Best Value Drone Radio Transmitter

Radio transmitters are a little bit tricky and it’s easy to spend too much money unnecessarily for an FPV drone transmitter. Let’s not do that!

You will use your radio transmitter to control your drones. The transmitter sends a signal to the receiver that is installed on your drone. The key is that you must use a receiver that works with your transmitter.

Drone Transmitter Brands

As you start to look around all the places, you will find a few major types used   by drone pilots: Spektrum, Flysky, FrSky and CrossFire. These all have their pluses and minuses. We choose a FrSky style transmitter because it is a great value and is used by many drone pilots. This means that it’s easy to find help to setup, troubleshoot and modify your transmitter on places like YouTube or your local flight club.

Taranis QX7S

The Taranis is a de-facto standard for FPV drones and this model is a good value. While, the QX7S is not the absolute cheapest model out there it comes with upgraded hardware and accessories like a battery and charger that are otherwise hard to source correctly.

For around $180, this transmitter has features that you would find in other brands $600 transmitters. In particular, you get 16 channels and fully customizable open source software installed so you can make it work the way you want it to.

The QX7S is not just a “first transmitter” and you will use it throughout your FPV career. It also works great for all RC models and it can be modified to work with other protocols like CrossFire. The QX7S is hands down the best choice for a transmitter today.

Runner Ups

You do have some other choices, but these may require you to do some homework and possibly do some DIY mods to get some of these other options to work.

You can go with a standard QX7 FrSky Taranis and save about $50. However, you will need to remember to buy your own batteries and charger which will add around $25 to the cost. These items can be hard to find or just confusing which is why we recommend the upgraded ready to fly package. Plus, you may not realize it yet but the upgraded hardware is well worth the extra money.

FrSky has some other options as well and they are all great. If you like a smaller gamepad controller they have the X-Lite controller for around the same price as the QX7S. The difference is largely in the form factor. There are also more expensive options that included items like touchscreens which are kinda neat but not really needed for what we usually do.

If you already fly RC fixed wing airplanes, then you may be using a Spektrum transmitter that supports DSMX. While not many FPV drone pilots use this transmitter it will work just fine as long as you choose receivers or drones that support DSMX protocol. Generally, I don’t recommend these because of price. You are going to pay around $250 for a basic Spektrum transmitter and you can easily spend up to $500 to get one that is on par with the Taranis.

Another option that you will see is called FlySky and if you bought a cheaper “ready to fly” drone you may have gotten one of these transmitters with the model. There are also some more modern transmitters coming out that support this protocol but we can’t recommend them because the products are  just not that great. Also you will not find much support online for these and the receivers that you will need are a bit large for FPV drones.

Finally, you will find that many pilots are moving to a new system called CrossFire. While CrossFire is great, we don’t recommend this system for beginners because it is not something that just works out of the box and because the ready to fly drones that we want to recommend will not support CrossFire today. Pilots choose this protocol for technical reasons to support long range flying or racing situations where they feel that this system will provide advantages.

Do any of these seem interesting to you? If you are a pilot already, what would you recommend? Say it in the comments below!

FPV Goggle Recommendations

Usually I wouldn’t recommend spending a lot of money on just one piece of your drone setup. But, FPV goggles is one thing to put a significant amount of money into. The Hobby Hacker recommendation is to budget at least $200 to $400 and I agree.

Good goggles will last you a long time which is why you should put a bit of thought into this purchase. I have two recommendations for first time pilots, both are high quality and one costs less  than the other. My cheaper recommendation is still a quality goggle and I would resist the temptation to buy the cheapest goggles out there (they are junk and you will have a bad experience).

Fat Shark Transformer SE Monitor with Binocular Viewer

Fatshark is the gold standard for quality in FPV goggles. While these goggles are not the popular visor style they have an image that is actually bigger and better than even the most expensive visor style goggles. The Transformers have a screen that is detachable so if you do upgrade to a more expensive goggle in the future this will have a second life as a ground station so you can have spectators ride along with your flights.

What I like most about these goggles is that for less than $200 you get everything you need to use the goggle. That includes a battery, receiver and antennas. These items are not included with even the most expensive visor style goggle.

The only caveat for the Transformer goggle is that if you wear glasses, these will be hard to use. While you can buy special inserts for a visor style goggle if you are nearsighted, the Transformers require you to have perfect vision or to wear contact lenses.

Fat Shark Dominator V3 FPV Goggles (RTF Bundle)

These are by far the most popular goggle for FPV pilots. For $329 at GetFPV you can get the ready to fly (RTF) package that includes all the items you need to get this setup to work. Unfortunately, this package is often out of stock which means that you might need to do some homework and buy each item individually.

These goggles have diopter inserts which means that if you were glasses you can buy special lenses to insert into the unit that will bring the picture in focus.

Other than the popular form factor and lenses correction, these goggles have a recording feature that you can use to record a low resolution video of your flight. This can be a life saver (rather a drone saver) if you crash your drone but can’t remember where it went down.

Goggle Buying Tips You Need To Know

The good news about FPV goggles is that any goggle will be compatible with any drone. Basically goggles are like old fashioned radios – they just pick up the signals that your drone sends out.

The challenge with this part of your FPV setup is that goggle companies don’t make it easy to buy the right package. Fatshark has the view that you will want to pick and choose the components of your goggle. This means that if you don’t buy either the first goggle (which has everything built in) or if you can’t find the Dominator RTF option you will have to choose all the other components yourself. This includes battery and charger, antennas, receiver and video connections like HDMI cables.

What questions do you have about FPV goggles? Post them in the comments below! Or… if you are a FPV pilot tell us what you recommend!

 

How to Find Places to Fly Your Drone

Here you are with your shiny new FPV drone and you realize that you can’t just fly that little airborne lawn mover just anywhere. I mean that thing goes 80 miles per hour with sharp spinning propellers. Where can you go and fly?

What Does a Good Spot Look Like?

You are looking for an area that has a wide open field that is relatively private. There can be a handful of obstacles like small trees and sports equipment, but in the beginning you want to avoid places that will damage your drone. Also, you want to make sure that there are no people around when you fly. For now, avoid flying over concrete, near buildings or over very large trees. As you get more experience and confidence with the drone you may start to seek out more photogenic spots.

How Do You Find These Spots?

The best thing that you can do is join a local meet-up group. They will know where you can fly safely and they will be more than willing to help you get flying faster. Search social media sites like Facebook, Meetup and even YouTube with keywords like: drone, FPV drone, quad and be sure to also include your own town name. It’s not going to help you if you find a group on the wrong coast.

You can also look up formal local groups that you might not even realize are already near you. AMA flight fields are places set aside for people to fly all kinds of radio controlled models. They will sometimes have fun fly events or trainer nights and they can help you fly at their club. MultiGP is a similar drone only formal group that focuses on racing. Even if you don’t like the idea of drone racing, most FPV drone pilots who race also like to fly freestyle and can point you in the right direction.

Finally, lots of time there is no other option than going it solo. You can use Google Maps to scope out places to fly – huge fields are easy to spot on the satellite view. Places like schools and parks usually have sports fields that are perfect for beginning drones pilots. Sometimes these areas can be isolated at the back of the park which is even better.

When you get more experience, office parks can be amazing spots. At least on Sunday when no one is working. Sometimes in the large complexes, you can even find a solid green patch that is more suitable for a newbie pilot.

Wherever you fly, be sure to be safe and have some fun. I recommend starting off with a micro-drone like the BabyHawk-R and keeping it close. You really don’t need more than a baseball diamond to fly one of these and a light drone like the BabyHawk doesn’t have as many restrictions as the larger freestyle drones.

Do you have any questions about starting out with FPV or finding places to fly? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll try to answer any questions that you might have.

How to Budget for a FPV Drone Setup

It’s easy to spend too much money on a drone and still end up with the wrong stuff. Let’s talk about what you can expect to spend to get into this hobby the right way.

For your first drone setup, I recommend avoiding the best and most expensive equipment. I also recommend avoiding the cheapest possible drone setup.  The cheapest option will give you a terrible experience; and it’s best to wait until you really know what you like to buy the most expensive and long lasting gear. Still, the gear on this list will serve you well and could see a second life as your backup in the future.

What Type of Drone?

Ok, first we need to back up a bit and talk about what type of drone you want. Here at Hobby Hackers when we say drone we are talking about the high performance hobby grade quadcopters used for racing, high speed flying in parks or freestyle video performances. There are also drones used for photography, toy drones and radio control airplanes that are very similar.

In this article, we are going to budget for a high performance FPV (first person view) drone setup that can be used for racing or fun park flying. We don’t recommend building your drone in the very beginning and this budget is assuming that you are going to get started with something that doesn’t require the additional special tools you would need for a DIY FPV drone.

There are three big purchases that you want to consider for your budget: radio transmitter, FPV googles and the drone.

Radio Transmitter

This is what you use to control your drone. You have a few solid choices here and can spend as little as $100 up to about $600 on a radio transmitter. We suggest choosing a transmitter that is a popular model so it is easier to get tech help on YouTube or from new friends that you will meet at the flying field. Taranis and Speckrum are both good brands. We suggest budgeting about $125 and getting the entry level QX7 Taranis.

FPV Goggles

You will use your googles to capture the video signal from your drone. This is how you see what you drone sees. FPV googles are pretty much the most important part of your setup. You can spend as much as $650 on a solid goggle. If you do not wear glasses (or if you wear contacts) you can get a solid box style goggle for around $200 from Fatshark. If you wear glasses to see far away then you will have to spend a little bit more to get a goggle that supports diopter inserts. Aomway and Fatshark both make these kinds of goggles and most FPV pilots favor these goggles over the box style. They will cost about $400.

FPV Drone

A typical FPV freestyle or racing drone will cost around $450 and you will have to build it yourself. So, most pilots will also need equipment like soldering irons and hex drivers. However, we don’t suggest you get jump right into building your own drone unless you know someone in real life who knows how to do this.

Instead, we recommend picking up a Bind-N-Fly drone that matches your radio transmitter. If you have a Taranis radio then choose a FrSky bind-n-fly drone and if you have a Specktrum radio then choose a Specktrum model. Our favorite choice is the BabyHawk-R and this will cost about $200 including batteries.

What’s the Damage?

We recommend planning on budgeting $1,000 to get into the hobby; if you make the right choices your first purchases will as little as $500. This means that you can save the remaining budget for the next step in the hobby when you build your own drone.

Hello world!

Here is my first post to our blog. Here we will be talking about how you can get into the world of FPV drones.

In case you don’t know, FPV drones are radio control drones equipped with cameras that work with headsets (kinda like 3D goggles) that you can use to see what the drone sees. In effect, it’s as if you were sitting in the drone yourself. Flying in this augmented reality is an amazing experience, but it’s just the beginning of this incredible hobby.

In this blog, we are going to be talking about this life changing hobby and showing you the best ways to get into FPV drones. Comment below if you have any questions or thoughts on this hobby!