Flying an FPV (first person view) drone is an otherworldly experience.
Before now, only in movies and video games could most people experience a bird’s-eye view or race through obstacles at breakneck speeds.
Thanks to FPV quadcopters, hexacopters, and other multirotors, anyone with enough flying skill to maneuver a drone can now have this experience.
When most people think ‘FPV drone system,’ they think about FPV racing.
And rightly so. It’s awesome!
Want to skip the details and go straight to our list of recommended FPV drones, goggles, cameras, and transmitters? You got it:
FPV racing makes for an excellent spectator sport. Live attendees can either watch the drones themselves, or they can set a pair of goggles or an LCD monitor to the right channel see what the drones are seeing.
TV stations can also stream live racing events to millions of homes, bars, and restaurants.
(ESPN recently announced a partnership with the International Drone Racing Association to begin streaming races in August, 2016.)
Then there’s the hobby side of FPV drones.
Pilots can have a ton of fun getting views, photos, and videos of objects and landscapes they never could have gotten before.
FPV drones can also aid search and rescue, as emergency personnel can eliminate the risk of human harm while scouting dangerous areas.
Finally, there’s the ever-expanding (and lucrative) commercial side to FPV.
Professional pilots can shoot expert aerial photos and videos to be turned into marketing materials, maps and 3D models, and much more.
First person view multirotor capabilities have blown the doors wide open to harness drone technology even further in society.
If you’re new to the FPV world or have just started getting your feet wet, we suggest reading the entire article.
We organized this guide by the following concepts.
FPV (first person view): Using a screen, monitor, or goggles to view what your multirotor’s camera is seeing in real time.
Line of Sight (LoS): Being able to physically see your drone as you’re piloting it.
FPV racing: A rapidly growing sport in which pilots race small quadcopters around a predetermined track.
RTF (ready to fly) racing drones: Drones made for FPV racing that require no additional assembly.
DIY racing drones: A homemade do-it-yourself racing drone.
FPV camera: A special camera used for first-person-view racing, piloting, photography, or videography.
FPV goggles: A special set of goggles used to view what the multirotor’s camera is seeing in real time.
Head tracking: An FPV goggle mod that allows you to adjust your camera’s angle mid-flight by tilting your head.
Interpupillary distance: Internal goggle lens distance from the center of your pupils.
LCD monitor: A screen, usually attached to the controller, used to view what a multirotor’s camera is seeing. Usually used instead of goggles.
Transmitter: Relays the camera’s feed to the receiver.
Receiver: Accepts the camera’s feed and relays it to your screen/goggles of choice.
Frequency: The radio frequency FPV equipment runs on. Can be brand-dependent. Allows for multiple channels so pilots don’t interfere with each other.
FPV system: The entire drone rig, from the multirotor itself, to the connecting parts, to the controller and video display method.
On Screen Display (OSD): Gives you flight telemetry data (speed, altitude, battery life, etc) on your FPV display. See a full OSD guide here.
TVL (Resolution): The camera’s resolution, which helps determine video feed quality and clarity.
CCD camera type: Camera that uses a charge-coupled device (CCD) image sensor. Typically better for FPV.
CMOS camera type: Camera that uses a complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS) image sensor. Typically cheaper than CCD cameras, but not as good for FPV.
Video Latency: Lag in what your camera sees and when it transmits it to your screen/goggles. Can lead to inaccurate flight, racing maneuvers, and aerial shots.
Jello: Vibration in your video caused by the multirotor itself.
FPV racing is an exhilarating sport.
These quadcopters can fly up to 50mph miles per hour (or faster) through hoops, around trees, over bars, and just about any object.
The tracks are specifically set up to challenge each pilot’s skill set. Recreational tracks tend to be less complex, because the organizers usually don’t have the resources for a more intricate set up.
Or the pilots’ skill levels are lower.
Professional tracks can get extremely complex, causing pilots to make acrobat maneuvers to get around/through each obstacle.
According to FPVRacing.tv, FPV pilots currently have the option of 3 race types:
The multirotors race through a course and are ranked in the order they cross the finish line (traditional racing).
2. Drag Race
A straight-line race between 2 or more multirotors over a short distance (usually 100m). This tests acceleration and top speed.
3. Time Trial
Tests how fast each multirotor can make it through the course.
Check out these five resources to find drone racing events to join:
Just like NASCAR and other types of racing, pilots are broken up into teams for cohesion and scoring. Each pilot on a team typically uses similar equipment.
To find teams to join, check out this page.
The Drone Racing League – The DRL season involves different races in which pilots accumulate points. Pilots with the highest number of points qualify for the World Championship. Here are the standings.
MultiGP Drone Racing League – With chapters all over the world and events and classes for all types of FPV racers, MultiGP is leading the way in FPV racing and event management.
The World Drone Racing Championship – The 2016 Drone Worlds was held in Kualoa Ranch, Hawaii. The event brought together pilots from 30 countries to compete on four courses and in six different events each day.
To find a recreational or professional drone league in your area, do a Google search for “your area + drone racing league” or “your area + recreational drone racing league.”
Force 1’s XDR220 comes with a light, extra durable, and bend-resistant carbon fiber frame, and was clearly designed with racing in mind.
The XDR220 fits every level of racing, as it can be tuned and modified overtime as you become a better pilot. It is available as an RTF package, or you can get the kit separately and customize your own XDR220.
Check out our review of this kit for more on why we think this is one of the best options out there for FPV racing.
Its 285 size is slightly bigger than the more common 250, but it’s still extremely fast.
This quadcopter is foldable for easy transport, and its frame is made out of durable carbon fiber and custom injected plastic.
The camera mount is tiltable, allowing you to get the right flight angle, and it can fit either an FPV camera or an HD one (like a GoPro).
The Vortex 285 also includes a full-graphic on-screen display and 5.8GHz video transmitter, making it compatible with any 5.8Ghz receiver.
This is an excellent RTF quadcopter for both beginner and intermediate racers.
The ARRIS FPV 250 is one of the highest rated racing quadcopters on Amazon.
It’s made of durable carbon/glass fiber composited material to help it handle crashes and accidents. The drone is also equipped with a 700TVL camera that offers zero latency between what the drone sees and what you see.
And all parts are tested by the manufacturer and ready to fly. However, you will need to buy your own remote control and battery.
If you’re looking for a high-rated racing drone, check out the ARRIS FPV 250.
The Walkera Runner 250 is one of the most popular ready-to-fly FPV drones on the market.
This quadcopter features a carbon fiber frame that’s ultra-durable and crash resistant.
The Walkera 250 Pro is also simple to disassemble and reassemble. This allows pilots to customize its features and tune the rig.
This drone reaches speeds of up to 21-25 miles per hour, and the Runner 250 is equipped with an 800TVL HD camera for live FPV streaming.
If you’re looking to get into drone FPV racing, the Walkera Runner 250 is a solid start at a modest price.
The Spark is a selfie drone that takes off from the operator’s hand and automatically enters “Gesture Mode”, which lets users send it into the air and shoot a video with pre-defined flight paths, like circling, following, or filming from straight up.
With it’s gesture recognition and obstacle avoidance technology, it’s not an exaggeration to say that DJI’s Spark is probably the most user-friendly drone on the market.
If you want to fly longer distances with the Spark you have the option of using a smartphone app for flights over 100 yards away, or you can use a remote control (the Spark can fly a distance of 1.2 miles). The Intelligent Flight Modes available with more professional DJI drones—such as TapFly and ActiveTrack—can also be found on the Spark.
To fly in first person view with the Spark you can use your tablet or smartphone through the DJI GO app. You can then attach your device to your controller, which allows you to have it in front of you at all times.
The Spark comes with DJI’s new QuickShot mode, which automatically creates a 10-second video from the footage captured in your flight.
QuickShot allows you to avoid all the work needed to take raw footage and create a final video. Instead of taking your footage, uploading it, editing it, and then downloading it, QuickShot simply creates a video for you using your best shots.
UDI is a highly reputable (and affordable) drone manufacturer that’s been constantly upgrading their training / beginner sUAS models over the last couple of years.
This model, the U49W Blue Heron, boasts altitude-hold and a first-person-view (FPV) screen, so you can see exactly what the HD camera of your drone sees…in real time. This is a great drone to learn on if you want to get into FPV racing.
But that’s not all! You also get an extra battery to help you fly for even longer before having to charge.
The DJI Phantom 4 is one of the top drones on the market right now.
It’s the fastest Phantom so far, capable of reaching top speeds of 45 miles per hour. It also gets an excellent flight time of 28 minutes — great for pro pilots to get the shots they need and minimize downtime.
The Phantom 4 also has a built-in camera that can record video at 4K, 2.7K, 1080p and 720p. But one of it’s most notable features is the obstacle avoidance system. The drone can intelligently position and maneuver itself around obstacles mid-flight.
Couple all of this with a Tap to Fly system, DJI’s reliability, and robust software, and you’ve got a tough drone to beat.
These extra parts are available for the DJI Phantom 4:
DJI recently released the Phantom 4 Pro Obsidian, which comes with a magnesium shell and anti-fingerprint coating, not to mention the super cool-looking matte-grey obsidian coloring.
Check it out:
You can buy the Phantom 4 Pro Obsidian now on the DJI website.
The Typhoon H sits at a reachable $1,499 (similar to the Phantom 4).
This hexacopter features obstacle avoidance and a CGO3+ 4K UHD camera that gives you a full 360-degree view of the world around your drone.
It also offers Team Mode, which allows you to bind one controller to the hexacopter and one to the camera for dual-operator control.
Also, flying in FPV with the Typhoon H is super easy. Either use the 7-inch screen built into the controller, or simply connect your goggle’s HDMI cord to the controller’s HDMI port.
This is one of the highest rated FPV cameras on Amazon. And for what you get, the price is nearly unbeatable.
It comes with a 5.8Ghz transmitter (make sure your receiver is also 5.8Ghz), and the FPV camera features low power consumption and lightweight design, making it great for 250-sized quadcopters.
It is a CMOS camera, so it’s not as good for FPV as CCD ones. And you may need to solder the connections. But for less than $50, this camera is a great starter.
If you’ve read anything about FPV systems before, you’ve probably heard of Fat Shark.
Their 900VTL camera is on the pricier side, but it delivers high quality video.
At .3 ounces, it’s extremely lightweight and great for FPV racing. But you will need to couple it with a transmitter, receiver, and goggles or a monitor if you don’t have those items already.
(This is the case with most FPV cameras available.)
Fat Shark’s Dominator HD3 V3 goggles come fully-featured with adjustable IPD, a modular design (allowing you to customize parts and add-ons), and high quality 800×600 resolution.
You can also attach the Trinity Head Tracker to allow you to adjust your camera’s angle mid-flight by tilting your head. Simply insert the module into a slot on the side of the goggles.
Crazepony’s VR-D2 is an excellent pair of goggles, and a good fit for new pilots or pilots who are on a budget.
It’s resolution is solid at 800 x 480, and it features a full 5-inch screen to view your quadcopter’s flight, and a built-in DVR function for recording your flight.
It has got a built-in 5.8Ghz receiver (the antenna is 5.8Ghz as well), and it comes with padding for added comfort.
These goggles are worth a look if you’re on a budget or want a starter pair to try out.
It runs on 5.8Ghz frequency, offers 32 channels, and is rated 600mW in power.
The 5.8Ghz frequency will make your connection a little jumpy if there are obstacles (like trees or buildings) in the way, but 600mW should be enough to make up for some of that.
For less than $30, this transmitter will at least get you up and running.
This Crazepony transmitter is similar to the one above (5.8Ghz, 32 channel, etc) except the power voltage is lower.
What this transmitter lacks in power it makes up for in weight. If you’re concerned about minimizing weight to maximize speed, this Crazepony transmitter is a solid buy.