Choosing Your RC FPV Aircraft

Hex Multi-Rotor FPV Aircraft

Choosing what RC FPV aircraft to use for your first attempts at FPV should be a very straight forward decision. It should be a model you are very comfortable with and skilled at flying it. It should be a slow & stable flyer, and it should of course be reliable.

Penguin Foam FPV Airplane

Secondary considerations are based largely on how and where you intend to fly FPV style. For example, are you planning on fairly long distance flying or closer in? If long distance (well out of visual range) is something you want to eventually do, chances of losing your aircraft increase; so it better either be fairly inexpensive/expendable, or have a very good return to home autopilot system (not many are good).

Likewise if you fly over houses or other occupied areas (which is usually illegal so you should never be doing it anyways), you best choose a light foam airplane to keep liability at bay if you lose control of the aircraft or it has a mechanical/electrical failure and falls out of the sky onto the unsuspecting terrestrial beings below.

Just the thought of flying a larger 550 to 800 size RC helicopter by first person view out of visual range and over occupied areas scares the living daylights out of me (it should scare you too).

On the other hand, if you live in a rural area and will only be flying over nice big empty fields and forest (such is my situation), having a large & potentially deadly RC model falling from the sky is a little less risky if you don't mind the possibility of losing it for good.

Plan your flight & use common sense!

Another secondary FPV aircraft consideration is the view out of the on-board camera. For example, if you have a conventional RC airplane with a prop up front, your camera view is likely going to include a fairly big area of spinning propeller. Some people really like that and again it is very much what you would see out the cockpit of a full size single engine airplane. If you don't want to see a propeller, then other aircraft to consider are pusher prop types, wing mounted motors, quad/multi rotors, and of course helicopters. 

Collective Pitch RC Helicotper Is Very Hard To Fly FPV

Personally (and this is being an RC helicopter pilot first and foremost), I don't ever see myself flying a collective pitch heli by first person view. There are just too many complexities and even dangers with CP heli flight that would make it very difficult and overly demanding taking much of the FPV fun out of it (at least for me).

Remember, CP helicopters are inherently unstable and you want a stable aircraft for your first FPV experiences. One caveat to this is if you use an electronic flybarless system with horizontal or autopilot stabilization modes such as the DJI Naza H, Skookum 720, or Bavarian Demon 3SX.

Systems like these will keep your heli from pitching or rolling past a certain degree making your unstable CP helicopter as stable and predictable as a micro coaxial or multi rotor. If you want return to home autopilot, get a FBL system that also supports GPS and return to home functions. The DJI Naza-H is a great system for CP FPV aircraft, and if I ever do decide to try out FPV on one of my collective pitch helis (not that I ever will), the Naza-H with the GPS module is what I would personally use.

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This all adds yet more complexity, cost, and possible failure points. Remember, keep it simple to start; a CP heli is not simple no matter how you slice it with or without an autopilot system.

Size of FPV aircraft is also an important consideration. FPV equipment (the camera, video transmitter, antenna, and perhaps the OSD (on screen display) take up space and combined, weigh a fair amount meaning you are not going to be flying FPV with a micro sized heli, quad, or airplane. Spacing your video transmitter/antenna as far away from your receiver and GPS antennas is also an important consideration. The more separation, the better!

Flight Time Of Your FPV Aircraft

Your maximum flight time will play a big roll in how far out you can fly. Something to definitely consider in your FPV aircraft choice!

If for example, your plane or quadrotor has a safe 6 minute flight time at near full power and has a maximum speed of say 40 kph, that will give you a maximum flight range of about 4 km. Meaning you will have to turn back at no further out than 2km in order to get home before your battery is dead.

Also consider the winds. I have almost not made it back home a couple times when flying away with a strong tail wind and then having to punch through that now strong head wind when flying back home.

My wind flying FPV tip now if I'm doing a long range FPV flight is simple. Fly into the head wind first and then when you need to come home at the half way mark, you'll have a power saving tail wind and won't have to worry about a dead/damaged LiPo pack.

My FPV Aircraft Choice

So what do I fly for my first intro into FPV and why?

As you may know from my FPV RC Introduction page, I decided on a DJI F550 Hex-rotor. I chose this aircraft for many reasons that were important to me and most likely very different from what you will want; but again, these are some of the reasons you should also be considering when choosing a specific FPV aircraft...

  • I'm a "heli guy" so it's only natural I'm going to stick with what I know and am good at piloting - rotary aircraft. Multi rotors are stable and efficient lift platforms with decent flight times and are fairly robust.
  • I wanted a hex rotor over a quad rotor in case a motor, prop, or ESC fails, I'll still have (limited) aircraft control. The Hex also has more stability over a quad for aerial imaging.
  • I really liked the DJI Frame Wheel design with integrated power bus and the plastic motor arms over carbon (more on that in the FPV antenna section).
  • I wanted the ability to easily take off & land vertically, hover hands off, as well as fly both super slow & fairly fast in any direction.
  • I'm not going on long range FPV missions - I want to keep it within a couple km's so a slower flying multi-rotor is fine.
  • I wanted a multi-purpose aircraft that I could also use for AP and allow me to record HD video with a decent stabilization gimbal (the ZenMuse H3-D2 system) yet be able to also view it by FPV if I so choose.
  • The DJI Naza M V2 system allows neat and easy component integration through the Can-Bus system they use. Every component onboard is in constant communication in other words. GPS, flight stabilization/autopilot, ODS (on screen display), PDU (power distribution unit), and the GoPro/ZenMuse camera system -  it all works seamlessly together. Keeping it simple ;-)
  • Very good and near bullet proof return to home and land autopilot. This has already saved the aircraft twice when I lost control range before video range (record so far is 2200 meters).
  • I wanted an easy night flying experience as well and nothing beats a multi-rotor with GPS autopilot in my opinion for near effortless night flight (both FPV, and just tooling around the night skys with the bugger lit up like a Christmas tree doing the "UFO" thing).
  • I really wanted to build a multi rotor from kit form and program it over getting a ready to fly model as you almost always will get a better multi-rotor going this route. Again, the DJI F550 Frame Wheel kit was the top contender for many of the above reasons not to mention they offer great overall value.
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FPV DJI F550 Combo Kit - Can't Wait To Start AssemblyFPV DJI F550 Combo Kit - Can't Wait To Start Assembly

Completed F550 Ready For Its First FPV FlightCompleted F550 Ready For Its First FPV Flight

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