FPV is a totally immersive experience. We close ourselves off to the outside world by wearing goggles and even headphones. While flying, it's important that we monitor some vital statistics about our batteries and flight time. An on-screen display or OSD is an optional piece of hardware that does exactly that. This article covers all the concepts around them and helps you choose the right one for your next build.

On-Screen Display Part Spotlight Header Image

What is an On-Screen Display?

An on-screen display is a piece of hardware that creates an overlay on your FPV video feed. That overlay displays critical flight information in real-time. This is incredibly useful for FPV pilots because it keeps you glued to the action without having to look away or listen for alarms on your radio set up via telemetry. It also provides more granular monitoring because the information is always visible.

On-Screen Displays used on FPV micro or mini racing quads normally show fairly basic information. Most commonly you will monitor flight time and battery information. These multirotors are flown in close proximity to the pilot and don't use features like GPS or a compass found on long-range setups. Long range setups will use OSD's to display many additional types of information.

The following is common information that is displayed using an OSD:

  • Battery usage in mAh consumed.
  • Current battery voltage.
  • Power draw in Amps.
  • Radio signal strength, or RSSI.
  • Warnings
  • Artificial horizon
  • Flight time
  • Heading
  • Distance
  • Speed
  • Altitude
  • Static text (useful for adding your pilot handle for identifying video feeds at races).

Here is an example screenshot showing the FPV video feed with an OSD in action:

Example of an OSD overlay on an FPV video feed.

OSD Example from a PNP50 displaying battery voltage, current draw in amps, and battery consumption in mAh.

How Does it Work?

An OSD works by connecting to various components in your build, sensing information from those parts, and then overlaying that information on your video feed. This means that everything needs to be interconnected or integrated. The OSD will also need to connect between your FPV camera and video transmitter so the information can be laid over the video feed.

For our needs as close-range FPV pilots, we will only need to run a connection from our battery to OSD in order to get flight time, voltage, amp draw, and mAh consumption. Long-range setups may need to connect to things like GPS in order to display more information. See the following example of a PNP50 OSD connected. This example is taken from our Mr Steele Alien 5" Build Guide.

Connection Example Using a PNP50 OSD

OSD's all run some type of firmware that allows the information to be displayed. Some use open source, computer customizable GUI's like MWOSD while others use custom loaded firmware that is only configurable through on-screen menus.

Types of On-Screen Displays for FPV

Unlike other components of an FPV quadcopter, the OSD comes in many different forms. The early days saw primarily standalone units. You'd connect to an external board that might sit in your build or stack with your flight controller. As quad technology has improved and demand for smaller parts increases, its more and more common to find an OSD integrated into one of your main components.

Standalone OSD's

Standalone OSD Example

You'll find standalone OSD's in many different formats including stackable boards and external units that are independently cased. These products will require some type of connections to external components and are not as ideal for smaller builds. Some examples are the OSDoge board and TBS PNP50.

Integrated OSD's

Integrated OSD Example

As mentioned before, technology around FPV multi rotors has been advancing quickly. It is becoming the standard to purchase a product with an integrated OSD when choosing parts for a quadcopter build. The OSD can be integrated into many different components depending on the needs of your build. Here are some commonly integrated components with example products:

  • Power Distribution Boards - i.e. QuadRevo PowerOSD PRO
  • Video Transmitters (VTX) - i.e. FuriousFPV Passado
  • Flight Controllers - i.e. BrainFPV -  Racing Edition 1
  • Piggyback on FPV Camera - FuriousFPV PIGGY
  • Integrated within FPV Cameras - Runcam - Swift 2

Important to note is that we consider the best place to integrate an OSD is with the video transmitter. OSD's combined with other components, especially things like the flight controller will suffer from issues with power use and regulation. A on-screen display in combination with a VTX that receives clean power is the ideal location to integrate this part.

Find the Perfect OSD

Here at Controller Craft we catalog on-screen display options for your convienence. Find the right product for your next build in our On-Screen Display product section.

Last updated on February 8, 2017

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