You’ve probably seen some impressive videos of FPV (First Person View) drones flying around tight obstacles or following a dirt bike as the rider launches off a dirt ramp. If you’re like me, then those videos make you excited to get out there and try filming similar shots yourself. However, there are some important things to consider before you jump into the FPV world with both feet.
This article is meant to act as a guide for beginner FPV drone enthusiasts. If you are researching FPV and trying to make a decision about whether or not to make the plunge, then you are in the right place.
Should I buy a DJI-type drone or get an FPV drone instead?
Probably the most important question to ask yourself before you start making any purchases. To answer this, you need to know the answer to three other questions: What is my intent/purpose for buying a drone? What is my budget (really)? How much time do I have to invest in drones? We will get to the last two questions later, but let’s answer the first question now.
What is my intent/purpose for buying a drone?
A drone like the DJI Mini 3 Pro is great for capturing slower moving objects, or anything stationary like stunning scenery or architecture. The cameras on these drones are very good and allow you to capture crisp video and images. Maximum speed on a drone like this is typically tops out between 30 and 40 MPH.
Some activities that people use these drones for are weddings, real estate photography, vlogging, nature photography, and sometimes for family events. Depending on which model you get, you can make some professional-grade footage from these drones.
FPV drones are built for high-speed activities. They all have built-in cameras (that transmit the video signal to your goggles), but these are usually only to assist the pilot in flying and are low-quality. That means that you need to have an additional camera mounted on top to record anything useful. There are many options that we won’t go into here, but one of them is to use an action camera like the GoPro Hero 10 Black Bones.
Pilots use these drones for racing, capturing fast-moving objects like cars, nature flybys, architecture flythroughs, or for freestyle/acrobatic sessions. These drones are “unlocked”, so to speak. They can perform maneuvers like flips and rolls that normal drones can’t.
Luckily, there is a third option for drone enthusiasts that want to be able to fly FPV yet still have a normal drone too. The DJI FPV Drone merges the two together for the first time. This drone is fast and you can toggle FPV flying mode on and off at will. There is even an emergency air brake button that will stop your drone and hover at any time. Of course, anything like this is going to have some concessions. For example, the camera isn’t as good as many other DJI models and you can say goodbye to repairing this drone yourself if you crash it. However, this is a great option for beginners who want a taste of FPV.
How much does an FPV drone cost?
You can buy a good pre-built FPV drone or build one yourself for $200 - $350. However, that doesn’t account for the entire FPV system. Besides the drone itself, you need to buy a lot more equipment to start flying such as goggles, a transmitter, batteries, and battery chargers. A conservative estimate would be about $1000 to start flying from scratch. Add a few hundred more to that if you want to get the best equipment.
A good piece of advice for first-timers is to make a list of all the parts you are going to need and look up prices before you buy anything. For some reason it always seems to be more expensive than you originally think, and that may be a big deciding factor for you. There are several parts guides out there that can help give you a better idea for prices.
Are FPV drones hard to fly?
The short answer is yes, they are difficult to fly. You can’t expect to power on the drone for the first time and fly it around well. Everyone in the community will tell you that you are going to crash your drone several times, especially while practicing to fly.
The good news is that FPV drones are usually easy to repair. If you aren’t good with your hands, then you’ll have to brush up on some soldering skills to do this, but it’s nothing too complicated and there are several videos out there that walk you through it.
Also, there are simulators available on the internet to practice flying before you even get in the air. The prices for these are cheap and average around $15 - $20. Check out this list of FPV simulators for more details. I chose to purchase Velocidrone and have been pretty happy with it so far.
What you should takeaway from this section is that you are going to need to invest time into learning to fly (and possibly learning to repair). I think that almost anyone can master flying a normal drone in an hour. However, you are probably going to spend 5+ hours in the simulator alone before you are even ready to take-off for real.
Hopefully this article has been a valuable part of your research journey and that you are now able to make a decision about which type of drone you’d like to buy. Check out my other FPV articles or stay tuned for more content to help you in the journey!