumper T16, or controllers made by Futaba and Spektrum. Or if you are interested in the DJI HD Digital FPV System, you might want to use the DJI radio since it integrates well with the other DJI components. Once you have a radio, connect it to your computer and practice flying in an FPV flight simulator. If you opt for the QX7, be aware that many new pilots assume it comes with a battery or a way to use AA batteries however it does not. You will need to purchase a separate battery for either of these FrSky radios. If you opt for the DJI radio, you can connect that to a flight simulator as well using a USB cable.

Step 2: Find Pilots Near You

Search Facebook, YouTube, and MultiGP to find other pilots in your area. Sometimes having someone local is the best resource for getting help when you need it. They can also point out safe spots to fly and might be willing to meet up for group events.

Step 3: Education & Regulation

While you are training yourself playing around in the sims, watch every video you can by Joshua BardwellUAVFuturesMr. Steel's How To FPV Playlist, and others on YouTube. You will learn a ton. Perhaps even join some of the FPV related Discord channels, or FPV subreddits ( r/Multicopter r/fpv r/multicopterbuilds r/fpvracing ), and ask questions. Get up to date information on the current state of regulations from the FPV Freedom Coalition.

Step 4: Buy or Build Your First Drone

Some people decide that buying a Whoop class drone is the best way to get started, others prefer to jump right in to the 5" class and build their own. Definitely check out Bardwell's FPV Shopping List if you are going to build your own. Lots of good info in there. Also knowing how to solder is very important when building or repairing your drone. Get a good soldering iron, watch some tutorials, and practice before the iron ever touches your drone. The last thing you want is a solder joint failing while your drone is zipping across the sky at top speed.

Step 5: Goggles

To truly fly FPV, you are going to need a screen. Most pilots will opt for a goggle of some sort. If you are just starting out, get some relatively inexpensive box goggles. The eachine EV800D seems to get good reviews. If you outgrow them and you want to upgrade, they make great passenger goggles to bring friends and family along for a ride, which is also a great way to spread the hobby and get others interested.

Step 6: Enjoy!

I know it may seem daunting and there is a lot to learn, but it is fun and well worth the effort.

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The comments above are very complete and insightful. In addition to those, I would suggest your first step is to download a drone flight simulator. You can use an XBOX controller to fly it on a PC/Laptop. There are several steps up from there. Connecting goggles to the PC. Connecting an actual RC Transmitter to the PC. Each of these is a step closer to the real thing, without risking any of that expensive hardware you will invest in.

After that it depends on whether you want to learn how to build, or just fly. Also is the choice between Racing / Cinematic / Freestyle. Each of those categories will take you towards different gear.

For me, I started with an Eachine Wizard from Banggood and a set of box goggles. All in for under $300. I flew the hell out of that thing and still have it. ( Yes it still flies. ) Its a tank, and flies reasonably well out of the box.

https://www.banggood.com/search/eachine-wizard-x220.html?from=nav

That drone taught me all the things i needed to know. And after learning how to fly, I started looking at building my own stuff. I have built an flown a lot of drones at this point, and enjoy just flying more than building. Building your own is not plug and play. There are many choices, and choosing is not easy. Things are getting better. The DJI FPV system is heaven on the eyes, but expensive. I have four drones running this system, and will not go back to analog. I use the DJI transmitter and goggles and love it. I look for parts now that are direct connect to that system, and it makes building my own easier than ever.

Enjoy

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Extra comment... A big part of the pleasure of fpv flying is having quality parts. If you have cheap electronics, goggles, motors, camera... The shortcomings compound into an experience that is nothing like what you were looking for. 'You get what you pay for' is more the case in this situation and if you go too low you will lose interest and your drone will also be on the bench more often than in the air. Saying this having replaced every cheap part with quality that I have bought so far. For example, my runcam camera and VTX has outlasted countless others and has more clarity and range than anything else in my collection.

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