FPV Quadcopter Kits

Now a days, it’s pretty rare to see a quadcopter without a camera.  Adding a camera to a quadcopter is the natural upgrade once one learns to comfortably fly one, yet still, more and more hobbyists are looking still to further upgrade their systems to FPV quadcopters.
So what exactly are FPV quadcopters?  FPV, which stands for ‘first person view’, allows you to see exactly what the quadcopter sees – essentially you are the pilot!  The live feed from the camera on the quadcopter is transmitted and viewed on a remote display.
Typically, everyone who navigates their quadcopter keeps a close eye on it in the skies.  However, with a FPV system, you are either doing one of two things: either you’re staring down at transmitter or you’re staring into a heads up display goggle.  Either way, it’ll look a little bit odd…
FatShark Guy
The advantage to flying a FPV quadcopter is that you don’t need to maintain a line of sight with your quadcopter.  Case in point, one person recorded the inside of an erupting volcano.  Another advantage is that your recorded videos will look more refined and cinematic because you have more control on the angle or perspective you want to capture.

A recommended entry level FPV quadcopter, which also happens to be the world’s smallest ready to fly quadcopter, the Hubsan X4 H107D quadcopter is simply phenomenal right out of the box.  It’s a fun little quadcopter that has the ability to do stunts, flips, and tricks, smaller, mini quadcopters are geared to do, yet it’s sophisticated to capture high quality FPV videos as larger, more expensive quadcopters are meant to do. It’s a nice hybrid between both worlds.
hubsan-x4-fpv-mini-quadcopter-h107d

The X4 has a built in FPV 4.3 inch LCD screen in the controller and it uses a built in 720p camera that allows you to capture 640 x 480 resolution images or 720 x 240 resolution videos.  Everything comes integrated and ready to fly, right out of the box.

As an entry level, lower priced quadcopter, it’s not as robust as the larger, more stable quadcopters like the DJI Phantom 2 Vision or Vision+.  One of the disadvantage of the X4 is that it’s a bit hard to hover in one position. Even with the slightest wind, the X4 can be pushed around quite easily.  However, for the price and the FPV capability, it’s a really good FPV starter system.

DJI-Phantom-2-Vision

DJI Vision 2

Alternatively, if you are looking at a ready to fly FPV quadcopter that is geared more towards the prosumer lineup, the DJI Phantom 2 Vision or the DJI PhantomVision+ is a great option.  These larger quadcopters have 14MP cameras that are capable of recording 1080p resolution videos.  They also have built in gimbals / stabilizers for smooth video recording.

Also integrated into these quadcopters are GPS navigational chips that allow the quadcopter to hover with ease and to return home should the transmitter lose connectivity.  As for the FPV portion of the system, you can view the live video feed using the DJI mobile app on either your iphone or your android phone.  The app will enable you to start stop the video recording, take photographs, and even zoom. When it comes to FPV systems, the DJI phantom is really the cream of the crop.
Vision+

DJI Vision+

If you already have a quadcopter like the original DJI Phantom and are looking to retrofit it with a FPV camera system, there are two recommendations: 1) The Kumba Camera FPV kit or 2) the Fat Shark FPV Goggles.
The Kumba Camera is a nice setup in that you are able to directly connect your GoPro Hero and transmit the feed to a 7″ LCD display that can be mounted on your controller.
FPV setup Kumba Cam

FPV boxIt’s crucial to note that since your transmitter, which controls the quadcopter, operates on 2.4GHz, so you must not use the same frequency for anything else.  You would think that you could use the live display with GoPro app, but because that WIFI connectivity also operates on 2.4GHz, it could and potentially will interfere with your quadcopter navigation.  And as such, it may cause your quadcopter to drop from the sky.  To minimize potential interference, the Kumba Camera is set to 5.8GHz. Alternatively, there are four other channels within this frequency band.
The Fat Shark FPV system is also a nice setup in that you’re navigating your quadcopter using a heads up display.  With this setup, the goggles will only work with the supplied 720p camera assembly.  Like the Kumba Camera, the Fat Shark also operate on 5.8GHz.  The only problem with this setup is that it doesn’t have head tracking capability.  Say if you see a tree in front of you, and you wanted to react to it, you won’t be able to avoid collision if you suddenly jerk your head to the side.fatsharkFatShark Predator-

Who knows, maybe in the future, that will be the next upgrade beyond the FPV quadcopter upgrade.

DJI Phantom 2 Vision

dji-phantom-2-vision-quadcopter

As a successor to to its popular predecessor, the Phantom 2 Vision quadcopter sets the bar even higher.  The word ‘Awesome’ simply is not enough to describe this new model.  How do you make the best quadcopter any better?

Simple, by integrating a high definition WiFi camera with First Person View to a packaged Ready to Fly (RTF) kit.  Seriously, this is the ultimate quadcopter kit.

 

DJI Innovations, the maker of the DJI Phantom, took the base model, kept all the features that made this quadcopter, the quadcopter of the industry.  These features included an on board GPS system that allows the quadcopter to maintain its position mid air as well return to home whenever the battery is depleted or whenever the communication link is broken.  Other features that were retained are the 300m communication link between the transmitter and the quadcopter and the self tightening propellers.

The frame of the quadcopter and the transmitter remains nearly identical to the previous generation, however, the internal components and software add-ons have improved significantly.   For one, the new Phantom Vision gets a new battery upgrade, from 1000mAH to 5200mAH battery.  For at least 25 minutes of juice, this larger battery provides nearly 3x more fly time when compared to the first generation model.  Also, the new integrated battery compartment enables you to swap batteries in a matter of seconds.

dji_phantom2vision_battery


The most notable upgrade to the DJI phantom is the WiFi HD video camera that comes integrated with the quadcopter.  Previously generation of the DJI Phantom allowed enthusiasts to fly with their own personal GoPro camera.  visionThis new WiFi HD video camera is capable of capturing photos and videos simultaneously in either a 1080p (30fps or 60i) or 14 megapixel resolution.  The current GoPro Hero 3+ is only able to record 1080p at 30fps and capture images at 12 megapixel resolution. While there are pros and cons to having a built in camera on board the quadcopter, if you already have a GoPro Hero, you could always opt for the Phantom 2 model with the Zenmuse H3-2D gimbal mount for greater versatility.   But as it stands, the DJI Phantom 2 Vision is now truly a complete ready to fly system.

One of the key features of Phantom Vision is the built in first person view.  This is important because many times when you’re flying the quadcopter, you’re either flying blind or you’re having difficulties determining the direction and speed that you should be recording.  Having a first person view that’s integrated to your iOS or android mobile device can be advantageous because you can see what the camera is seeing in the first person mode.  This is significant because you can either film that quality shot with FPV (when your quadcopter is out of sight) or you could record utter garbage without it.   With the DJI app, you’re able to start and stop the recording, adjust the quality of the image, as well as tilt and pan the camera.  The app also monitors parameters like altitude, location, and battery life.

app

While you could theoretically use your GoPro app to view the GoPro footage in first person view, it would be unwise to do so because the frequency that the GoPro uses to communicate with your mobile device is the same as the frequency that is used for your transmitter to communicate with your quadcopter.  Because the two operate on the same frequency, you would get unwanted signal interference that may cause your quadcopter to lose comm link.  

What about jello effects?

Jello effects on the DJI phantom are when you see rippling effect in the video caused by the propellors.  The latest Phantom Vision comes built in with anti-vibration mount via soft rubber plugs to isolate the camera from vibrations caused by motors and propellers.  In the first version of the DJI phantom, you would either need to install an aftermarket gimbal mount with the soft plugs or you would need to balance your propellers.   This is a must needed upgrade to the DJI line up as that issue was inherent to the predecessor’s design.

So is the new DJI Phantom 2 Vision worth it?  

It’s definitely worth it.

 

 

Here’s a review from Photoshop Cafe on the new features of the latest Phantom Vision:

Below are some sample videos recorded with the Phantom 2 Vision.