FPV System

I am very new to the multicopters hobby and a super newbie to the FPV (First Person Viewer) flying. I’ve never watch in real time someone flying through the screen but I’ve watched hundreds of videos online! The best-case scenario is to use some goggles (like the Fat Shark) in order to have a better experience. This will make you believe that you are actually inside the cockpit flying the machine. And that’s awesome!

But sometimes, even when everything looks simple this is not translated to cheap as well! A good FPV system, from the camera on the copter to the radio transmission system and the screen on the ground will cost you sometimes more than $200 (without even taking the price of the goggles into the equation). This is huge for my budget especially when the cost will be mirrored to a hobby of mine! So, I am going to try the most efficient solution!

To begin with, I have to order a few components! It seems that the most cost effective transmitters are in the 5.8GHz range. This frequency is more than great when you have visual between the two antennas. But as you go behind a wall or a tree or a dance object in general, then the problems will start. I don’t care about that for my first FPV system and that’s why I’ve selected the SkyZone/Boscam 200mW 5.8GHz combo packet.

This comes in a white box and inside you will find everything.

The RC305 receiver and the 200mW transmitter

As well as, all the peripheral cables for powering the system and sending the video signal

The quality seems nice on the touch. Everything is shiny and well build for the price I’ve paid! This combo packet has also very good reviews from other users out there, except for those things

Those are some linear polarized antennas. You can find them under lot of names like stick antennas, pen antennas etc. And there are two problems with those. First the quality of the particular ones is not good. Second, the technology of this type of antenna will not work into something that bangs and turns constantly.

I decided to spend a little bit more and go with something like those

They are circular polarized antennas into the 5.8GHz band and are made from ImmersionRC. They are calling them SpiroNET antennas and the build quality is amazing! I don’t have a network analyzer (or a spectrum analyser) to test them but they claim that they test every single one before shipping (and I am a little bit skeptical with that). The dome that covers the antenna will help prevent the wire loops from bending during crashes. A must have feature for a newbie!

And if you wondering how they are from the inside then have a look at the photos below

As I said above, very good build quality that is expected from a company like them! Be aware though! The SpiroNET antenna combos are coming in SMA and RP-SMA versions. For the SkyZone/Boscam combo used above will accept only the RP-SMA type

And now the camera! It seems that everyone is using Sony Super HAD CCD camera. They are saying (the internet) that this is the best thing you can buy out there and they are 100% correct. It is amazing! Small, light and handles the rapid light changes very good. It also goes with a very good price tag. Around $25, including shipping, depending on the lens that you want

The camera declares that is a 600TVL (Television Lines) and thats pretty good for an FPV system. Of course is just a bare camera with no enclosure at all. But this what you want! Every gram counts in a multicopter system.

Connecting the cables and you have a working transmitting system. Here, I am using an older black and white camera but putting the Sony one is easy as unplugging the one cable and plugging the other one

The other side of the system consists of the 5.8GHz receiver and a cheap eBay LCD. You can find this LCD model for around $30 but if you are patient and try a bidding process then it can go as low as $15, including shipping. And that’s what I did! It came to my door the other day (after a waiting period of something like 40days) with just fifteen bucks. Pretty amazing!

The box was slightly hidden on the sides but the internals were untouched

Inside the box there are a few cables, a stand with adhesive, a small remote that includes the coin cell battery and a nice tray that will help put the screen on an enclosure or something similar

I’ve made a small teardown of the LCD to discover more or less what I was excepting. Nothing more than the LCD panel and a small driver board

And this emptiness under the screen’s hood is good! The dimensions are looking nice… So, I can fit the receiver in there together with a video recorder (that I don’t have for now). But before any actual “hacking” first I have to be sure that everything can come together easily

I tear down the RC305 receiver as well to check the internals and the actual dimensions of the PCB

The PCB looks good dimensionally wise and can fit easily inside the screens plastic covers. Actually it leaves so much free space for even a second receiver, a video recorder or a diversity circuit with two antennas that I may design and build later!

The LCD panel metal cover is conductive and I’ve used a small piece of cardboard taken from the actual shipping box of the screen. I am going to secure that in place first with some small strips of clear tape and then with high temp hot glue. With that way it will stay in place securely without any problem due to the components heat

I’ve marked the antenna position by measuring distances with a ruler and then use a small drilling bit to do the first inspection hole. By doing that I can adjust the position of the drill in case the alignment is not as I want

Then, after the initial inspection of the alignment a bigger drill used to make the final hole that fits the RP-SMA connector almost precisely!

And now its time for some soldering. First, I’ve used the “beep” function of my multimeter to locate all the connections and then noted them of the metal LCD cover

The connections are: Power, GND, Video IN 1, Video GND, Video IN 2 and Audio. To be honest, I am not 100% sure about the last one (the Audio) but I am not going to use it anyway. This screen does not come with an internal speaker or a speaker output as well. I can recognize some circuitry for an audio interface but due to cost savings they didn’t include the speaker. I will investigate even further later and possibly I will include a cheap speaker or a 3.5mm jack for headphones

Then the receiver received the “hacking” treatment! I removed the connectors and marked the pins that I wanted. Later on I’ve cleaned all the surfaces that I was previously desolder in order to have better connections, reduce strange couplings due to the residues and… because I wanted to look prettier!

Next, some wiring between the receiver and the driver board of the screen. I’ve start from the video connection all the way to the power ones. Both of those can be powered from the same voltage level and a 3S LiPo battery is a nice fit

More hot glue to secure the cables and all the other bits and pieces and here we are! A working FPV system for a fraction of an already made one with the same specs!

But I had to make some final touches! First a XT60 connector for easy plug and play with the battery

Then because the receiver uses a liner regulator (a no name 7805 in SMD form factor) it produces lot of heat. I am going to replace this energy consuming devise with something switching (and low noise of course) but for now I make the missing speaker holes a bid wider for better air circulation

Finally I needed a sunshade! You can find one online for something like $15 – $30 in different sizes and materials, always including shipping. I don’t know what is the best fit for my needs and that’s why I am going to build one for now

A piece of an old HP printer box has used.

Some cuttings, a little taping and then folding and the initial idea is taking shape

Then to add durability and strength I’ve used some aluminum foil tape to cover the top surface of the sunshade. I don’t want to do that on the bottom side because of the reflective properties of this tape.

Together with that, I add strips of clear tape around the tips of the shade. This will prevent your fingers from cuts. Some velcro strips will hold the shade in place.

And to make it prettier and break the monotony of the color I add some Dangerous Prototypes stickers. I received those with a PCB order I’ve get some weeks ago

So, what you think? You like it or not? What I should include for the next version what I have to change? For any suggestions write a comment below or send me a mail at: john_kedros@hotmail.com


More photos of the project here

33 thoughts on “FPV System

  1. Anonymous says:

    What was overall cost?

    • embeddedday says:

      Slightly less than $100! And this is a really good price if you consider that only a similar LCD with embedded receiver will cost you around $100

      But except of the LCD, I’ve also used eBay to obtain the 5.8GHz combo pack with a super price!

  2. […] [Ioannis] is like anyone else who has a quadcopter or other drone. Eventually you want to sit in the cockpit instead of flying from the ground. This just isn’t going to happen at the hobby level anytime soon. But the next best option is well within your grasp. Why not decouple your eyes from your body by adding a first-person video to your quad? […]

  3. Anonymous says:

    What size of quad/multicopter are you using this with?

  4. […] [Ioannis] is like anyone else who has a quadcopter or other drone. Eventually you want to sit in the cockpit instead of flying from the ground. This just isn’t going to happen at the hobby level anytime soon. But the next best option is well within your grasp. Why not decouple your eyes from your body by adding a first-person video to your quad? […]

  5. […] [Ioannis] is like anyone else who has a quadcopter or other drone. Eventually you want to sit in the cockpit instead of flying from the ground. This just isn’t going to happen at the hobby level anytime soon. But the next best option is well within your grasp. Why not decouple your eyes from your body by adding a first-person video to your quad? […]

  6. ferdna says:

    what is the weight on the camera?

    • embeddedday says:

      Hi ferdna!
      It was around 19g (+- 3g) but I am not 100% sure about ti!
      Its on the quad now and its not easy to remove it. As soon as I get the camera out I will measure it and post it here

  7. Thinkerer says:

    Well done! You’ll thank yourself later if you fog the inside of your screen shade with flat black paint or something similar (take it off first, obviously) and you may wind up closing up the bottom as well to increase relative brightness (look at 50s & 60s WSO/RIO stations in fighter cockpits to see why – the radars weren’t bright enough to see very well and they’d build housings around them).

  8. embeddedday says:

    A small update! I was going to use the well known carbon fibre plates to mount my screen on my FrSky Taranis. The problem is that it will take a couple of weeks more to be here.

    So, I decided to craft a little bit the original mount that came with the screen! And here are the results:

    You can tilt the screen easily by un tighten the horizontal knob. Also adjust the height from almost touching the switches (minimum) to 1 cm above this height (maximum).

  9. John Githens says:

    Very nice! Went down a similar path myself. I added a link to your post, on the DroneSpeak UAS topics page titled ‘New to making a UAV or drone system?’. Look for ‘A less expensive DIY FPV system by Ioannis Kedros’.

  10. Taylor Voss says:

    How has the build held up? I am interested in doing this build just curious what you experience with it has been?

    • embeddedday says:

      Hi Taylor!

      To be honest I am not sure if I correctly understand what you want to say! Well, the build was a hobby project of mine! I was going to purchase a regular FPV screen with receiver that most of the times cost a lot of money (at least for my budget).

      So, I decided to make one by my own! The full build process is above and the final experience by using it after a couple of months is great! The screen is not so bright bring fully sunny days but I’ve made a shade as you can see from the previous comment… and this somehow saves the day!

      • Taylor Voss says:

        Thanks for the quick reply. How many times have you used this setup? What kind of range have you achieved? Have the components held up well?

        • embeddedday says:

          I am always using this setup! I don’t know exactly how many hours but I’ve used them a lot! I haven’t used anything else yet, since I don’t have anything else to use! I would love to have some FatShark goggles but the price range is out of my budget!

          As for the range, I am getting the normal one that you can get out from a 5.8GHz system. I am using SpiroNet antennas (those are circular polarized ones) and this improves the range a lot! The maximum that I’ve got so far was 1.1Km and this was 3 days ago! If you use a directional antenna on your base station then you are going to have for sure a far better “area of operation”. Have in mind that I’ve get this range by flying high above the ground (pay attention to the highest altitude aloud by law in your country) in order to get away from any obstacles. As you are going higher in frequency the less obstacles you can penetrate!

          The components are holding up really well! No problems at all! The receiver gets a little bit warm since its uses a linear regulator to produce a 5V output from a 3S battery. But this is inside the normal operating range!

  11. Ian Phillips says:

    OK so I have all the bits and now want to start my build. Just one thing, did you hot glue the receiver to the cardboard or is this just fastened via the aerial connector through the screen case? I have taken your advice and bought better aerials and even managed to buy the exact screen you have……….here goes, never done anything quite like this before!

    • embeddedday says:

      Hi Ian! Yes, I’ve hot glue the receiver to the cardboard and then to to back of the LCD panel. It’s super secure like that!

      Have fun with your build! It worth it and you are going to learn so many things!!!

  12. Ian Phillips says:

    Wow that was a quick reply. I also notice that the RX requires 5 volts according to the spec. will this be OK on a 3s battery? I gather yours works fine. Thanks for the help.

    • embeddedday says:

      The internal chip module requires 5V but I am connecting the battery before the voltage regulator! Doing that you will not have any problem at all! The only drawback is that this is a linear regulator that will transform the voltage drop to heat!

      This is not so great from the energy waste point of view but on the other hand is not producing so much noise/interference!

      And yes, it was a quick reply!!!


  13. Ian Phillips says:

    Having a bit more fun today as I have a spare hour or so. A wiring question………I have all 4 pin connections soldered from the screen video board and I’m about to solder the red/black to the receiver (Bottom right of the RX) Can you tell me which is power and which is ground for the RX connections as they are obscured in your photo? Next, did you solder the 2 power/grounds together etc before they exit the case to connect to the battery?I assume that is what you did as I can only see 2 wires coming from the case at the bottom. Thanks again.

    • embeddedday says:

      Hi Ian! Sorry for the super long answer delay! I was abroad for a project but tomorrow I will be in my home lab and let you know about your wiring question…

  14. Ian Phillips says:

    Hi, Have you had a chance to have a look at my question yet, it’s the last piece in my ‘jigsaw’ then I can get airborne? :-)

    • embeddedday says:

      Hi Ian!

      Really sorry for the super long delay! I had some really difficult and busy weeks

      So, from the video receiver module I’ve desolder the jack connector and directly solder a cable to the LCD circuit. The red wire is the signal and the other wire is the ground. The other side of the cable must go at the positions 3 and 4 of the LCD connector.

      Now, again from at the video receiver module I’ve also desolder power connector (the one on the right). The middle point (red cable) is the power and the other one is the ground. On the LCD connector the pin 1 is the power and the pin 2 is the ground. Those cable I am connecting them together (power-power, ground-ground) and then I am wiring them out via two cable with an XT60 connector on the end.

      Have a look here as well: https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7476/15768257092_85a572af67.jpg

      • Ian Phillips says:

        Sorry but I have been so very busy with so little time to spend on hobbies. Now I have more time I have done all the soldering and all looks OK but I cannot get a signal on any channel. Is there any way I can send a photo so you could check my wiring etc?

  15. […] For more detail: FPV System […]

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