The Best Budget-Friendly FPV Drones for Beginners
An FPV drone system is one in which you can fly a drone from the pilot's perspective. These systems have revolutionized the drone world, taking UAV use from "eh, that's cool," to an activity that everyone is vying to try. Before first person view technology, drone pilots could only operate their aircraft using ground vision, which meant that they had to keep their UAVs within sight. With first person view technology, however, drones can fly farther and higher than ever before, and allow their pilots to explore parts of the world that they would otherwise not have access to. From flying far out over the open ocean to flying across canyons and gorges, pilots can seamlessly navigate tough terrain thanks to first person view drones.
First person flying has been around for several years, but the original technology was like what one would expect from first technology—cheap. Today, however, as technology evolves, manufacturers release newer and better goggles, screens, glasses and cameras are on a constant basis in the hopes of one-upping the competition. Cameras and transmitters are better than ever, offering a realistic view and the feeling that you are actually up in the air. Many of the newer drones come with GPS capabilities and return to home functions, which guide wayward UAVs back to their operators. Even the most advanced technology, however, cannot compensate for one crucial element: piloting skills.
First and Foremost, Master LOS Flying
While several drones are designed with beginner pilots in mind, there are no easy-to-fly FPV drones on the market. To operate these types of systems successfully, you should at least understand how to fly a drone along a line of sight (LOS).
Line of sight flying is precisely what it sounds like: flying a drone through the air while you control it from the ground and watch it with your own eyes. You do not use goggles or video feeds to determine where your drone is. Once you've mastered LOS flying, you can take your hobby to the next level, to first person view.
Understanding the Unique Challenges of Flying in First Person View
Before introducing the best beginner UAVs, it's important to address the very real challenges of flying in FPV. Even the most competent of pilots struggle with switching to a first person system, in large part due to something called situational awareness.
When you're flying LOS, you understand where your drone is at all times and can view its surroundings. You can mentally prepare to avoid a tree or a duck or a building because you see it coming long before your drone even reaches that object. When you fly in first person, however, you only see what your device's small camera sees. While you could set your camera to pan, tilt, zoom, etc., doing so is a distraction and takes away from the actual flying. While you're messing around the functions of your camera, your drone might be heading straight toward a cliff wall.
Flying in first person does not come naturally to most people. Most people like to see what is going on all around them at all times so that they can prepare for their next move. For instance, a pedestrian walking down the street may seem intent on the path before him, and he may be, but his subconscious is forcing him to check his peripherals every few seconds, and checking above and below him for possible obstacles. The average driver relies on her review mirrors to make sure that it is safe to switch lanes or make a turn. That said, when you're wearing those FPV goggles, chances are that you're going to want to rip them off your head and revert to LOS flying. Resist the urge and focus on the camera. Eventually, that urge will go away (somewhat).
A lot of people think that UAV flying is a solo sport, but first person flying is actually better with two people. While you have the goggles on, you can only see about five percent of the world. A spotter, however, can keep you informed on the other 95 percent. Though there will be times (many of them) in which your drone will be plain out of sight, in those instances when it is in view, your spotter can give you a head's up about what obstacles are to come and what maneuvers you need to make to navigate safely around them.
Another obstacle you'll have to overcome is altitude. Which altitude you fly at affects your ability to fly at all, in most instances. You need to keep your UAS at a precise altitude at all times, otherwise, you risk crashing.
Finally, some people become disoriented and even physically sick when they are in the FPV goggles. This is because the sounds they hear don't match up with the sites they see. You can overcome this and the aforementioned obstacle by merely logging a lot of flight time and getting to know and trust you drone, its camera and your own senses.
5 Best FPV Drones for Beginners That Are Under $200
The thing about flying in first person view mode is that you are bound to make a mistake here and there. While you're learning, you don't want to be worried about throwing a thousand-dollar investment down the toilet. However, you need a quality drone, as a cheap first person drone system won't be equipped with all the functions and gadgets you need to fly successfully through a camera. This guide includes the top five first person drone systems for beginners that are under $200.
At just $54.99, this quadcopter is a great option for someone who wants to get an idea of what first person flying is all about but who doesn't want to risk a handsome sum to do so. Despite the low price, it is still equipped with a quality camera that provides stunning aerial footage. In terms of weight, it's about average, weighing in at 2.6 pounds. It is equipped with LED lights, making night-fight possible. The flight time is between six and nine minutes, which is less than the average 10 to 15, but then again, it's less than $60, so one can't complain. Also, it comes with a bonus battery so that you can double your flight time by quickly swapping out the dead battery with the charged one.
You can pair this drone with any tablet or smartphone that utilizes an iOS or Android system. Though you can watch everything as you're flying, if you navigate over particularly interesting terrain, you can backup the footage with a Micro-SD card.
Hubsan FPV X4 H107D
Weighing in at just 1.1 ounces, this drone is TINY, and at $66, its price tag isn't so bad either. Its size nor its price doesn't mean that it lacks features, however. The six-axis design provides for a more stable flight, sturdy rotor arms help reduce in-flight vibration and rubber landing pads reduce impact upon landing. Despite being super lightweight, the frame is surprisingly durable, which also contributes to the overall smooth flight.
A 720P camera is built right into the frame and offers a resolution of 1280 x 720. You can use the camera to operate in FPV mode, capture aerial photos or record video footage. LED lights make it easy for pilots to navigate at night and through a dark obstacle, such as tunnels and canyons.
Like the UDI U818A, the battery life on this device isn't so great, maxing out at about six minutes. However, its distance range compensates for that, allowing users to fly their devices as far as 150 meters away from the remote.
At $129.99, the Syma X8HG is a slightly more expensive beginner option. Yet, it's also a lot bigger than the two drones mentioned above. At 3.4 pounds, this UAV is sturdy and easier to handle in rough conditions than its smaller counterparts. Its heavy frame makes it more resistant to wind, and the six-axis flight system provides for easy handling and improved stability. Thanks to the device's Wi-Fi capabilities, pilots can watch footage as it's being captured. The camera, a 720P one, can also capture incredible aerial shots, which will be sent directly to your smartphone or tablet. Thanks to the advanced 4HC digital remote, the transmitter comes with an incredible bandwidth that allows pilots to navigate their UAVs up to 70 meters away without worry. Anti-interference technology helps to ensure that you do not interfere with any other device hovering nearby. Blade protectors serve to boost performance and provide protection in case of a collision.
The reason for the Syma X8HG's high price tag may be because of its additional features. This FPV UAV is designed to roll 360 degrees continuously. It can also turn right, left, forward, backward, up, down and side to side. Like the other two drones mentioned in this list, it is equipped with LED lights, making night flight a possibility.
The only pitfall of this particular UAS is its battery life. It has a flight time of about five to seven minutes, and though the battery is rechargeable, it takes a whopping 200 minutes to recharge fully.
The Dromida Ominus is about $80, depending on from which buyer you purchase it. Though it is slightly more expensive than the UDI U818A and the Hubsan FPV X4 H107D, it comes RTF, or ready to fly. This means that it comes with everything you could possibly need to fly your drone, including the AA batteries for the remote control. This particular drone is two pounds, and though it only has half the number of axis as the other three drones, it is still extremely stable and capable.
If you're looking for an FPV drone with which you can perform stunts, this is the drone for you. Perform a flip at the flip of a switch, or do a barrel roll with ease. The design of this frame is designed for acrobatic stunts mid-flight.
The Dromida Omnius is also equipped with an interference-free flight system and LED lights for easy tracking at night. The camera is capable of capturing both videos and photographs, which can be downloaded directly to your smartphone or tablet. You can also control the camera's settings from your device while your UAS is up in the air.
The Dromita Omnius comes with the best flight time of any other drone on this list. The battery lasts for about 10 to 12 minutes, which is better than the standard flight time of more high-end hobby drones.
Hero RC XQ-5 V626 UFO
The Hero RC V626 is by far the largest drone on this list, but at $64.95, it is the second most affordable. This FPV drone is true beginner drone, as it is simple to operate, extremely stable and wind-resistant. It is also surprisingly agile given its size. As you learn to fly, you can also learn to perform acrobatic stunts with the push of a button.
The HERO RC was designed with children in mind, which is why it also happens to be the "fun" drone. The frame includes attachments for compatible accessories, such as a missile launcher or bubble blower. You can even hook up a small water cannon and create some mischief in your own backyard.
However, because it's a play-drone, the camera is not all that great. If your goal is to take stellar aerial shots and get a glimpse of the great unknown, any other drone on this list would be better for you.
Take Your Droning to the Next Level
If you've mastered LOS flying and want to experience drone piloting in a whole new way, invest in an FPV drone system. First person flying is a bit daunting at first, but once you get the hang of it, you'll never go back to LOS. That said, to make the most of your first person view experience, pick up a quality beginner drone.