Everyone we have the chance to introduce FPV flying has a similar reaction - "Wow! This is AMAZING, how do I start?" This reaction and our desire to share love for piloting these copters is a why we created this guide. The FPV flying is fascinating, exciting, and even addictive activity. It is growing from its hobby roots into an internationally recognized sport. This article is the launch point designed take you from zero knowledge to a full fundamental understanding of FPV quadcopters. Below you will find complete information with easy to follow steps for getting started.
210mm FPV Racing Quadcopter
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Advances in technology have brought a revolution in the size and features of racing quadcopters. New, light racing frames and small scale technology allow flyers to transmit video from super-agile quadcopters back to goggles or screens in real time. This allows the pilot to have a First Person View (FPV) of the action as it happens. This unique perspective allows pilots to fly complex lines using only visual feedback with amazing speed, accuracy, and agility. High end FPV setups are capable of speeds of 90 mph or more while still being able to turn on a dime and fly through narrow gaps.
Flying Using FPV Goggles
FPV racing was born from the world of radio controlled aircraft. Most of the equipment is similar or the same to what you would use in other radio controlled applications such as planes. The FPV community has grown its own specialized equipment, resulting in better, less expensive, tailor made gear specific for these type of quadcopters. The popularity has also grown into the mainstream with events happening worldwide and even a racing league being televised.
Saying that there is a 'best way' to get into the hobby is a big statement. It's a statement we are confident to make. This step-by-step method is a logical, low risk progression from complete newbie - to experienced professional. This method is designed to stretch out your investment, focus on early skill development, and save you money. The best part about this plan is you can stop at any point along the way and continue to enjoy the hobby at your own level.
Your radio transmitter (controller) is truly an investment. Buying the right transmitter and taking care of it will lead to years of use without needing to upgrade. Since you invest wisely in a proven, widely used model, you'll also be able to re-sell it later if you decide the hobby isn't for you. It's a very low risk situation.
Using your transmitter, it's time to start to build your chops. Connect your transmitter to your PC, fire up one of the many simulators available, and start learning. The simulator is an amazing tool because it gives you an unlimited amount of chances to crash without risk. If you hang around the hobby shop long enough, you'll hear many stories about someone destroying their new $500 quad on the first flight.
The simulator is the best way to gain skill without the financial risk. There are many options, and some that are free.
List of FPV Simulators:
Now that you've got a transmitter and some sick skills on the sticks, it's time to make the move to the real deal. We've written a lot about micro FPV. There is good reason that this super tiny form factor is quickly becoming very popular. FPV tech is now small enough and good enough that even quadcopters that can fit in the palm of your hand are powerful, affordable, and super fun to fly.
The transmitter you invested in continues to come into play here. Find or build a micro quad that connects to your transmitter and you're nearly flying. Our top suggestion here is the Tiny Whoop. Again it's a very popular option for good reason. We've covered the topic extensively not only giving you the history, but also guiding you through builds and helping you find affordable options. See our complete guide to the Tiny Whoop.
You'll just need a set of goggles or a screen to see the live video feed. If you need a lesson, learn all about FPV goggles and screens. If you're ready to invest, check out our FPV goggles buyers guide.
At this point you've invested in most of the core gear you need. You've got a transmitter, goggles, micro quad, and probably even a LiPo battery charger. Now it's time to take it to the next level with a full sized racing quadcopter. These mini quads will run 4-6" props and have insane performance. Because you've taken the smart route thus far, you're going to be well prepared.
Depending on your preference, you'll want to either buy a pre-built racing quad, or build your own. The options here are pretty open ended. Skip down this article for a detailed walk through of how to best enter the racing quadcopter scene.
The first steps you take into this hobby are the most important on your journey. The 'cheap and easy' route often ends in heartache or hidden costs. What we present here is what many agree as the best route for a future pilot to take when first getting into flying FPV multirotors.
Before we get started it is important to define two acronyms you will likely run into: RTF and BNF
Making your first investment on an FPV drone shouldn't have to be a scary, expensive leap of faith. Starting with a small scale quadcopter is the best way to get into the hobby without the risk wrecking your brand new, expensive drone. While you see the professionals racing with the latest carbon frame and expensive components, remember that they didn't learn on those powerful machines.
When we say start small, we really mean it. One of the best options you have when buying your first quadcopter is to look for a micro quad. These are normally small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. Don't let the size fool you though - these drones are great little learning tools and a perfect introduction to flying a full size machine.
When you're learning to fly, you will crash. It's a reality as a beginner pilot (and even advanced pilot). Now we are not saying that every crash will be catastrophic. Most likely you will have lots of little ones. Small crashes often require minor repairs of things like broken props.
Micro quads usually run from $30-$100 for everything you need to get flying. The replacement parts are very inexpensive. This makes these small form factor drones a great way to test the waters and learn your chops.
With any of these options we highly suggest you also invest in several additional batteries and extra parts/propellers to keep you in the air. Micro quad batteries often last between 4-7 minutes so having 5 or 6 of them can keep you flying for much longer. The propellers are also very cheap, but also easy to brake. Make sure you have plenty. Also consider copters that have propeller guards which will keep you from breaking as many props.
Hubsan x4 Ready-to-Fly
This is one of the most popular mini quads available for good reason. This inexpensive copter flies great, comes in several flavors. You can get a basic model with no camera, a model with a small flight recorder (not live FPV), or an FPV version. The models listed are all Ready to Fly (RTF) which means they come with a battery and controller - everything you need to get started. This is one of the most affordable options available - everything you need to fly LOS for under $30
Find the Hubsan X4 RTF in our product database.
This easy to recognize micro quadcopter is one of the most popular on the market for good reason. The ducted fans keep the props safe while flying and the copter can be flown using level mode or acro mode (no auto-level). Since high level FPV flyers are flying acro mode, this gives you a great taste of what to expect and a chance to hone your skills.
The biggest reason that the Inductrix is the best choice for a beginner looking to get into FPV is the Tiny Whoop modification:
Tiny Whoop is actually just a nickname for an Inductrix copter with an added video camera and transmitter. We cover the entire history in our introduction to the Tiny Whoop. This is hands down the best route for learning FPV. These micro quads are so good that most professional pilots also have one of these because they are so much fun. This copter will give you the best taste of true FPV because it can be used with pro-level goggles and transmitters.
The booming popularity of this micro copter even spawned Inductrix to build their own version. The Ready-to-Fly FPV Inductrix kit is a perfect $199 way to get anyone new into the hobby. Its also extremely simple to build your own Tiny Whoop.
We've covered all the ways to get started Whooping in our Tiny Whoop: Ultimate Guide.
If you're on a tight budget, Eachine has produced a super affordable whoop-like clone for under $40. See our full write up of the Eachine E010C.
After you spend some time on your mini quad and know you're ready to take the next step, its time to follow the wisdom of the crowd. Stepping into a custom build for your first pro-level FPV is extremely overwhelming. There are tons of options out there and you can literally order everything part-by-part. Below we are going to cover the essential parts of your kit, and our recommended progression on your full sized journey.
All of the copters listed in this guide can be flown Line of Sight (LOS) which simply means watching your quad in front of you as it flies. The copters from here on out (and for the Tiny Whoop above) are all FPV capable. This means that they have a video camera and transmitter. If you want to see this video feed you will need goggles or a screen to fly from the first person view.
We are just going to cover some popular goggle options here for you to consider. You can also fly with just a screen, but the immersive experience you get from flying with goggles just can't be beat.
We've put together a full guide on finding the best FPV video goggles for your budget.
Depending on your preference and how sure you are about getting into high end FPV, now is the time to start considering buying a radio. One radio can be used to control many quadcopters, so you will only need to buy one radio. Because of this, it is wise to invest in a radio that will last you.
In the racing world there are two popular options that represent the vast majority of flyers: FrSky and Spektrum. FrSky being used by the biggest portion of the community. Either option works well, the important thing to remember is that FrSky radios are only natively compatible with FrSky receivers and Spektrum radios are only natively compatible with Spektrum receivers. It is possible to buy additional adapters to mix radios and receivers.
Also be sure to consider USB compatibility. FrSky includes a native USB port for easy computer connection. Spektrum radios require an additional adapter for USB connectivity. The native USB ability and the popularity of the FrSky makes it our clear #1 recommendation.
What are Modes?
You will sometimes see radios accompanied by a Mode 1 or Mode 2 definition. The mode of a radio defines if the stick that the throttle & aileron are on. Most people use Mode 2 which has the throttle & aileron on the left stick. Mode 1 has them on the right. If you aren't sure, go with Mode 2.
See our article on radio transmitters for FPV quadcopters.
Going with a pre-built model removes the need for you to learn to solder and have a deeper understanding of the components before you fly. You will need to learn this stuff in order to maintain, fix, and ultimately build your own copter. For most, it's just too big of a barrier to put in the way of flying. This will allow you to gradually learn more about your quad as you repair or upgrade it in the future. This is our recommended approach for most as gets you in the air as quickly as possible so you can focus on flying.
If you're very handy, know how to solder already, or know you have the patience and time to build your first quad then you can skip to the next recommendation. For most pilots though, we recommend seriously considering a pre-built copter for your first setup.
Upfront the ticket price on RTF models or kits may be higher than piecing a custom build together. In the long run they and up being much more cost effective because there are no parts to forget, no additional tools to buy, and no possible issues during the build.
When it comes to building your first quad, going with well known and widely used hardware is going to be ideal. Even better if you can find a kit of parts that has been used in a build by many people. Following the wisdom of the crowd carries a few advantages:
If it is your first build, when shopping for a kit or parts the most important thing is that the build be accompanied by instructions like a build video or article. You will refer to these instructions countless times during the build process. They are essential to a successful first build. That being said, the kits we feature here all have detailed build instructions with them and contain some of the most popular and high quality equipment in the industry.
Lumenier QAV-R FlightClub BuildA long detailed write up plus build video will get you flying on the popular Lumenier QAV R frame.
Alien RR5 Rotor Riot BuildChad Nowak gives you an hour long build video that leads you through every step of the way. The Alien frame with KISS flight controller is one of the most popular builds on the market today.
The wide range of available FPV parts available is what makes the hobby side - building quadcopters - so interesting. The flexibility in choice you have to build exactly what you want adds amazing depth to what is possible. This freedom of options can easily be too much for someone entering into FPV. This is why it is our final recommendation - the end game of FPV flying if you will.
There are many options to consider when building and new technology is being released constantly. For some people, exploring this new technology and putting together new builds is their primary focus. For some, the hobby of trying new builds, tuning, upgrading and repairing can be just as satisfying (or more) than flying.
Doing custom builds also allows you to change variables that kits or RTF copters just don't have available. This is why the top pilots who are pushing the limits of what is possible are often experimenting with new custom parts and builds. Visit our product database to discover a curated list of racing quadcopter parts & accessories.
There are many reasons that people enjoy flying an FPV quad. These are a few of the most common aspects and often flyers have a combination of more than one of these reasons that they fly.
There is no question that FPV is just pure fun. The excitement that comes from flying with a first person view is unmatched. We've all seen the thrilling videos of wingsuit flyers gliding down mountains and flying with close proximity to their surroundings. Flying an FPV drone gives you very much the same perspective and allows you to fly with speed and proximity - it is really a thrilling experience.
The ability to fly with complete freedom while recording your flight sessions on video allows for not only new creative ways to fly - but to use video as a medium to showcase this flying. Exploring the free side of flying is personally rewarding and allows for a great means of self expression.
The racing and competition aspect has recently launched into the mainstream media. Events are popping up all over the world, races are being held in exotic locations, and flyers are becoming champions. In the racing world of FPV you will find highly skilled pilots flying their highly tuned copters in serious competition.
The racing world is in its early stages, but international interest and large scale media support is putting it in the public eye. It is not unlikely that one day FPV racing will be a well supported sport with international recognition and professional pilots competing as a full time job.
This growing hobby is supported by the extremely active and passionate community. The people who spend the time and money to invest in flying FPV are by and large ready to share and help others. Flying and being a part of this community of people teaching, learning, and having fun together is one of the best things about flying drones.
This article is the introductory piece in our library of FPV Racing articles. If the thought of flying these amazing quadcopters gets your blood racing, this is the place to start. Once you've read this article, continue your education with these other articles:
Last updated on January 31, 2017