Long range fpv setup. The myths vs the facts. 

long range fpv setup- The myths vs the facts:

All too often,  people that are new to the fpv hobby tend to have a misconception about the actual range of fpv.  Technically, line of sight (LOS) Is supposed to be maintained when flying fpv.  This automatically limits the realistic distance that you are supposed to fly fpv.

Technically you are also supposed to have a spotter when flying fpv. This way you can maintain line of sight while flying with googles.

So what kind of range can you expect?  Well nothing is Perfect, but each frequency has advantages and disadvantages. This post can help you decide.

On 5.8 ghz (the ideal mini-quad frequency ) the range that can be expected is LOS MAYBE 1500′. Less if you add obstacles to the mix such as trees, hills, buildings, or bodies. For this reason,5.8 just isn’t really ideal for long range flying.

When flying on 5.8. I tend to find my flying area, center myself within it (use omnidirectional antennas) and then fly all around myself.  I have learned that video cuts out pretty bad beyond any trees or buildings and therefore my 5.8ghz crafts naturally limit themselves to Los. 5.8 is good for its portability (no ground station, small antennas) but for better range something else has to be done.

To fly further, you have to change your methodology.

So my method is to bring a spotter, binoculars, and a ground station, and fly on a frequency that works better beyond trees, over hills, and through the woods.

The key here is the ground station.

I prefer to fly on 2 frequencies for long range flying, 2.4 ghz and 1.2ghz with the former being my favorite because of it’s legality and the availability of equipment.

THE GROUNDSTATION

When flying long range, you have to change your antenna scheme. In order to get the range that you want, you have to get a good directional antenna array.  When using 2.4ghz video, I fly with a tbs GROUNDSTATION coupled with an 11db 2.4ghz yagi antenna. The tbs GROUNDSTATION is a really nice unit because it has a video screen for redundancy, built in 2.4ghz receiver, antenna mounting areas, tripod mounting holes, a rugged metal case, connections for goggles (power and video cables), and a USB port to charge a camera.

 

So the tbs GROUNDSTATION makes it very easy to have a reliable unit on the ground to help you tune in your fpv and give your spotter something to do and look at.  The screen also doubles as a redundant backup in case you have an issue with your goggles.

TBS Groundstation Fully Setup showing Yagi antenna and tripod (not included)

TBS Groundstation Fully Setup showing Yagi antenna and tripod (not included)

There are other, cheaper ways to build a GROUNDSTATION but the TBS has it all built for you already. You just add a hi capacity battery and you are set and ready to power your rx, spotter screen, goggles, and whatever else you need.

 

When flying on 1.2ghz I use a separate receiver, antenna and tx to rebroadcast the video at 5.8.

 

1.2 1.3 Ghz RHCP skew planar and Cloverleaf antenna set.

1.2 1.3 Ghz RHCP skew planar and Cloverleaf antenna set.

1.2ghz is a great frequency for fpv in urban environments. I typically use omni-directional antennas with this frequency, or use a helical on the ground with a cloverleaf in the air.

900-1.2ghz fpv video rx receiver with Digital tuner video connector view

900-1.2ghz fpv video rx receiver with Digital tuner video connector view

THE RADIO CONTROL SYSTEM

When flying on 2.4ghz video, one downside is the fact that you can’t also use 2.4ghz control because of the interference that is caused by running 2 systems on the same frequency. This isn’t so bad because there are other radio systems out there that are a much better choice for long range control.

Radio systems other than 2.4ghz such as the old school 72mhz systems or a 433mhz long range system. (LRS) are a better choice for long range fpv.

I am a big fan of the openlrsng long range equipment. It is open source and easily configured via a chrome app very similar to baseflight. It even acts as a beacon in the event of a crash so that you can find and recover your aircraft.

I currently use a DTFUHF hawkeye XJT module which drops right into the back of the Frsky Taranis and Turns the radio into a 1w 433 MHz transmitter with telemetry.

DTF UHF XJT Module for Taranis x9D

DTF UHF XJT Module for Taranis x9D

I also use the dtfuhf hawkeye deluxe 1w transmitter on a Turnigy 9x for long range.   The dtfuhf deluxe tx can be retrofitted onto any radio that outputs a ppm signal.

IMG_6274.JPG

On the other end of things, i have found that there are several different receivers in the market that work with the openlrsng software.

The brotronics broversity receiver is a good one with diversity and a backup battery charger for a beacon battery (so you can find your craft long after it’s main battery has died.)

Disco_Broversity.JPG

Other good led receivers include the small dtfuhf 6 channel receiver, and the dtfuhf 1w long range receiver.

Telemetry is something to consider when flying long range as most receivers have a 100mw tx for telemetry built in which isn’t enough power for when you start getting into longer range flights.  This means that  you lose telemetry before you lose video or control.  If telemetry is important to you than the 1w rx is a must. (It has a 1w rx built in for telemetry back to the controller)

For most fpv pilots though, telemetry doesn’t matter because important craft information is overlayed on the video feed with the use of an on screen display.

Even with a proper video and control system, long range fpv success can vary with atmospheric conditions, physical environment, radio environment, antenna selection & aiming, and more.

Other tips:

When I travel for long range fpv I make sure to bring these essentials beyond the normal gear:

A Toolkit that includes:

Even with all of the above, sometimes you can just loose a craft, or have a bad crash so I always go with the preparedness that I might loose my aircraft.  Crashing, finding, & rebuilding is part of this hobby.  With the right equipment, it’s easy to be successful but even then, things can still go wrong.

17 replies on “Long range fpv setup. The myths vs the facts. 

  • CJ

    I am getting about 1.2 miles out of a 5.8ghz system and my 9x Turnigy has a 2 watt WiFi booster on the back plugged into it and I have not come close to losing control of the craft(so far). I have a cloverleaf on my Fatshark headset and a skew planar wheel on the quad, 250mhz fatshark vtx. Curiously, I have not received good results from a helical 11dbi headset from goodluckbuy…I got crappy reception for some reason. I love my quadcopter flying!
    I am just a little, shall we say…concerned about going out too far with so much money and time building it. I really really hate to crash so I am extra careful about pre-flight checks and double checking the failsafe before leaving. Anyway, good information!

    Reply
    • CJ

      Update: I replaced the helical RHT with the proper polarization (LHT) and I am getting plenty of range @ 3 miles out. In fact, I get more range than battery and I have to be careful leaving early enough not to run out battery (4s) before final approach! I do not have desire to fly further.
      I consider my rig with 5.8ghz vtx and 2.4ghz control link @ 3 miles out rock solid video and control link an achievement of balance, efficiency, and compromise.

    • John

      2 watts in the microwave range 1.2ghz and up threatens the health of your eyes when as close to the transmitter as your eyes are when flying…

    • Anthony Jacobs

      It’s always good to cite a source, How about the American Cancer society?? https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/radiation-exposure/radiofrequency-radiation.html

      Does RF radiation cause any other health problems?

      Studies in the lab

      In animals, the main effects of exposure to RF are related to heating (sometimes called thermal effects). High doses of RF radiation can raise body temperature, even to the point of being fatal. Focusing RF radiation on one area of the body can lead to burns and the breakdown of tissue. When RF waves are focused on the eye, it can cause cataracts to form.

      It isn’t clear what effects, if any, RF radiation has at levels of exposure too low to produce heating.

      In people

      High doses of RF radiation can cause injuries through heating. For example, some people accidentally exposed to large amounts of RF radiation from radar equipment have developed severe burns. But it’s not clear if exposure to lower levels of RF radiation, even over long periods of time, can have harmful health effects.

      People who are near microwave radar equipment can be exposed to enough pulsed microwave radiation (a type of RF radiation) that they begin to hear clicking noises. This is sometimes called RF hearing and does not seem to cause long term health problems.

      Although there is concern that people exposed to low levels of microwaves over long periods of time in their jobs could have an increased risk of cataracts or loss of fertility (in men), this has not been seen in large studies.

      -I would somewhat question the severity of your claim.

  • Sam

    Great post!!!! I want to do this but just wonder what is he best UHF Tx conversion and Rx for a Futaba Tx and what kind of range I can get from a 800mW 1.3 gH circular polarized video feed? I have a good picture for video and currently just need to covert the 2.4 control radio over to UHF to get the long range. Need advice for that part. What to get. Seems I shouldn’t have spent $1100 on a Futaba, rather $200 on a Tyranis 🙂

    Reply
    • Anthony Jacobs

      I personally don’t care for Spektrum Radios, especially if you are trying to do some more advanced customizations to your radio. If you are stuck with a Dx8, you will need to use a separate JR module such as a TBS Crossfire or DTFUHF to achieve longer ranges. Check out the TBS Crossfire here. It is a really great solution for long range control (and recovery if things go wrong) https://quadquestions.com/product/crossfire/

  • Vikas Chaturvedi

    Which is the best frequency band for transmitting video from a mobile ground station to another, to have max range. Is any product available in the market.

    Reply
  • john pearce

    Anthony Quick question for you I am flying 3 different Platforms all with Eagle tree FC Using the TBS Crossfire on My futaba 14SG. I have a ton invested with the Crossfire but I am trying to figure best VTX and frequencies to run with the crossfire without major interference that will get some comparison to the range of the crossfire!! Of course I have experiamented with the Flysight Black Mamba @ 5.8ghz and Will only achieve about 5 miles Max Same thing with the Amoway VTX , One of the airframes is the Skywalker EVE2000 and I have plenty of room to isolates/separate any kind of interference!!! Recently I picked up several 400 MW 4 channel 1258Mhz VTX and now have configured MYFLYDREAM ATT to autotrack the bird in flight!! Although i have not done a maiden with this setup due to not knowing if I should waste money on low pass filters for the new VTX or if their will be major interference on board since the VTX/and crossfire are so close on frequencies !! Could you Advise on this as I am really wanting to achieve some distance here and am open to any suggestions of equipment that may push me out there !!! TIA Oilfly

    Reply
  • ELPIS

    Hi this is our project so far https://www.facebook.com/pesecl/videos/2041018386171406/

    this is our page https://www.facebook.com/pesecl

    basically i was looking for some advice on the point that we will attach on the balloon a long range fpv

    https://www.fpvmodel.com/50km-long-range-fpv-sets-for-fixed-wings_g997.html

    Because we want to have live video feed

    what is your opinion ?will this be a good idea ?

    Elpidoforos Anastasiou

    engineering club pscal English school larnaca

    Reply
  • Adam

    Hello. I just purchased a Turnigy 9xr Pro that came with an XJT module, X8R 8/16ch telemetry receiver, and FrSKY lipo voltage sensor. My aim is to run my scale crawler truck with LR UHF FPV. I have my eye on the Runcam Owl 2 camera and Eachine ROTG02 UVC OTG 5.8G 150CH Diversity Audio FPV Receiver Android Tab/Phone for viewing on my Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1″
    What else do you suggest I get to complete the system?
    I want the fpv to run on it’s own battery independent of the rig battery, so what do you suggest. Sorry about the noob ?’s but I haven’t flown or driven RC since I was a kid in the mid 80’s. This is all exciting and new to me.
    Thank you,
    Adam

    Reply
  • Dillon Pyron

    Please check the ARRL site for some formulas on calculating your mandatory field charts. If you say “huh?” then you are dancing with the devil ( FCC).

    Check the refs. Getting a n XXX part 977 license is easier than an FAA license.

    Reply

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