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Flying FPV with Eagle Tree Systems and ReadyMadeRC Components. Part 1/2

FPV or "first person view" is the ability to look out of the front of your model as you fly. It is done with wireless video and a set of video goggles. Let's review equipment from EagleTree Systems and ReadyMadeRC that make FPV possible!

Splash

Introduction

You love flying RC model aircraft, right? You marvel at how high you can go, how much sky you can cover and how close you can get to the ground as you buzz the field. What if you could ride along and see the flight from inside the model…LIVE? You can!

Downloads

What is FPV?  4.89 MB

For several years now, some innovative hobbyists have been adapting small video cameras and transmitters to send back live video from their models. Donning video “goggles” these guys are flying their models from the cockpit! This rapidly expanding part of the RC hobby is called FPV, or “First Person View”.

This article will be split into 2 parts. The first article will cover assembly and troubleshooting to get basic equipment up and running. The second article will install and activate "advanced FPV" features and evaluate them. See Part 2 HERE. At the end of each article I will rate the ease of use and performance of the components.

Some Background Information

To build and fly a successful FPV RC model aircraft takes some knowledge and understanding of the “systems” involved. This article is a review and a description of a lot of equipment and some fairly sophisticated electronic components. I feel that some technical background is necessary to understand the selection of components used in this article. I am still learning this information myself, so please continue your own education through searches online with sources such as RC Groups FPV and Video Piloting.

FPV or “first person view” is the perspective of looking out the front of your aircraft as it flies. This is accomplished by a small video camera hooked to a small video transmitter that beams live video to the ground. The pilot watches the video through some sort of viewing screen or video goggles as he flies. To accomplish this several groups of components or “systems” are assembled. They generally break down into: the pilot, the aircraft, the video system, an on screen display (OSD) of data and navigational information, a radio control system, a ground station for receiving and displaying video to the pilot, and a spotter who is able to take control of the aircraft if there are problems. Each of these systems is a whole world unto itself, with almost limitless combinations of parts and performance. Here is a basic overview.

The Pilot:

The better you know how to fly and land a normal RC airplane, the better you will control and land an FPV airplane. Get really good with a trainer before you drop your money on an FPV setup.

The Aircraft:

A stable, slow flying and rugged airplane is a great place to start. An electric (brushless and lipo) airplane eliminates vibration problems with the picture. Flying FPV is a very different perspective than visual line of sight (VLS) flying that most RC pilots do. It helps to have an inherently stable aircraft that can fly level for a bit, as you learn how to control and navigate in a totally new way. Landing tends to be hard on new FPV airplanes so reparability is a nice feature. I choose to start with the Multiplex EasyStar for all of the above reasons. The EasyStar is well supported with FPV components from various manufacturers.

The Video System:

The cameras are usually small CCD or CMOS devices with a moderate “wide angle” lens attached. Some come on a bare circuit board while others are in a metal case, which makes them more rugged. There are low light ratings (lux) for flying at dusk, and “lines of resolution” ratings which help rate the sharpness of the picture. Picture sharpness is also affected by the lens quality, focus, the video transmitter and receiver and the viewing device. All current systems are limited to standard TV resolution; although some guys are flying HD cameras to record the flight as they watch through goggles at standard resolution. The next part of the video system is the video transmitter. These are small, light weight devices that need between 5 – 12 volts, and put out anywhere from 10mW to 1000 mW of power. In the United States you pretty well need a Technicians License (Amateur Radio) to legally. Video transmitters come in several frequency bands such as 900 MHz, 1.3 GHz, 2.4 GHz. and 5.8 GHz. Different countries allow different legal “channels” in some of these bands. The video transmitter MUST transmit on a different frequency than the RC radio system you are using on the airplane. Sometimes the video transmitter causes interference with the RC radio receiver anyway, and you must troubleshoot and solve these interference issues before you fly!

The video receiver and antenna are part of a ground station, and their job is to catch video signals from the plane and send a video and audio signal to your viewing device. Better receivers are usually a bit more money and can catch a weaker signal. A directional antenna is sometimes used to catch more signal from the airplane for a better picture, but it must be pointed toward the plane to work well. There are antenna pointing devices available.

The last part of the video system is the viewing device, also part of a ground station. Many devices can be used, such as DVD players, laptops with a video input, small TVs or video goggles. All of these devices have to contend with bright outdoor light so they are either put in a box with a window, or used inside a van. Video goggles block more light and can be used with a hat, or a tee shirt thrown over the head! Goggles can give a much more intense experience of “you are there” in the plane!

On Screen Display (OSD):

Once FPV skills are developed some hobbyists want more information to fly with. An OSD is a small electronic device that connects between the camera and video transmitter and adds words and numbers around the sides of the video picture. Most units attach to the main battery of an electric plane. That makes it possible to display data such as battery voltage, mAh used, wattage, time of flight and to give low battery alarms. If a GPS function is included you get direction of travel, speed, altitude, distance from starting point, and even a pointer that can help you steer home. Some units have a return to home (RTH) function that attempts to fly your plane back to you if radio signal is lost. The more capable devices are just shy of a full auto pilot unit!

The Radio Control (RC) system:

This is the basic control unit for all RC aircraft. It consists of a hand held transmitter with control sticks and switches, an airborne receiver to catch the commands from the transmitter, and servos which push and pull the control surfaces of the airplane. 72MHz was the standard transmitter frequency until recently, and is still used for a solid, fairly long range link to an aircraft. 2.4 GHz systems have taken over in a big way and eliminate the need for frequency control. There is discussion about the effective control range of some 2.4 GHz systems. In all cases, the radio control system must operate on a different frequency band than the video transmitter on the plane.

The Ground Station:

The collection of parts on the ground that catch and display the video signal from the plane is called the ground station. Essential components include a video receiver, a display device and a power source. A nice way to round up these components for easy setup at the field is to place them on a tripod. Because of the nature of high frequency video transmissions, the radio waves are prone to “multipath interference". This happens when one wave is reflected off of a nearby surface and meets up with another wave straight from the airplane. If they arrive at the video receiver antenna “out of phase” the picture fades or is lost for a second. To solve this problem more advanced ground stations use a patch antenna pointed in the direction of the plane. Some even include antenna tracking, and a second video receiver with a diversity switcher. Other nice add-ons include data output to a laptop and several video outputs for multiple viewing and recording devices. Finally, a "head tracker" can be stuck to your video goggles and follow your head movements so you can pan and tilt the camera on the plane as it flies!

The Spotter:

The spotter is a real live human who watches your plane the old fashioned way using visual line of sight (VLS). He is prepared to take the controls and return the plane to a safe attitude before returning control to the FPV pilot. A trainer cord is recommended for best recovery time. A good spotter can also talk you through your first few flights so you don’t get too far away, or enter a dive without realizing it.

My Learning Curve:

You might be a little concerned at this point that this could get “complicated”, and you are right! There is no way around the fact that several things have to come together just right to be successful. However there is a natural progression to learning, assembling and flying FPV aircraft that will guide you in your efforts. Here are the stages I went through to achieve success.

  • Checking my RC flying skills for steady, smooth flight
  • Carefully building a stable and reliable aircraft
  • Testing and installing the extra FPV equipment
  • Range testing the aircraft with each piece of equipment turned on
  • Trouble shooting and correcting range problems
  • Using a spotter whenever I donned the video goggles
  • Learning how to fly in first person view
  • Now that your head is full of background information (and that was just scratching the surface) you can better evaluate the products in this review!

    Kit Contents

    The Equipment

    So, what does it take to start building a typical FPV setup? I choose 2 suppliers that cater to the FPV pilot.

    Eagle Tree Systems are among the leaders of RC model data acquisition and telemetry. They offer fine products designed specifically for the modeling community, with excellent customer support. Their recent components are designed especially for FPV flying. Taking a modular approach, it is possible to utilize Eagle Tree Systems FPV equipment from “basic” setups up to “very advanced” simply by enabling more features via a software interface and choosing which sensors to use onboard. There is also an innovative “ground station” to receive and enhance the video signals from the aircraft. Eagle Tree's built in capacity to “grow” the system is what got me interested in EagleTree Systems FPV products.

    ReadyMadeRC and other vendors have developed products that compliment the Eagle Tree components for a truly capable FPV system, and some of these products will be reviewed as well. Tim at ReadyMadeRC has been accessable and very helpful with the assembly and testing of this FPV project. Because this project is so complex, there will be 2 review articles. The first article will cover the setup and learning of a “basic” FPV system, and then a later article will cover the advanced features and capabilities of the Eagle Tree Systems and ReadyMadeRC components working together.

    Components supplied for review marked by source: Eagle Tree Systems "ETS" and ReadyMadeRC "RMRC". All other components supplied by the author.

    Part 1 Build:

    Multiplex EasyStar glider

    ReadyMadeRC brushless motor / esc / lipo/ prop upgrade RMRC

    Hitec HS-65HB servos

    ReadyMadeRC 1.3 GHz 300 mW video transmitter RMRC

    ReadyMadeRC 1.3GHz 2 dbi omni antenna RMRC

    ReadyMadeRC 1.3 GHz video receiver RMRC

    ReadyMadeRC RMRCA - 480 OSD CCD Camera RMRC

    ReadyMadeRC Custom video cable RMRC

    Radio System: Futaba 7C 7 channel Fasst 2.4 GHz Tx. and Futaba R167 FS Rx.

    Eagle Eyes ground station ETS

    HeadPlay Video Goggles

    Part 2 Build

    Eagle Tree Systems eLogger ETS

    Eagle Tree Systems OSD Pro v.3 ETS

    Eagle Tree Systems GPS Expander ETS

    ReadyMadeRC 1.3 GHz video receiver RMRC

    ReadyMadeRC 8 dbi 1.3 GHz patch antenna RMRC

    ReadyMadeRC Antenna Tracker kit RMRC

    DT-3K Hybrid Head Tracker by Flytron

    Assembly

    A few Words to the Wise. This is a COMPLICATED project from start to finish. You will need PATIENCE, KNOWLEDGE and CARE to put all of this together. If you don’t read and plan ahead, you will make frustrating and costly mistakes. Go slow and take the time to read ALL the way through instructions. Test systems on the bench before putting them up in the airplane. Do a ground range check each time you add equipment or change settings. Is it worth it? The first time you put on the goggles and go "Whoa! This is AWESOME!", and then giggle for the next 5 minutes, you will have your answer!

    ASSEMBLY - ReadyMadeRC Video Components

    RMRC 480 OSD Camera with menu adjustments
    RMRC 480 OSD Camera with menu adjustments
    Sensor:1/3" Sony Super HAD color CCD sensor
    Resolution:480 TV-line resolution
    Pixels:Pixels NTSC: 768x494, PAL: 752x582
    Minimum Illumination:0.5 Lux
    Lens:Standard f3.6mm optic lens
    Adjustments:OSD menu for setting camera parameters
    Weight:1.3 ounce (36 grams)
    Operating Voltage:12VDC ±10% operation
    Price:$139.95
    Available From:ReadyMadeRC

    The video components consist of the RMRC 480 OSD camera and a 300 mW 1.3 GHz (1280 MHz, legal in the USA) transmitter. These items include fairly heavy cables to connect them to each other. I recommend that you buy the custom cable from ReadyMadeRC that not only connects the main components, but saves weight and allows you to tap in the ETS components easily. Your alternative is to spend 1/2 a day trying to figure out how to solder up your own cable!

    I mounted the camera and video transmitter to the RMRC pan and tilt assembly using zip ties and 2 sided tape. It is a good idea to tape or zip tie the transmitter wires to the case to provide strain relief for the mini plug. Just don't cover up the cooling holes!

    ASSEMBLY: The Pan and Tilt Mechanism

    RMRC 1.3 GHz Video transmitter
    RMRC 1.3 GHz Video transmitter
    Power Output:300 mW
    Frequency:1280 MHz (USA Channel #2)
    Size:
    Antenna:2 dB Omni
    Adjustments:4 channel selector switches (Locked on Channel #2)
    Weight:1.2 ounce
    Operating Voltage:12VDC ±10% operation, 500 mA
    Price:$54.99
    Available From:ReadyMadeRC

    The Easy Star Pan and Tilt mechanism from ReadyMadeRC replaces the foam hatch on the airplane, and allows you to use a ”head tracker” to point the video camera during flight. Using the PDF instructions HERE , I read and sorted out the pieces to the canopy hatch platform. It took several times of scrolling back and forth through pictures and instructions to get it right for gluing. There is another set of PDF instructions HERE for the Pan and Tilt module that fits into the hatch assembly. I found this assembly somewhat confusing, and had to scroll back and forth several times to piece it together correctly. Pay close attention to the orientation of the holes and slots in the parts, as I had to pull some plates off and rotate them before the glue completely set.

    The video camera was attached with servo tape and zip ties, as was the video transmitter. Servos were installed as the build progressed and had to be centered by attaching them temporarily to the radio receiver. The video battery was placed in the back bay and secured with the included Velcro strap. Once assembled, the Pan and Tilt mechanism worked smoothly, and even allowed more than 180 degrees of panning motion. This will let you look sideways from wingtip to wingtip. Hold down magnets were installed in the hatch plate and airplane. The unit stays solidly in place.

    ASSEMBLY – Multiplex EasyStar

    Multiplex EasyStar with brushless motor upgrade
    Multiplex EasyStar with brushless motor upgrade
    Wingspan:56"
    Wing Area:371 sq. in.
    Weight:35 oz. RTF
    Length:36.1"
    Wing Loading:9.5 oz/sq. ft.
    Servos:Hitec HS 65
    Transmitter:Futaba Fasst 7C on 2.4 GHz
    Receiver:Futaba R617FS on 2.4 GHz
    Battery:2200mAh / 3S / 20C FlightMax Lipo
    Motor:Turnigy 2835 2200 KV Inrunner
    Prop:APCe 6 x 4
    ESC:Turnigy Plush 30A w/ 2A BEC
    Manufacturer:Multiplex USA
    Available From:Ready Made RC

    The Multiplex EasyStar is a very popular FPV platform because it is stable, rugged, and can be modified to carry an extra payload. I will point out changes I made to the standard "build". I started by reading through the EasyStar instructions and then investigated suggestions made by Tim Stanfield of ReadyMadeRC. See this link for his suggestions. ReadyMadeRC EasyStar Build . For awhile, Tim was in the business of building custom FPV systems for clients so he has a wealth of information to share.

    I’ve marked areas of foam to be removed to make room for additional equipment in the plane. Carefully cut away the foam and then tape the fuse halves together to mark the hatch cutout.

    Cut out the hatch and remove additional foam to enlarge the equipment bay.

    Use the left fuse half for equipment test fitting. I laid in the components and kept trying different wire routing to understand how it would fit, and what the assembly sequence needed to be once the fuse is glued together! Wrap the motor with tape and then glue it into a fuse half. Make sure the wire leads will extend out of the cooling hole on top, so you can attach the ESC later. Glue fuse halves together following Multiplex gluing instructions, and include the other motor half.

    I continued with the normal building instructions, but paused at instruction #9 to figure out the receiver antenna routing. I was planning to use a 72 MHz receiver, so I split the antenna tube where the lower hatch comes off. I pull some slack in the antenna over the hatch when it is removed. I had problems with interference on 72 MHz, but maybe it would work for you.

    I recessed and glued in magnets on each end of the lower hatch using epoxy. I covered the magnets with waxed paper and then put the mating magnet on the hatch magnet. Next, I recessed the fuselage magnet locations and filled with epoxy before pressing the hatch and fuselage magnets into the fuse. I taped the hatch in place to let the glue cure. Later I removed the hatch and waxed paper and trimmed away any excess epoxy.

    I added ailerons to give me full maneuverability and to help a stability system if I install it later. Put a thin carbon rod on the back edge of each aileron for stiffness.

    From now on, I would repeat a cycle of "Range Check, Flight Test, Add or Turn on Equipment" several times. See "flight tests” below.

    ASSEMBLY: The Ground Station

    ETS
    ETS "Eagle Eyes" ground station
    Power:6 - 14 Volts DC
    Inputs:2 Video, 2 Audio
    Outputs:4 Video, 4 Audio
    Servo Outputs:2 for Pan and Tilt Tracker
    USB Port:Data to Laptop, Firmware Updates
    Adjustments:Diversity Priority, Video and Audio Level
    Price:$89.99
    Available From:Eagle Tree Systems

    Once the airplane and video components are up and running, it is time to capture and view the live show! This is done with a bundle of components on the ground where you are standing or sitting, and makes up the other half of the project. At the core of this system is the Eagle Tree Systems “Eagle Eyes” ground station. This unit addresses several challenges to receiving a clear video signal from a moving airplane, and allows you to attach a viewing device. First, the ETS Eagle Eyes can monitor and switch between 2 video receivers and display the best picture. Next, it can receive position data from the airborne ET components and drive an “antenna tracker” which follows the plane around the sky. Third, the Eagle Eyes provides 4 composite video outputs for multiple devices, such as video goggles, a camcorder or solid state video recording device, a view screen, and … more video goggles? The final feature is a live data output to a laptop showing whatever parameters you have selected to display.

    For this “FPV basic” article I chose to mount the ETS Eagle Eyes and 1 video receiver on a plywood plate sitting on top of a camera tripod. I wore the HeadPlay goggles and put the Liberator box in a fishing vest, then attached myself to the tripod with a long video cable. This ground station will be upgraded to the ReadyMadeRC antenna tracking solution for the Part 2 article, and will eliminate my plywood plate. In either case, I will strive for a portable ground station that is easy to set up.

    Flying

    Flight and Equipment Testing

    For the first test flight, I put the 3S lipo and receiver up front under the canopy to balance properly. I left all the ReadMadeRC video equipment and EagleTree Systems components off the plane. After some trimming the test flight went well with awesome amounts of power available for the 24 oz. airframe. Some 9 oz. of additional equipment will be added before the project is done, so extra motor power is good to have.

    My first video equipment placement ended up with the camera and video transmitter on the Pan and Tilt unit and the Futaba 72MHz receiver in the nose. The battery was pushed partway into the "tunnel" to the back hatch. There was a real log jam of wiring in the front hatch area. This added 9 oz. of weight. The plane flew fine, but required a stout hand launch and more flying speed. Climb rates were reduced somewhat but the glide was still quite good. Some directional stability was lost as the plane tended to tip to one side or the other. Landing speeds were higher.

    My range testing was getting about 100 feet of distance on the ground with my transmitter antenna down and the video transmitter off. Problems arose when I range checked the plane with the video transmitter plugged in for the first time. With the video transmitter on I got exactly 3 steps (10 feet) before every servo in the plane went nuts! This was a complete range failure. Back at the building table I rearranged the radio receiver to the rear of the back cargo bay and put the battery in the front. The radio antenna was routed out the rear hatch and run along the back edge of the wing. Another range test yielded about 50 feet of ground range; still not a safe margin for flight. Several more arrangements were tried along with another 72 MHz receiver with no improvement in ground range.

    I abandoned the 72 MHz radio system and tried a 2.4 GHz Futaba Fasst system. I kept the radio receiver in the rear cargo bay. The first ground range check gave over 100 feet of range. This was similar to the 72 MHz system without video interference. I then turned on the video transmitter and got 100 feet of ground range, so I went ahead with flight tests.

    The Futaba 2.4 GHz 7C Fasst system was flown without the video transmitter on and I found the range to be good as I flew VLS (visually) to the limits of my vision. I came back, landed and powered up the video transmitter. This time I flew the plane carefully back and forth, adding distance with each pass, until it was again at the limits of my vision. I didn’t see any glitches or control issues during the flight, so I flew back and landed. Next my spotter donned the video goggles and watched the video downlink as I flew in normal VLS / RC mode. My spotter swayed in his chair as he reported video quality, static or dropouts as they occurred, and identified landmarks as the plane pointed toward them. I landed and reviewed the flight experience with him along with what I might expect from my first FPV experience, and we planned to put me under the goggles. I practiced sliding the goggles up on my forehead, then down into FPV mode while standing, holding my transmitter, yelling for help and chewing gum.

    My First FPV Flight!

    After I worked up enough courage I put the goggles on my forehead, braced myself on the side of the van and let my spotter throw the plane. I flew it up to about 150 feet in VLS mode and got it straight and steady, then pulled down the goggles and leaned against the van for support. WOAH, what a visual overload! Suddenly I was way up in the air with the horizon swaying back and forth crazily. I tried to level the plane while I looked for a landmark I could recognize! My spotter kept calling out corrections to my flight path and altitude as I over controlled almost every maneuver. He brought me back around to the field when I got too far out and gave me left and right corrections to keep me from blowing downwind. I was high, low, and trying to get level the whole time. After about 4 minutes I had my spotter lead me back upwind to the edge of the field and then he pointed up at the plane. I raised the goggles, followed his arm and found the EasyStar canting away from us. I quickly brought it around, lined it up and landed smoothly. Then I sat down and waited for the ground to stop tilting! What a blast! I can’t wait to get everything recharged and try it again!

    Crash Testing

    After I plugged the video battery on backwards in the dark basement, I fried the video transmitter. I bought a replacement, installed it, and went out to the field to test it. The video range seemed to be shorter than before, so I put the old video antenna back on and tried it another day. The picture was holding up very well as my spotter said “You better turn around, I can hardly see it!” I flew another 100 feet and suddenly the plane rolled over and dove in from about 150 feet up. I had just found the limit of my radio control range! It was an ugly crash. The nose on the EasyStar was torn open and the Pan and Tilt pod was broken. The camera had broken loose and had dried dirt jammed into the lens, and the connector cable had been torn off. I was depressed. Some careful rebuilding and cleaning got all of the components working again, and the plane flies similar to before the crash. The plane however, could use a nose job!

    Some Lessons Learned

    Here are some lessons I learned. For your first few flights have a spotter who can launch the plane and talk you through your maneuvers, as well as describe where you are headed. Give him authority to keep you out of trouble! Stay close enough so he can see the plane well. Sit down or lean against something to keep yourself “grounded”. Try to fly smoothly and concentrate on the wild visual ride you are experiencing. Enjoy the view as you learn how to fly all over again by landmarks in the scenery.

    Taking Off and Landing

    This is a whole new adventure compared to normal VLS (visual line of sight) flying. With my limited experience flying FPV, I had my spotter hand launch the EasyStar and I flew to 200 feet the old fashioned way. When I was straight and level I pulled the goggles down and my spotter gave me feedback. Landing is pretty difficult through the goggles because the moderate wide angle lens makes things look smaller and further away than they appear to your eye. I did manage to land twice with my spotter calling off the altitude and position. It kind of gives you visual whiplash!

    First Person View

    Downloads

    Equipment Summary and Review

    ReadyMadeRC OSD 480 camera: A very nice piece of equipment. It produces very sharp and rich colors and handles light changes very well. My particular model was crash tested severely into a bean field, and after careful removal of mud, worked fine. The only damage was to the 4 wire connector plug that got yanked violently during the carnage. I also applied reverse voltage for about 2 seconds with the video battery. The camera continued to work afterward, but this is outside the warranty for sure!

    ReadyMadeRC 1.3 GHz 300 mW Video Transmitter and Whip Antenna: The transmitter worked as advertised and gave between 1000 and 2000 feet of range with a single whip antenna on the ground station. It gets very hot without airflow over it, so limit testing to 1 or 2 minutes on the ground. I applied reverse voltage to this transmitter for about 2 seconds and it killed it. My mistake. The new transmitter worked well after I used the original transmit antenna. The new antenna may not have performed as well, but there might have been interference that day at the flying field, so it’s hard to pin down the episode of reduced range.

    ReadyMadeRC Camera Cable (4 wire): Worth its weight in gold! This replaces the heavy RCA cables for camera and transmitter, and allows for easy attachment for the Eagle Tree Systems OSD and eLogger. It is worth the money and will save you time and aggravation in getting your video system up and running quickly.

    ReadyMadeRC 1.3 GHz Video Receiver: This seems to be fairly sensitive with an omni antenna attached. I am getting between 1000 to 2000 feet of reception, depending on the position of the plane and other radio interference at the field. There are fairly frequent dropouts and fading due to multipath interference, but this is to be expected with a single receiver and whip antenna. I expect much better reception in Part 2 when a second receiver with a patch antenna and antenna tracking is added to the ground station.

    ReadyMadeRC Pan and Tilt for the EasyStar: I found this quite difficult to assemble properly. There are a lot of parts that have to be in the correct orientation, and I pulled off and corrected some plates before the glue set. Once together it provides over 180 degrees of panning, and 90 degrees of tilt. There is some play in both axes and the camera buffets around a bit in the wind. This can be seen sometimes in the videos. I was able to remove a lot of this play after the crash by pulling the servo sideways against the gear train. Crash testing showed that it is quite robust and easily repaired.

    ReadyMadeRC Brushless Ugrade: This is exactly the right power system to push the EasyStar around. It has excellent power yet gives fairly long run times on the 2200 mAh 3S lipo. The Turnigy 30A ESC works well although the BEC runs pretty warm with 6 servos to power. (4 in the airframe, 2 on the Pan and Tilt). It has worked flawlessly mounted on top of the motor pod. The Turnigy 2200 KV, 2835 Inrunner is powerful and smooth. A great combination of components.

    Hitec HS65 Servos: These were recommended by Tim at RMRC as a upgrade to the normal 9g servos. Crash testing has shown them to be quite rugged without any broken teeth or damage. They center quite well and have plenty of torque for the airplane and Pan and Tilt mechanism.

    Multiplex EasyStar: This venerable beginners plane adapts fairly well to the extra equipment for FPV. It is made of Elapor foam that can take a beating and be repaired with medium CA. Crash testing has revealed that extreme forces will tear and deform the foam permanently, but pieces can still be solidly glued together and work well. The brushless upgrade is necessary to haul the extra FPV weight. Stability is affected somewhat with all the extra equipment aboard causing the plane to tilt its wings and start a turn with any disturbance from the wind. This is probably caused by the Pan and Tilt mechanism sitting up high in the wind stream and affecting airflow as well as the vertical CG. Overall the EasyStar is a great place to start your FPV adventures.

    Eagle Tree Systems eLogger V3, OSD Pro, GPS Expander: The eLogger V3 is the heart of an on screen data display and is combined with the OSD Pro and GPS expander to provide a visual overlay of data and navigation in your goggles. The components are highly configurable by software and an on screen menu system. I decided to postpone the evaluation of these components until article #2 because learning to assemble and fly a basic FPV aircraft has been more than enough of a challenge for now. I will tell you that early tests of the on screen data are fascinating and should prove to be very useful in the daily success of FPV flights.

    HeadPlay Video Goggles: I choose to buy the HeadPlay goggles for their ability to adjust both interpupillary distance and individual eye focus. These goggles are designed to attach to video games, computers, USB sources and Compact Flash cards through a central box called a “Liberator”. Color rendition was rated quite highly for the price. They are intended for indoor use. In outdoor conditions they need some tender loving care to prevent damage to the main goggle connector. I choose to power them from a 3S lipo external to the Liberator box through a mini plug. Both of these plugs have to be tended carefully or you will lose picture or power. Most fellows put the Liberator in a “fanny pack” and find a way to secure the plugs to the box. Also, external light enters from the sides and makes the picture harder to see. FPVers block the light with a tee shirt or towel thrown over the head, or add light shields to the sides. That being said, the picture is quite good, large and clear. It defiantly puts you “in the plane” as the scenery flies by. There are other brands of video goggles out there, so do some research to find a pair that meet your needs.

    Is This For a Beginner?

    I would have to say a big NO. You need basic RC flying reflexes well in place before you try FPV. You will also have to go through a build and testing process that requires a fair amount of patience. Get good with a trainer and do some building before you start this project.

    Flight Video/Photo Gallery

    Downloads

    Conclusion

    Is it worth it? Oh yeah! The first time you don the goggles and instantly find yourself 200 feet in the air you will, well, probably fall down! The effect is intense and it just about takes your breath away. I found myself saying profound things like, “WOAH! This is cool!”, along with other happy sounds! After about 10 flights I can’t wait to fly FPV again, and I feel that way after every successful flight. (Except the crash, but I was driven to repair it and fly again) It is a challenging project to be sure, but the thrill of the FPV experience is so great that most folks forget about the difficult parts and look forward to the next flights. Search RCGroups for FPV or Videopiloting and look over some of the videos posted there. It will give you a good sense of what folks are doing with FPV and some of their videos are beautiful!

    Last edited by Angela H; Sep 16, 2010 at 09:23 AM..

    Discussion

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    Old Aug 19, 2010, 02:54 PM
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    hbsurfer's Avatar
    United States, CA, Huntington Beach
    Joined Apr 2009
    533 Posts
    hey great review!!!! i might have to look into this system now!
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    Old Aug 19, 2010, 03:42 PM
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    trappy's Avatar
    Austria
    Joined Feb 2007
    6,411 Posts
    the review is awesome, but I'm sorry to say that with the choice of equipment you've set yourself a few stones in the way that you will most likely fall over in the near future. it's good you touched on the limits of 2.4GHz. either way, looking forward to part 2.
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    Old Aug 19, 2010, 04:22 PM
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    Excellent review! Couldn't be better timed as I'm currently researching what products to buy for my first endeavour into FPV.

    I've spent about two weeks reading through the various topics here on RCG. What I've learnt though is that I wouldn't be comfortable with picking the Eagletree system. If I go by the user experiences reported here it is rather difficult to set up and use as well as riddled with problems. The Eagletree support topics are filled with people having all sorts of issues. Often a fix is provided, but the fix itself breaks something else, so it is a never ending cycle of fiddling with new software and trying over and over again. I'm not really looking forward to that, although I realize some folks have zero issues.

    So I've decided I'd rather not spend my money on Eagletree equipment at this time but go with either Daniel Wee's DragonOSD+ or ImmersionRC's EzOSD. The DragonOSD+ is cheap, has RTH and lots of other fun features, but (some) DIY is involved including soldering. However Daniel and other DragonOSD+ users are very helpful and problems are far and few in between. The EzOSD is basically plug and play, has an excellent trackrecord, with no known issues or problems, and seamlessly integrates with other ImmersionRC equipment such as their antenna tracker and the UHF RC control it however is a bit more expensive.

    Frankly I'd rather spend my money on something that works and can be installed quickly and without issues rather than having to constantly worry whether something is going to fail, or if a software bug will ground me for the next few weeks. I'd rather be flying than tinkering to get my equipment to work so to speak.

    Anyway, just wanted to add to this discussion what I've learned over the past few weeks, as they say: just my 2 cents really.

    Thanks!

    Steve
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    Old Aug 19, 2010, 04:28 PM
    Just do it.
    FlyFisch's Avatar
    Stroudsburg, PA
    Joined Nov 2009
    670 Posts
    Out of curiosity, what was the total cost of the whole build, minus radio / receiver?
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    Old Aug 19, 2010, 05:10 PM
    Playing chicken with gravity..
    EYEinSKY's Avatar
    Michigan
    Joined Apr 2005
    262 Posts
    Hi All!
    As you have so rightly said, your choice of equipment for FPV is everything! I am deep into Part 2 using Eagle Tree Systems FPV equipment and I will soon submit that article to the editor. No hardware problems to report. Until then my impression is that with more options and capabilities comes a much steeper learning curve. I haven't used other products yet, so please do your homework in the forums!
    The total costs for the Part 1 article are around $600. That does not include your viewing device, RC system, tripod or recording device.
    For Part 2, The Eagle Tree airborne and ground station components, plus head tracking, antenna tracking and a homebuilt airplane add another $600 or so. Total implementation for me is around $2000.... gak! My heart just stopped there for a second!
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    Old Aug 19, 2010, 05:26 PM
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    trappy's Avatar
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    getting a cheaper pair of goggles, video transmitters/receivers (albeit on 2.4GHz, which renders your 2.4GHz R/C useless), cheaper cameras you can get the price down to about $500 - $600. you should highlight and triple-underline that the OSD is a complementary add-on and is not required for FPV flight, as it introduces another variable and "point of failure" into a system and - provided one is comfortable with his plane and navigation - it does not provide that much additional information.

    My suggestion to people getting into the hobby is always the same: Start with as little as you can possibly put onto the plane, and add more only as you progress in the hobby (fly out further, higher, etc). You will soon learn the limits of the system and what you enjoy doing most. From that you can derive the kind of equipment you will need.

    In the case of EYEinSKY, the frequency of the video being lower than the frequency of the R/C will be the first thing to cause a crash (or RTH). Second will be the close proximity of the components. Third the OSD, which has been known to cause problems for quite some time (and not all of them are fixed). and last but not least, the hardware you have runs on 12V. the 3S battery will go down to 10V and from there things go south rapidly. So if you find yourself venturing out too far, either the VTx or the camera will die before the battery actually dies, resulting in either a black screen or complete snow. Either way, the RTH won't do any good, the antenna tracking might fail (not sure if that bug has been resolved) and you'll get a pretty nice adrenaline rush not trying to paint anything black here, just highlighting some of the issues that you (probably) will come across.

    Anyways, it's all experimentation, that's what's so amazing about FPV. You start off with one thing and it will slowly morph into something you think is perfect - until you spend another few hours on RCG and find a ton of things to improve in your setup

    Here's a video I did about a year back with the setup I was first happy with. It cost a sneeze under $500 (minus recorder)
    What is FPV? (4 min 7 sec)
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    Last edited by trappy; Aug 19, 2010 at 05:36 PM. Reason: video?
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    Old Aug 19, 2010, 05:35 PM
    Plane Destroyer / Life Enjoyer
    airbagit13's Avatar
    Miami, FL
    Joined May 2009
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    FPV is so awesome but i'm to poor. Good stuff though and great review.
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    Old Aug 19, 2010, 07:28 PM
    Playing chicken with gravity..
    EYEinSKY's Avatar
    Michigan
    Joined Apr 2005
    262 Posts
    Wow Trappy! Now there's something to shoot for!
    Very helpful advice in choosing equipment for those of us starting out, and it reflects my experience in trying to get ALL of it working in short order. (Less than 3 months for both articles) You really do need time to get experience, see what you need, then go a step further. I like the option of activating more features as you grow. I can see me backing up and "going simple" for awhile after these reviews are done.
    Thanks for the useful information!
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    Old Aug 19, 2010, 07:32 PM
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    chancesAU's Avatar
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    Very good article Tom!
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    Old Aug 19, 2010, 09:17 PM
    work all night and fly all day
    DIG2fly's Avatar
    USA, CA, San Fernando Valley
    Joined May 2009
    237 Posts
    I have NO problems with my ET stuff...and have gotten good support.
    Have a bigger problem with the Airtronics RDS8000 2.4 radio and my a/v 900mhz 1000mw tx.
    Nice review Thanks
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    Old Aug 20, 2010, 12:13 AM
    Fast and low...
    aa78's Avatar
    Joined Apr 2009
    837 Posts
    Good review. Hoping for Part 2 being available soon!

    ET equipment, while having a wire nest, has an extensive feature set and flexibility. Firmware upgrade capability makes the deal even sweeter. It does have a learning and tweaking curve, though.
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    Old Aug 20, 2010, 02:55 AM
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    MO, USA
    Joined Jun 2010
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    Outstanding. I too am shopping for my first FPV system. I must admit, I'm pretty excited to learn that a "all the bells and whistles" FPV system can be had around $1200 or so. I was afraid it was going to run higher.

    For right now, I need to purchase just the basics. I picked up my Radian today, and I hope to use the slow, gentle flying powered glider as my first FPV platform. Eventually I'd like to get into a flying wing, and do some Trappy-style flying!

    Can't wait for part 2.
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    Old Aug 20, 2010, 07:23 AM
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    PatricMichigan's Avatar
    United States, MI, Hillsdale
    Joined Apr 2008
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    Cool! The lens does make things look bigger though, the field looks like its huge in the video.
    Thanks
    Patric
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    Old Aug 20, 2010, 08:01 AM
    Joined Mar 2006
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    Nice job on your review, if it only had Trappy’s approval it would be perfect. Don’t feel bad it not the first review he told someone you’ll crash. Maybe you can correspond with him on the choice of equipment on the next one so you’ll have his blessing and not mislead everyone. With his help it could be a sticky.

    Good Luck.

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