Basic Knowledge FPV Racing—The Beginner Guide
In this article, I would particularly like to help beginners to get started with our Hobby FPV Racing. I will try to explain a few basic things to specific topics and point out some important topics, such as security.
For further information I link to external pages, and also directly to products I used. I consciously do not go into the depth of the individual topics, but would like to give only an impetus for further research.
I would also like to emphasize that it is my personal opinion on the individual topics.
Feedback is very important! If I have forgotten points or find their mistake, please point me out. So we can expand and improve the guide. Of course, I am happy about discussions in the comments.
What kind of hobby is that?
We fly with small multicopters (mostly quad-copters), over and against obstacles. With a video google, we sit directly in the aircraft and steer from the pilot’s perspective.
What we do not do: take the drone and spy on our neighbors.
How expensive is the hobby?
This is hard to say. It all depends on what you use for parts and how much parts are broken when flying. This question has often been asked in the community. Calculator for a complete new start with the hobby with at least 1000 €. I suggest to start with a cheap homeracer.
Do I need special skills?
Actually, you do not need special skills. It would be advantageous if you know what voltage, current and +/− means and are not a coarse motorist.
The most things you will learn quickly. Soldering is an essential part of the hobby without which you cannot get away.
Soldering is not difficult and the rest can be learned with some self-initiative.
Make or Buy
– You can start flying immediately
– You have a tuned setup
– usually more expensive (spare parts, purchase)
– if something breaks, someone has to repair it for you
Whether you crash your own- building or RTF (Ready To Fly) Copter does not matter. You must repair it anyway and therefore you will not be able to solder and tinker around. That’s why you dare to assemble and build your first copter completely by yourself. You can find help with the compilation in our community.
You can also find ready-made sets. With this set everything is matched and you just have to mount it.
An important point is the community. You will surely have noticed that there are not many people in your environment that run this hobby.
That is why the „FPV Racer Germany“ community was founded on Facebook. At the moment more than 3,000 members are registered, all of whom follow the same hobby.
Especially for beginners this community is very helpful. You can quickly get answers to a question.
Do not be surprised: sometimes „escalates“ something in the group. But you will experience that yourself.
Other communities: www.fpv-racing-forum.de
Note: There is also a Facebook group for Swiss FPV racers.
Card of Members
In any case, have a look at the pilot map. Perhaps you’ll find Like-minded to fly in your town.
Here is the typical structure of a FPV Quadcopter:
4× motor controllers (ESCs)
1× flight controller
1× FPV camera
1× Video transmitter (VTx)
1× receiver for control commands
1× Battery (LiPo)
4× propellers (2× left turn, 2× right turn)
There are tons of frames. High quality, very expensive frames and also cheap ones. It is a matter of taste, whether you like the a frame or not. Nevertheless, one should pay attention not only to appearance, but also to the quality, serviceability, spare parts availability etc.
Usually the frames consist of carbon fiber (CFK), glass fiber (GFK) or other plastics.
I recommend choosing a frame from CFK as these are extremely light and stable.
Also the size plays an important role. The most common size is the 210–250 class. 250 is the dimension in mm diagonally between two motors.
For the beginning, I recommend a ZMR250 frame out of CFK. It is the most widespread and very stable.
In order for the copter to fly, it must be propelled. Brushless motors are used instead.
Again, there are differences in price / performance. Note that the motors must fit your frame as well.
The flight controller have to control the motors. This happens via the motor controllers, also called ESCs.
Again, there are a variety of manufacturers and variations.
It is important to select the voltage for which the ESCS is designed. If you want to fly with 4S Lipos you also need controllers and motors that can tolerate this voltage.
For the power supply we used lithium polymer high performance rechargeable batteries
Important for the Lipo choice is:
– Number of cells: 3S for beginners, 4S for experienced
– Capacity (guideline for Racer: 1000 mAh to 1800 mAh)
– C Rate: Unload rate
charging a LiPo
Do not load unattended. Do not deep discharge and never overcharge. LiPos store a lot of energy and can cause a lot of damage (fire) by improper handling.
Loading on a fireproof pad. Do not place flammable objects near Lipos.
Charge and transport your batteries best in fireproof LiPo bags, metal containers or clay vessels.
PDB (Power Distribution Board)
Power Distribution Boards are small boards on which the power supply can be easily soldered. They are not mandatory, but make the work and the construction easier.
There are already PDBs with integrated LC filters. Here you can find my PDB Guide.
Make sure you use cables with silicone sheath. They keep great temperatures and can be laid out wonderfully.
In addition, you need to adjust the cross-section of the cable to the current and select the correct size. There are AWG tables for help.
You also need a charger specifically for LiPos. Do not buy cheap chargers. Calculate with cost of about 80–250 €. I suggest using this charger. With that one, you can charge up to 4 LiPos at once. If you want a cheaper one, this is also good.
If you want to charge LiPos on the field, this is your choice.
The flight controller is the heart of the Quadcopter. It controlled the motors and evaluated various sensors, controlled LEDs and much more.
Widely used is the Naze32 controller of abusemark in the Acro version. There are many other flight controls:
STRM32 F1 Boards
STRM32 F3 Boards
STRM32 F4 Boards
Buy a remote control with at least 6 channels. 4 channels for the control and 2 for flight mode and, for example, Pieper for finding the model after a crash.
The mostly used is the Taranis from FrSky. However, there are also different manufacturers like Graupner, Turnigy or Spektrum.
Also, note that your receiver should be compatible with remote control.
Cotrol of the flight model over: 2.4 GHz
Video transmission: 5.8 GHz (Übersicht der Kanäle und Bänder)
In order to be able to see the flights later in decent quality, actioncams are mounted on the top of the Quadcopter. The cameras are usually angled, otherwise in the forward flight only the ground would be filmed.
These cameras are often used: GoPro, GoPro Session, Mobius, RunCam HD
Forget GPS. There’s no place for it on a racer 😛
The Maiden is a magical moment. A new Copter lifts for the first time and has its first flight.
Absolutely do filming, there happen the most amazing things. =)
Most screws that are installed in a racer are M3 countersunk head screws with hexagon socket. Lid head screws are ideal, since the screw head is nicely flat and rounded.
When choosing the nuts, I would only rely on self-locking nuts. These cannot be solved by vibrations. I recommend the purchase of an M3 screw assortment with different lengths. My screw terminal is either the local metal trade or www.screwsandmore.de.
It also does not always have to be metal screws: where little or no forces occur, nylon screws are often used.
When building a copter, always pay attention to the weight. Keep the cable as short as possible. Use no too long screws. Clearly abstain from unnecessary ballast.
For a better orientation LEDs are often installed. These makes it possible to assess the flight situation when flying, and in the case of FPV flying, other pilots recognize the other models better. Here is a tutorial for the connection of LEDs: To the tutorial
Telemetry is the transmission of flight data such as signal strength of the spark or voltages of the lipos to the remote control. The data are displayed on the remote control display.
FPV means „First Person View“. The fact that you are wearing a video google, you sit almost in your copter. Unlike flying on sight, you do not have to rethink when the Copter turns.
If you want to fly FPV you need a video transmission. The FPV camera, which is installed in the front of the copter, sends the signal to the video transmitter (VTx) which sends the picture again analogue 5.8 GHz transmission to the video receiver (VRX).
In Germany, 5.8 GHz transmitters can only be used with 25 mW power and transmit in the frequency range 5725 MHz to 5875 MHz.
Never without antenna
Tip: Never turn the video transmitter on without an antenna, otherwise the transmitter can be damaged and will not provide the full power or burn completely.
If you have stripes in the video, this is due to disturbances in the power supply. An LC filter basically filters the voltage and thus minimizes stripes in the FPV image.
These filters are available in various shops on pcbs. Self-built filters can also be purchased from the FPV Racer community (e.g. Philipp Ho).
Finding the right FPV googles is not so easy. There are many different models, manufacturers and types. If possible, set up and test the googles of your fellow pilots. Well-known brands are: Fat Shark, Skyzone, Headplay or Eachine
There are different video frequencies. If you are flying with other people, you must first vote, which frequency everybody uses. Nothing is worse when you suddenly have the wrong video clip on his googles.
Advance: Propellers are consumables. You should always have a handful of them.
A common propeller designation is, for example:
DAL 5045 Bullnose or Gemfan 6030
DAL and Gemfan is the manufacturer. The first number is the size in inches. So 5″ and 6″. The last two figures describe the slope of the propellers.
Since bullnose have more surface, with which air can be moved, they develop more thrust. The power consumption increases and the flight time decreases.
If not already available, you will also need various tools such as Allen wrenches, screwdrivers, wrenches, cutter knives, scalpels, wire strippers and side cutters. Also here, who buys cheap, buys twice.
In addition you need a soldering iron or better a controllable soldering station, solder tin and a desoldering pump.
A beautiful aid during the flight to monitor the voltage of the batteries is this Lipo Buzzer or Lipo Warner. It checks each cell individually and warns with a loud beep when the battery pack is empty.
Apart from gold contact plugs, you do not need many plugs. The most common connector is the XT60 connector. The 60 means that the plug can withstand a maximum of 60 A continuous current.
In Germany, there are not many such races, but the second big race in Bexbach, a place in the Saarland, has already been played. Rolf Venz has organized both races and put a lot of work into the organization. The next races will be announced in his Facebook group.
Race Copter are not toys! Fly where there are no people and where you can destroy something. Do not fly over people. When you fly in the garden, take care of dogs and small children.
And this point you should ALWAYS take into account: Propeller off when you work at the Copter!
Often you can read in the community of material damage, meat sore severed tendons and tattered tablecloths. The propellers rotate at extremely high speeds and can be very dangerous
Sooner or later you will buy a camping chair. Because if you wear a video google, you see only the video image from the copter. To stand for several minutes is very stressful and you have to concentrate even more. I used this chair, for example
I am not a Lawyer and would like to briefly mention this topic. You cannot rely on what I write here.
Fly only with supplementary liability insurance, because the normal liability insurance does not usually cover this. It is required by law that you must complete this insurance. It costs you between 50–150 € per year.
Fly only on your own land or on land where you have permission.
You should stay away from: airports, hospitals, industrial areas, people gatherings, substations, high-voltage lines, military …
On Thingiverse.com, you’ll find a variety of designs for all kinds of frames. From landing legs to camera shades, spacers or even antenna brackets you will find many good designs for printing with a 3D printer. Do not worry, you do not need to buy a 3D printer to get these parts. In the community, you can help each other and there are some, like I have, for example, a home printer and print it against a small donation for you.
Most parts come from China, as they are also produced there. There are several shops in China but also good German shops in Germany if you value on service and fast dispatch.
This article was translated by Daniel. Thank you for this! =)
Thanks to all who provided me with the photos. Thank you also to
for the product photos.
If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to ask questions in the comments below.