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So i have a plane now what?

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Hi there. I've been reading up on FPV for a few days since I found out about it through random Youtube video.

Anyway, I have a great planes spacewalker that's been in my garage for years and has never flown. I got it as a gift a long time ago, and between moving, getting married, and having a baby, it sort of took a back seat to other priorities. I actually intended to get into helicopters at the time and so I have a Futaba 9 channel radio... 72mhz i believe.

So my question is this. If I want to be at the point where i have a head tracking camera and can fly my plane around the city what else do i need?

I believe the plane has everything it needs to get going. Is it a good candidate? It's HUGE but I'm not sure what makes a good FPV plane. Is the radio ok for this?

Also, what range should I expect from my radio and the FPV? I've heard people getting 2-4 miles, but is that true/realistic?

I don't want to spend thousands of dollars but I'd like to get a good bang for my buck, so I don't want something cheapy either.

If you had my setup, and wanted to get up and going quickly ... what would you go out and get?

Thanks for the help... i'd really like to get into this

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Hi there. Good luck with your efforts - FPV is a hobby that isn't available 'off the shelf', so you've got a challenging, but ultimately very satisfying road ahead of you.

Hi there. I've been reading up on FPV for a few days since I found out about it through random Youtube video.

Anyway, I have a great planes spacewalker that's been in my garage for years and has never flown. I got it as a gift a long time ago, and between moving, getting married, and having a baby, it sort of took a back seat to other priorities. I actually intended to get into helicopters at the time and so I have a Futaba 9 channel radio... 72mhz i believe.

So my question is this.

If I want to be at the point where i have a head tracking camera and can fly my plane around the city what else do i need?

Three points:

1. Read The Fine Message Board - seriously, a few hours following some of the threads on this board will distill for you thousands of man-hours of front line experience with FPV.

2. You'll need a small camera on a 2-axis servo mount, a video transmitter and receiver, some video goggles and a head tracker, with a suitable transmitter (Futaba FF9 often recommended, although many transmitters with trainer inputs that can be individually activated can work too). Assuming you're in the US (72MHz!) www.rangevideo.com is a great place to start, and the store owner is very helpful. www.rc-tech.ch and www.intelligentflight.com also do good kit.

3. Not many of us fly over cities - interference (Wifi, other video senders, multipath) and safety concerns leave most of us flying around more open spaces. (Okay, there are some videos out there of some pretty nutty stuff in cities, indeed one which ends with the 'plane flying back in through a window in a block of flats, but most of us in FPV are keen that our increasingly paranoid governments don't slap a blanket ban on all non-military UAV activity, and try to act responsibly. You certainly won't get insurance cover for flying in built-up areas).

I believe the plane has everything it needs to get going. Is it a good candidate? It's HUGE but I'm not sure what makes a good FPV plane. Is the radio ok for this?

1. Flying FPV is hard, harder than flying normal R/C since your senses are so much more limited.

2. Flying FPV is very different from flying normal R/C, or flying full-size as a pilot.

As a consequence, nearly everyone has bought something small and bouncy for their early 'training'. I have certainly FPV'd bigger, conventionally-built models (including a 3.4m fibreglass monster), but if you consider that landing is where it usually goes wrong, I wouldn't recommend something big & balsa for a first try. Remember, you're up there with the rocket scientists in FPV, things often won't work well, or at all, first time, and if you are having to pause your FPV system development to rebuild a trashed model every time, it's going to get rather tedious.

Also, what range should I expect from my radio and the FPV? I've heard people getting 2-4 miles, but is that true/realistic?

Depends on the power & frequencies legally available to you in your country, as well as your stage of expertise. FPVers in the US have reported ranges of miles under the right conditions, with the right equipment. However, remember that stock R/C gear may not get much over a mile. You're going to have to experiment. (Some FPV onscreen displays can show you your received R/C signal strength as you're flying, others will autopilot your plane back to base if you lose R/C contact. It's all great fun!)

I don't want to spend thousands of dollars but I'd like to get a good bang for my buck, so I don't want something cheapy either.

The secret is to learn to take good advice! There's a lot of stuff on eBay which looks nice & cheap, but a lot of the folk on this board have spent a great deal of time & money buying stuff that looks great on paper, to find that in practice it wasn't too hot. Paper specs are only a part of the story in FPV. The great thing about going to specialist suppliers is that they will sell you stuff that works well, which is the difference between you feeling you can risk 'flying through the goggles' or not. For example, it was sheer curiousity that persuaded me to shell out for a TX40 setup from www.rc-tech.ch: "Can their stuff REALLY be as good as their videos suggest, compared to the results I'm getting?". The answer was yes.

If you had my setup, and wanted to get up and going quickly ... what would you go out and get?

If I were starting from scratch and in the US, something like the "RangeVideo FPV set" would be a very sensible first move. $500 may sound a lot, but all the bits do add up (a bit like your first R/C setup). Or, if you really want to try your 'plane, what about the 'Basic Flight Kit' from Intelligent Flight, or the classic TX40 Mini Set from RC-Tech. The Multiplex EasyStar (or one of its many clones - EP Fusion, Clouds Fly etc.), or Easy Glider (or one of its many clones) will be far more forgiving on landing...

Thanks for the help... i'd really like to get into this

I'll finish by wishing you luck! And STRONGLY suggesting you learn to fly a fixed camera setup - in the process getting your video setup working well - before you add the complexity of head tracking.

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Sticky done. For clarity I added quote blocks around the quoted text.

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Wow, honestly, didn't expect that much info... but really, thanks, that's all great stuff. I definitely have been reading threads for hours on end. It's hard to really make educated opinions without actually owning any of this stuff.

So to touch on what you mentioned, I am in the US... in Texas, so while I live inside the city, there's a LOT of open area for flying. I agree with your take on trashing a balsa model... maybe i should mount the FPV on a cheapy easystar or something then move it over once i get the hang of it.

I've noticed most videos are taken at relatively high altitude, but I must say, I'd be inclined to fly pretty close to the deck along a river or between rows of trees (in unpopulated areas of course - again a lot here). Is this people being cautious or is there a technical reason they're not doing this?

Also why do most people use electric vs gas? vibration or convenience or what?

On the equipment, I've pretty well identified the 'starter' list of a video RX/TX, Camera, and goggles.

The goggles seem like something you'd want to buy once (actually true for most of this stuff), and I noticed a list them, but the two most popular seem to be Fatshark and RVision... are there other options I should look at? Which is the best?

For cameras I've seen The Sony's and the FPVCam's. It's really tough to even begin to differentiate them. Any insight?

RX/TX is probably the hardest to grasp. It's very technical (and I'm an IT Security Consultant). Is there an advantage to choosing different bands - 900, 1.2, 2.4, 5.6? Does the band have any effect on range (all things equal) or is that just a way of avoiding interference? I have a Futaba 9CHP 72mhz radio, so I don't think those will interfere with that... but 5.6 might be less crowded vs wifi and other communications. What band is best? Should i shell out for a High Gain Antenna.. they seem like they're only 50 bucks or so... and if so, should it be a whip or directional?

Also, on range, is it worth getting a 1000mW Tx or is that a lot of heat and power for nothing?

Anyway, a lot of questions I know, but I really appreciate the help.

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I'll try to field a few here.

why do most people use electric vs gas? vibration or convenience or what?

Have you ever lost engine power (and plane) due to a poor needle valve setting or foaming fuel? Also, it's hard and time consuming to clean fuel residue off your equipment, not to mention the damage it could do to your electronics. Vibration is a concern also. Fuzzy video and hard on equipment.

If you are aware of the charicteristics of your battery pack, you know how long you have to fly before you should land so you can/will get your model back safely.

Is there an advantage to choosing different bands - 900, 1.2, 2.4, 5.6? Does the band have any effect on range (all things equal) or is that just a way of avoiding interference?

Primarily interference with your R/C Tx & Rx and surrounding area interference such as Wifi & probably some cell towers. Also, the lower frequencies have less atmospheric absorbtion loss and therefore can provide a longer line of sight range although this is not critical at the distances we usually fly at.

Should i shell out for a High Gain Antenna.. they seem like they're only 50 bucks or so... and if so, should it be a whip or directional?

Most here, I imagine, use directional patch antennas with 8db or so gain. They have a somewhat wider beamwidth so it's not necessary to continually aim the antenna at the plane. You cannot however fly too far off to the sides, or behind the antenna.

A whip is omnidirectional (signal 360 degrees) with no gain unless it's an antenna designed to have more gain. At any rate, it still has less range compared to a directional patch antenna however you can fly all around the antenna instead of having to stay in front of it..

Also, on range, is it worth getting a 1000mW Tx or is that a lot of heat and power for nothing?

Depends. Do you have a Ham license? I don't recall what the limit is for unlicensed operation on the 2.4ghz band, but I suppose it's 100mw or less. Probably 10mw. Anyway, a 1 watt Tx is overkill for the distances you would be flying at.

My recommendation would be to use 2.4ghz equipment for your video equipment as there is plenty of proven equipment to choose from, and it's probably the least expensive to get started with. Even so, you're probably going to be spending more than $500, probably closer to $800 for a real good system by the time you're done. That, as well as spending countless hours to get a handle on all this stuff.

Good luck. Hope this helped somewhat.

Edited by W3FJW-Ron

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Also why do most people use electric vs gas? vibration or convenience or what?

What Ron said, plus noise concerns. In many places, people really aren't that keen on noisy model planes flying around and tend to complain pretty soon.

I've noticed most videos are taken at relatively high altitude, but I must say, I'd be inclined to fly pretty close to the deck along a river or between rows of trees (in unpopulated areas of course - again a lot here). Is this people being cautious or is there a technical reason they're not doing this?

One "reasonable" factor is that usually waves (both of the video and RC links) propagate better at altitude. So, the farther you fly, the higher you'd better be.

But the most common and "less reasonable" reason is that at least in the US it seems like many people are attracted by flying high and far, as seen by the number of people coming and asking how to make a setup that can "fly 3 miles away"...

Personally I find flying close, low and around obstacles a lot more entertaining - flying high up is quickly boring, you just see small things on the ground and get no sense of speed. I'll however regularly climb to a few hundred meters to nave a nice look at the region.. for a couple of minutes and circles, then go down again. The exception is when you manage to fly around some nice clouds, the fun never ends in that case :)

Low...

Pretty old video of mine, but was a lot of fun :)

Edited by Kilrah

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There you go... that's exactly what I'm talking about

So if I'm putting together a shopping list, we've kinda covered the components, but what brands or specific items should i consider for each component - goggle, head track, Rx, Tx, camera, pivot, etc.

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Well, reading the posts here, I'd say you've got all the info you need - decision time!

Installed correctly, the kit from the suppliers mentioned will work okay.

So to start off you'll be getting goggles with at least 640x480 resolution, head trackers like the TrackR1/2, 2.4GHz video transmitters @ 10-100mW, specially-selected matching high-sensitivity video receivers, cameras like the classic KX-131 (all 3 combined in the TX40 Tx/Rx/camera set), pivots to fit your plane like the Pandora or ServoCam, and options for in-flight power such as a 2s LiPo for the TX40, or well-suppressed appropriate regulators if you're more ambitious. And many would add an 8dB patch antenna to improve reception - just for luck.

But caveat emptor: you will probably find, as most of us have, that what we saw as our 'one-off' purchase to 'do FPV' proved just to be the start...

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