Pro FPV Setup Guide
If you are ready to really get into the FPV drone hobby then this is the place for you. In this article I am going to show you what to buy so that you can have a great experience that will last throughout your time with FPV. Before we get into those specifics, we should have a chat about this hobby and what to expect as you start to learn about the FPV world.
NOTE impatient peeps can skip the context and go right to the shopping list where I recommend what to buy.
Let's Chat About FPV
Before we go down this road together, I have to let you know that FPV is not for the faint of heart… It's a full-on hobby where you will need to learn a lot including skills that you probably never even considered before. It's not all just flying. I love it all - but it's a lot and it does cost money to play this game. This is one of those hobbies like golf, FPV becomes a huge part of your life.
To really get into this hobby you will need to set aside a budget of about $1,000 and be prepared to spend a few months mostly learning and probably meeting a whole new group of friends.
So I'm writing articles on this website to try and smooth the way for you. But, if this feels like too much and you just want to try FPV out without getting your Ph.D in model avionics you might want to start with my article on getting into FPV on the cheap with toy grade drones.
Here's the Plan
Ok, now that's outta the way. Let's get clear about what we are talking about here so we know for sure what we are trying to accomplish. We want to get you in the air with a five inch racing or freesytle drone. These are also called “quads” or even “kwads” because they have four propellers.
These quads fly really fast and they are very agile. Eventually you will be flying these things through forests and doing acrobatic moves. You may find yourself on the race course. We are not talking about the types of drones that you use to make movies and flying for miles. We generally fly in parks very close to the ground near obstacles. Sometimes we get close to interesting geological or architectural features and use GoPros to capture exciting flight footage.
The Five Stages of FPV Life
As you progress through this hobby, you will move through these five stages:
- Get in the air
- Learn how to build drones
- Master acro flying
- Build your own FPV setup
- Conquer the FPV universe
This article is all about the first stage and we are going to start; but once you get into the air with the micro drone that you will want to start learning about building your own drone. Even though you can buy drones that are “Ready to Fly”, you will not fly them for very long before they get damaged. The mantra for FPV is “if you are not crashing, you are not flying”.
Once you start flying the big drones you will be spending about half of your time repairing your drones. The best way to learn about repairing drones is you build your own drone. That's for another article though. For now, we are going to start you with a drone that you can fly today that is strong and light enough to not really break often at all.
Your First Drone
I recommend the Emax Babyhawk as your first drone because it's a tiny micro drone that is powerful enough to fly outdoors. You get the same setup as a big five incher but you don't have all the headaches. You can fly the babyhawk anywhere without worrying about regulations, you aren't going to hurt anyone by flying into them with a babyhawk and this drone is light enough that it will not break easily when you crash into the ground.
The babyhawk runs on BetaFlight which is the same software that you use to fly the bigger quads. And it's cheap. A Babyhawk will only cost you around $100. It's an all around good deal and teaches you real skills. Before I forget - when you get your Babyhawk make sure to set it to “Acro” mode in BetaFlight. We are not going to use any “auto-leveling” here and it will only confuse you when you progress in the hobby.
All of the other items in the shopping list below are more expensive items that you will use over the next few years with lots of different drones. Right, so here is the shopping list for your pro FPV setup:
Plug and Play Trainer Drone
We are going to use the Babyhawk as a trainer because it flies in acro like a real quad and at this weight we don't need to have any conversations about safely for FAA regulations. You just buy this and it will work with the equipment below to get you in the air. Plan on spending a few weeks with with model as you learn to fly FPV. Once you move on to 5 inch drones you may still find yourself going back to this model when you want to fly in more causal settings for fun.
Make sure that you pick up the PNP (stands for plug and play) model and choose the FrSky protocol. FrSky is the protocol that works with the recommended radio below and is a standard that you will use with all your drones in the future.
Click here to get your Babyhawk drone.
Armattan Rooster 5 Inch FPV Drone
When you are ready to try five inch FPV drones I would recommend picking up a pre-built Rooster from Armattan. Be sure to pick the FrSky reciever option. The Rooster comes with a practically unbreakable titatium camera cage and extra thick carbon fiber. It's pretty hard to break. But, that's not the reason I recommend this model for beginners (and experienced pilots actually).
The real reason is that Armattan does a great job of building, setting up, tuning and documenting your drone. You get instructions and a video on how to setup your drone for the first time. They do QC to make sure it works right out of the box. At around $360 these drones are a steal and honestly I couldn't even build one myself at this price point.
Oh and by the way, if you break the frame on the Rooster Armattan will send you replacement parts. They have an insane warrently policy; I know because I've used it three times myself. Don't know how they stay in business sometimes.
Click here to get your Armattan Rooster.
Tattu 2S Batteries
Batteries are about to become a much bigger part of your life than you can have imagined. Seriously, there are lots of batteries types and each has their own type of connector and specs and all your equipment will need them. Seriously, I'm going to have to write whole article just on batteries next.
These are the batteries that you need for your Babyhawk. They are 2S Lipo batteries with JST connectors. Below when we talk chargers, you will find out what you need to buy to charge these guys up so that you can fly your Babyhawk.
Click here to get your Babyhawk batteries.
XT60 to JST Adapter
You will need an adapter to plug in your Babyhawk batteries to your charger. These will work and with the charger below you can charge two batteries at a time. Not much to say about this other than you will should be careful to make sure that when you get new batteries that they will actually plug into your charger.
Click here to get your JST adapter
Tattu 4S 1500 Mah Batteries
More batteries! These are 4S batteries that you need for your 5 inch Rooster drone. Bigger drone, bigger batteries. If you are waiting to get a Rooster you can also wait to get these batteries. I would recommend picking up at least four of these batteries. You don't need an adapter for these, they will plug right into your charger.
Click here to get your Rooster batteries.
Hobby Grade Battery Charger
ISDT D2 200W 12A2 AC Dual Channel Output Smart Battery Balance Charger
Speaking of batteries and charging, here's the one I recommend. ISDT makes state of the art hobby grade chargers and you really can't go wrong with any of their models. I choose this one because it comes with it's own power supply and it can charge two sets of batteries at once.
These chargers are by far the easiest to use and also the safest. Again, batteries and charging need their own article and will become a big part of your learning about the hobby.
Click here to get your battery charger.
Taranis QX7 Radio Transmitter
Radio transmitters are used to control your drone. The QX7 is a really cost effective radio transmitter that most pilots use for FPV. At $125, it has the features of a $500+ radio. Since this radio is used so much by FPV pilots you will find a lot of support online when you have questions.
You could really choose any radio in the Taranis line, but I like this one because of the cost and because it's simplier to use than many radios. If you want to upgrade take a look at the QX7S which has better build quality and comes with a battery, charger and case.
Click here to get your radio transmitter
Taranis QX7 Battery
I told you that batteries are going to start to take up all your time right? The QX7 does not come with a battery because some hobbists like to use their own batteries which they already own and the QX7 is meant to be low cost item. If you are that type of hobbyist you may choose to use your own lipo battery.
For the rest of use, it's going to be simpler to simply buy the Taranis battery and charger below or you get the QX7S version of the transmitter above that includes the charger and battery (but brings the total cost up).
Click here to get your Taranis battery.
Taranis QX7 Battery Charger
This is the easiest way to charge up your Taranis battery. It's also possible to use the main ISDT charger to do this but that requires some modding that goes out of the scope of this article. In the beginning I think that you should choose your battles. But, if you are already someone with the type of skills to do you may be able to skip this purchase. This is what I use and it works great.
Click here to get your Taranis battery charger.
FPV VR Goggles
Best Goggle Option: Fatshark HD3 Core FPV Goggles
This will be by far your biggest investment in FPV. In fact, when you click through this link you might be inclined to email me and ask if I'm insane! Most people do balk at the price of these goggles and after all is said and done you will be paying $420 for this piece of the FPV puzzle and you still need accessories to get this working.
But… They are really worth it and at the end of the day even if you buy cheaper goggles you will end up replacing them with these. Before I got these I went through three sets of goggles that didn't work or broke after a few sessions. I would have saved a lot of money if I just went with these right in the beginning.
The Fatshark HD3 goggles has the best screen and can support any kind of FPV camera. While others distort the image based on the resolution, with the HD3 you always get a clear image which is crucial for FPV. These goggles also have DVR recording, different lens sizes if you are nearsighted and small fan to prevent the lens from fogging up. All of these features are crucial for pro pilots.
If you really can't stomach buying these goggles yet you do have options. Any goggle will work with any FPV setup so you could start with something as cheap as the $80 goggles I recommend for toy drones. Personally I wouldn't go any cheaper than the $180 Fatshark box goggle. I've used these in the beginning and they are almost as good as the HD3 and can pop out the screen to use as a ground station. NOTE if you get these box goggles you can skip all the accessories below.
Click here to get your Fatshark HD3 goggles.
Furious True-D V3.5 Diversity Receiver
FPV goggles require a receiver to pick up the video signel from your drone. You can pick any receiver that you want and plug them into your goggles. I like these because you can use two antennas and the receiver will pick the best signel available. Plus, it's programmable and you can put your callsign on the LED screen.
Click here to get your Furious True-D V3.5 Diversity Receiver.
ImmersionRC SpiroNet 5.8GHz 8dBi Mini Patch Antenna RHCP
You need two antennas for receiver. This one gives you a strong signel when you face is pointed right at your drone with no obstructions.
Click here to get your patch antenna
Team BlackSheep TBS Triumph Antenna Set
This is the other antenna that you need. It's best when the drone is behind trees or your back is to the drone.
Click here to get your circular antenna
You need these to connect your antennas up to your receiver. They will not fit without these because the connectors on the receiver stick straight out.
NOTE make sure to get both 45 and 90 degree connectors.
Click here to get 90 degree connectors
Click here to get 45 degree connectors
You got it - more batteries! Your goggles don't come with their own batteries, so be sure to add this to your cart before checking out. These plug into your goggles with a barrel connector and into your fan with the balance lead.
Click here to get your Fatshark battery
Fatshark Battery Charger Adapter
You will need to be able to charge your Fatshark goggle battery and to do that you have to be able to plug it in. For some reason, these adapters are not easy to find but I did manage to see this one on Ebay. This is one of those things that you might start as a little DIY project once you start building your own drones.
Click here to get your Fatshark battery adapter.
So, that's a lot of stuff - I tried my best to include everything single thing that you will need down to the battery connector wires. All said, you will be spending a little over $1,000 to get all this stuff. Basically, the price of a cheaper computer.
Some people at this point will ask about cutting corners or look for cheaper ways. And people might start to say “oh I only spent like $300 when I started”. Most of the stuff on that list is absolutely required with the exception of the goggles. These account for more than half of the cost so if you feel that you need to cut anything, that is where you would have to start. But expect to upgrade at some point if you continue in this hobby.
Once you get this stuff, the best thing to do is learn all you can about your drone, charger, radio and goggles. Take the Babyhawk to the field and start flying in acro (or rate) mode. It will take a few weeks before you start to really get the hang of FPV.
In the meantime, you might want to continue your education about FPV. In particular, once you master the Babyhawk it will be time to build your own drone. This is where it really gets interesting. Stay tuned to my channel to see more about building your own drone and going in deeper into FPV.