What quadcopter to buy for FPV?

Background & Getting Started

FPV racing quadcopters are high-performance quadrotors with FPV camera and transmitter added. This gives you the impression of being part of the action, instead of relying on the outside view.

The FPV camera’s output is received by the receiver, so you can view it either using a goggle or a screen. FPV flying is fun, and racing even more so!

To get started with FPV flying

first you’ll have to get good at non-FPV flying. If you have never flown before, your best bet is to get a high quality toy quadcopter – these are cheap, so you will not mind crashing them. The Hubsan X4 line is great to start out flying.

Next, once you have advanced a bit, it’s time to switch to a simple FPV quad. The main thing to look out for is to avoid Wifi based FPV like th eplague – Wifi based FPV lags so much that your quad will have already crashed by the time you just see the tree coming 🙂 The Hubsan X4 H502S is a good choice for example as it has an 5.8 Ghz FPVsystem. Quadcopters with brushless motors are way more powerful than toy quads, so take it slow.

FPV quadcopter safety

Quadcopters can be a lot more dangerous than they seem to be at first,however keeping safe is simple, you only have to follow a few rules:

  • Never fly near or above objects you could hurt, avoid people in particular. A 250 size quad can easily weigh 400 grams, so can do a lot of damage.
  • Stay clear of the prop of a live quadcopter. Props can cut through flesh very effectively, leaving a bloody mess behind. After landing disconnect the batteries ASAP for safety.
  • Always turn on your FPV receiver and goggle before the camera and transmitter, and check that the channel is not in use.
  • Never fly under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Lipo fires can be spectacular.

Lipo batteries deserve their own section as they can go up in smoke or fire if things go wrong:

  • Never short circuit a Lipo. Once it’s shorted you should expect it to puff up and go up in flames any time.
  • Never charge a Lipo unattended.
  • Always inspect your battery after a crash. If it got hit heavily,punctured or was shorted you can expect it to go up in flames.
  • Keep your valuables safe: store your Lipo batteries away from anything flammable. Low quality batteries even catch fire spontaneously.

Let’s get started for real!

Once you are past the beginner level and ready to advance to proper FPVquads, you’ll have to decide if you want to build or buy your FPV quadrotor.

If you enjoy building things

, and have basic soldering skills building your own should not be hard. To wet your appetite, check our articles on quad building, motor selection and getting creative. Making an FPV quadcopter is pretty much the question of adding FPV gear to a fast quad – check out our FPV gear section.

Ready to fly quads are the best to get fast up in the air.

These quads come pre-assembled, most of the time all you have todo is buy the batteries for the transmitter, and the Lipo for the quaditself – due to safety sometimes these are sold separately.

The Walkera Rodeo before flying.
The Walkera Rodeo 150

is a small 150 sized FPV quadcopter,which flies well right out of the box. The Rodeo is priced very competitively and can take a beating, so it’s ideal for beginners. The box contains everything for flying, except for the transmitter’s batteries(8 x AA) andthe integrated FPV goggle + receiver. TheRodeo’s visibility is extremely good, the 6 to 8 minute flight time isrespectable too. The flight controller is CleanFlight, which is very well supported.The only downside of this machine is that it’s a bit over-integrated so fixing it is harder than other quads.

The Makerfire Racer220

is a 220 size drone from Makerfire. To start you’ll need the batteries for the transmitter (4 xAA). For FPV you’ll need an FPV receiver, goggles, antenna and FPV battery – check our FPV gear section. The quad is put together well, with high quality props. Unfortunately there are no replacement props in the package,however these are easy to get though.Both the 8 to 12 minute flight time and the 500 meter range are respectable.The flight controller is Naze32, so you can use it with CleanFlight, BetaFlight or RaceFlight.

The Akaso F250A looks exceptionally clean.
The Akaso F250A

is package that’s perfect for beginners.The package includes everything you’d need for FPV flying, even a 4.3 inch LCD screen – all you need is 4xAA batteries for the transmitter. The battery life is 10 minutes, which is really good too. The cons of this setup are the low “C” rating ofthe battery, and the slightly aged CC3D flight controller. Still the comfort of getting everything in a single packages probably beats these really minor issues.

The Eachine EB185 right after unboxing.
The Eachine EB185

is a futuristic-looking 185 size FPV quadcopter from Eachine. To start flying you’ll need 4 x AA required batteries for the transmitter,and FPV goggles, receiver, antenna and FPV battery. You can find the detailson these in our FPV gear section.Both the receiver and the transmitter are good quality rebranded FlySky FS-i6s. The flight time is 8 to 10 minutes and the package includes an OSD display too, which is a nice plus. The flight controller is Naze32 Rev6, so you can run Cleanflight, Betaflight or Raceflight on it.

The ARRIS X-Speed 250B

is a large, 250 size quad with aZMR250-like frame. The quad is well built, and comes with everything you’d need to start flying, except for the 8 x AA batteries for the transmitter and the receiver-side FPV gear – check our section on these parts. The quad comes with the advanced SPRacingF3 flight controller, so you can use the usual suspects (Cleanflight, Betaflight,Raceflight) with it. The SPRacingF3 is fast, so expect smooth, 7 to 10minute long flights.

LHI 220 FPV illustration.
The LHI 220 before adding the battery and the props.
LHI size 220 Race Copter

is LHI’s quad for the FPV racing drone market. The quad’s flight is very stable and compliant, so expect to spend long time flying 🙂 The range is 400 to 500 meters, and the quadcopter uses standard parts (no over-integrated electronics here), so it’s easy to repair would it break. The suggested display got great reviews too. The SPRacing F3 flight controller is compatible with Cleanflight, Betaflight and Raceflight, so overall this quad makes a great choice. To start flying all you need are the8xAA batteries for the transmitter and the suggested display. The display integrates the FPV receiver,display, antenna and battery into a single package so you do not have to fiddle with parts selection.

In the long run it’s the best to get a quad which has only standardparts

– so while the Walkera Rodeo 150 looks cool, the LHI size 220 quad is more practical as it’s easier to repair. These pre-built quadrotors are great to get into FPV and take part in a few races. However you should not expect these quads to win races, as it takes a bit more learning and trial-and-error to build a race winning quad.

You can easily add FPV gear to most 220 and larger quads to build an FPV quad.

High performance racing quads are custom built, still you can add FPV gear to almost any large-enough quad to have some fun in the air.

The basic components you need to add FPV to a quad are an FPV camera, FPV transmitter plus antenna, FPV receiver plus antenna, FPV screen/goggles and a Lipo battery for the screen.

The most common transmitters and receivers use the 5.8 GHz frequency, so while other frequencies are available, it’s the easiest to stick to this one. The US has almost no restriction on the transmitter power, up to 1 Watt transmitter power can be legal (click here and here to learn more). Other countries have different regulations -for example in the UK the maximum allowed transmitter power is 25 mW (click the “What frequencies are available ?” link at the bottom of the article).

The most popular goggle-receiver combination is probably Fat Shark’s Dominator

line of FPV goggles combined with their own receiver. These will still need and antenna and battery. The Dominator comes with all the goodies you can imagine,it has a large 800×480 pixel resolution and anti-fog fan.

To keep your budget lower, Fatshark’s Teleporter

is a nice integrated solution, complete with goggles, receiver, antenna and battery. The Teleporter has a 320×240 pixel resolution.

Eachine has a nice all-in-one solution too, however you’ll probably want to replace it’s antenna with a higher performing one.

If you have a large distance between you eyes (called interpupillary distance), the Fatshark Attitude could be your best friend, as these can be customized.

Choosing a camera and a transmitter

is even easier than choosing the goggles. Eachine’s 700TVL is a great choice if 200mW of transmitter power is legal in your area. This camera + transmitter combo can cover ~1.5kilometers of distance. For a high power all-in-one solution check out the Boscam TR1 – this one requires minimal setup only as the transmitter is integrated into the housing. For a low power all-in-one solution which is compatible with the UK regulation check the Arris EF-01.

The coolest way to socialize.
Get social!

Once you got started with FPV, you’ll probably want to find local groups or clubs. This is a great way to socialize, meet like-minded people, race and improve your FPV skills.

Learning is the fastest if you can learn from others – it’s almost like getting a ready-made solution instead of struggling with trial and error on your own. Search for novice-firendly folks and avoid the know-it-alls – there are plenty of clubs out there so there’s no point in getting stuck in a bad one.

Learning FPV flying takes time, so set your goals low at first, and improve gradually. This way you will not get discouraged and will improve slowly but surely.

DroneLife has a nice state-by-state list of clubs and organizations here, Meetup.com lists meetups both for plain fpv and racing.

If you can’t find groups nearby don’t despair, regular RC Clubs will probably have a few FPV pilots too. You can find these on R/C Airplane World and connect2clubs.

Racing classes

were created for a fair racing environment. These classes depend on the organizer only, for example RacingFPV’s classes are different than MultiGP’s classes. As the quads are tuned heavily to their class, you’ll either need multiple quads or just stick to one organizer. Class stability is crucial too, if the organizer rearranges the classes often, that’s pretty much a no-go. MultiGP’s classes changed once since 2015 while RacingFPV’s classes did not change. RCGroups has an a bit dated but still very interesting discussion on classes.

FPV events

are organized year-round, check the World Drone Racing Championships calendar, MultiGP calendar, or the FPVRacingEvents calendar for more information.As FPV racing is getting even more mainstream, the race organizers will sure keep you busy 🙂

Have fun flying 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *