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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
When I travel for long range fpv I make sure to bring these essentials beyond the normal gear:
- Extra video transmitters
- Extra antennas
- Extra batteries for GROUNDSTATION and goggles
- Radio for beacon hunting
- Extra gopro & möbius
- Extra props
- Extra Sd cards
A Toolkit that includes:
- butane powered soldering iron
- Silicone tape
- Vice grips
- Wire strippers
- All in one screwdriver
- Ftdi board
- USB cables
- Battery tester
- Packing tape
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.