FPV video goggles allow a fully immersive first person drone flight experience. By blocking out external light you dive into real-time video, feeling like you're in the action. With nothing more than a first person video feed, pilots are able to perform amazing tricks and fly intricate mind-bending lines.
In this article we cover what FPV video googles are, how they work, and give you an in-depth understanding when using or choosing your own.
Before we talk about video goggles we need to understand how a first person video system works and where goggles fall in to that system.
Normally when we talk about video goggles, we are talking about the entire receiving side of the system. This means your goggles need a video antenna, connected to the video receiver which connects to your goggles. Also you need a means to power the entire system which is normally done via a battery.
While all this might sound complicated and expensive to a beginner - it isn't too bad. Many options are all-in-one packages that make it easy to get started. There are options out there starting at less than $75 and include everything we just covered.
Currently the market standard FPV video equipment supports analog video signal. The goggles on the market support this - you simply need to match the right frequency band. For example most racing drones are using 5.8GHz video signal. This just means you need to send and receive video on the 5.8GHz band. There are also 2.4GHz and 1.3GHz bands used, but they are mostly found on long-range setups.
There is only one major player in the low latency digital HD FPV racing video market - Connex who makes the ProSight HD. An HDMI input on your goggles is all you need to be compatible with that system since this system includes an HD receiver. Many of the options in the market offer HDMI as a feature, and those goggles could then be considered for use with this setup.
When shopping for goggles, the first thing you'll notice is there are two distinct styles of goggles: larger box-style and smaller headset style. There are major differences in how these goggles function which we cover here.
These goggles use a single, large screen. The screen must sit a certain distance from your eyes in order to clearly see the image and not have parts of it bleed into your peripheral vision.
By design this means the goggles must take on a long rectangular shape which makes them a bit bulky but cheaper to make. You will find this design on lower to middle range goggles by manufacturers like Quanum & Eachine.
These goggles use two, smaller screens. Visually these screens are combined in the wearers vision to create a single image. By design these goggles are much less bulky but are more expensive. You will find this design on middle to higher end goggles by manufacturers like Fat Shark.
There are many reasons to choose one design over another, but ultimately it comes down to personal preference.
Aside from the type of goggle you're considering, there are some features you should consider when making your purchase. We've gone into detail on the ones we always look at when browsing a new model.
With most of the industry using analog video signal, the aspect ratio of your goggles is important to consider. FPV flying borrows camera technology from the surveillance industry. Most cameras (but not all) still transmit a 4:3 standard definition picture.
When buying googles, consider the screen definition. If you have a 16:9 widescreen screen in your goggles, the image from your 4:3 camera will be stretched to fill the screen. It may be preferable to have a true un-scaled image when you fly.
A flight recorder is a very handy option. This allows you to record the video feed straight to an external media like a micro SD card. The video recorded will be the same resolution as you receive from your camera, so don't expect super high quality.
This video is useful for many reasons though. You can record your training flights without needing to mount an extra camera like a GoPro. The video can be helpful when looking for your lost drone since it records to the goggles. For micro quads like the Tiny Whoop that are too small to mount an action camera, it is the only way to get video.
Standard video receivers connect a single antenna to a input. A diversity system allows you to attach two video antennas (often different types) and the receiver actively switches to always show you the strongest signal.
This is a very popular setup for goggles because it allows you to use both directional and omni-directional antennas in tandem. This gives you better range and penetration with less dropout.
It is important to note that video systems used on FPV racing drones are different than those used on professional arial photography drones. Racing, and especially micro racing drones are very compact and lightweight. They are designed that way to improve the power to weight ratio which leads to high performance.
Arial photography drones (like the popular DJI Phantom line) are larger and more docile aircraft that can support larger internal components. These types of drones often support high definition, long range digital video systems because they are not fighting for the smallest form factor possible and don't need to maintain a super low-latency feed.
When it comes to goggles, many options will work for both applications. Be sure to double check your requirements on both sides as you make your pick.
Last updated on February 6, 2017