Looking for the best FPV drone? This guide will help you to choose, tell you what to watch out for, and give you up to date prices.
First Person View, or FPV, drones have been increasing in popularity for some time. Many of the early enthusiast builds used this approach, placing a camera on the front of the copter and relaying a live view to goggles worn by the pilot. A gamer would argue that a screen very near the pilot is also “first person view,” just as Doom was, but this is a view treated with some skepticism by experienced pilots.
ARF: almost ready to fly (some construction needed)
BNF: bind and fly (a drone where you need to buy your own controller
Cinewhoop: Small drones designed for safe flying around people
FPV: first person view
Freestyle: Flying acrobatically / acro for fun
HUD: head up display
Lipo: Lithium polymer battery
mAh: milli Amp hours (measure of battery capacity)
PNP: plug and play (a drone where you need to provide the receiver/transmitter)
RTF: ready to fly
VTX: video transmitter
Here we will take FPV to mean drones which at least allow goggle-wearing, and encourage speed. In that context FPV has always been popular with the hobby community as well as interested visitors at events like the International Drone Day “Mini Air Show,” first held in 2015. More recently this has been commercialized as a spectator (not to mention TV) event by organizations like the Drone Racing League and Multi GP.
FPV is still a very varied section of the drone market, filled with smaller enthusiast-run firms as well as (after a long wait) a contribution from the biggest firm in the industry, DJI. There is unbridled fun to be had, but FPV videos have gone viral too, so their unique cinematographic possibilities count for a lot.
That means, if you’re interested in taking charge of some mini acrobatics, there are plenty of decisions to make in terms of technology, not just in terms of the camera and radio technology but also how you’re going to get started – will you choose a ready to fly (RTF) kit, assembled or otherwise, one which lacks a controller, or perhaps take the DIY route?
Best FPV drones in 2022(opens in new tab)
The DJI FPV is a drone with a lot of possible uses; it has a good quality camera which (if you supply fast enough MicroSD cards (opens in new tab)) can capture 4K at 60fps. Unusually for an dedicated FPV drone, the camera features mechanical stabilization, albeit only on the X axis (good digital image stabilization handles the Y axis and camera vibrationn well). Delicate gimbal motors might seem vunerable, but the frame has a degree of roll-bar like protection for the camera and, perhaps more importantly, this is where DJI’s other major area of development plays a significant role: collision sensors.
Unlike most FPV drones, the DJI FPV can be flown at two lower (but still exciting) speed options with very effective collision sensors in operation. They will either stop to a hover or even steer around objects rather than hit them. An ‘all stop’ button can also initiate hover nearly immediately, while the drone boasts the usual GPS-powered return-to-home expected on a consumer drone. DJI’s dedicated 120fps goggles are also thoughtfully designed, with large field of view not too taxing on the eyes or head band; the visual quality is breath-taking compared with early analog equivalents.(opens in new tab)
Powered by Xing-E 2207 2750KV motors, the Nazgul 5 might be named after the baddies in Lord of the Rings, but that power is a useful thing if you choose to act responsibly; many drone pilots will lament the increase in weight to the latest GoPro Hero 9 Black (opens in new tab), but this powerful machine seems unconcerned by the extra grammes. (Perhaps that’s why it uses the Succex-EF4 flight stack?)
With 5mm thick carbon arms, this drone is going to be difficult to break even in a pretty fast collision, but if you want to try iFlight are offering the machine in both (fast) 4S and (screeching) 6S versions. It can even keep up with a fixed wing. The firm are also well known for the quality of their default PIDs (flight settings), and this machine is no exception, which means even pilots used to the consumer-friendly experiences of camera drones should be able to transition to the world of FPV.
The drone includes the Caddx vista HD digital video transmission system, so you’ll likely need DJI FPV Goggles which will be something of an investment in themselves though. Other than that, you get a good selection of accessories in the box: antennas, tools, rubber battery stickers, props, and more.(opens in new tab)
The Cetus is a small drone with the relatively unusual addition of an optical flow sensor. Not only does this offer drift-free hover, but a gentle automatic land when the battery is failing – both huge boons for beginners. First time pilots can work their way up through three modes, including a full traditional FPV style. The same applies to the tech; the goggles and controller are of the same kind you can use with other real RF-drones.
The controller, in fact, has an especially pleasing feel for ‘noobs’, with real RC-controller sticks surrounded by a more game-like housing. Indeed it can be used as a USB joystick when connected to drone simulators. It’s a shame that this is a live-view experience only – you’ll need to invest in pricier googles for a record option – but this package is more about fun.(opens in new tab)
Like it or not, the historical chain of names ending in “—whoop” is now part of quadcopter lore, and this is a Cinewhoop (opens in new tab) – meaning it has the power to lift a GoPro but isn’t too dangerous to avoid up close and personal. The word ‘pusher’ in the product name refers to the inverted engine arrangement, which makes it look a little like a skeletal hovercraft but has the effect of a cleaner air flow beneath the craft for smoother flight (and, by extension, smoother video).
The tiny size means it can be flown through small gaps, chasing subjects like skateboarders. It’s a few grams heavier than other 2.5-inch drones. We did wonder, however, if replacing the bull-nosed props with 5-blade types may offer a smoother flight, though any GoPro with image stabilization will see no issues anyway.
Flexibility is a big advantage of the FPV space, and the ProTek25 is available in analog too, but the digital option includes the Caddax Polar Vista 60fps FPV camera which will connect to the DJI goggles and controller.(opens in new tab)
The EMAX TinyHawk 3 is a great nano drone to start flying with; the wheelbase (motor-to-motor measurement) is just 75mm, so the drone is smaller in the box than either the controller or goggles but, crucially, all those things are available in the same box, assuming you choose the Ready To Fly (RTF) bundle.
It’s possible to stay aloft for up to 7 minutes, OK for a machine with tiny 2-inch props, or blast along at up to 50mph (again impressive at this size). If you’re doing so in low light the array of LEDs provide the opportunity to wow the assembled crowds; their brightness responds to the accelerator.
In the past Emax’s kits have included gamepad-like controllers, but this includes the new E8 transmitter which has a more traditional feel, better for learning pinch controls. It also has a mount for the bundled Transporter 2 receiver screen, which can either be worn as a traditional FPV screen or used atop the controller if preferred. The Transporter 2 can record video to an SD card, too.
While there isn’t the power to carry a GoPro, the camera provides surprisingly good-looking video – much more so than other small drones – thanks to its dynamic range, white balance and the 200mw VTX (transmitter) which ensures better transmission than many in the category. The only real complain is the ‘land now’ warning seems to come a little early, so the drone is better suited to racing flight than aggressive “acro” (acrobatics).(opens in new tab)
Sometime before the virus took hold, your humble wordsmith was taken in a bus to the desert outside Las Vegas not to be executed by the mob but to see these mini drones do their stuff. I’ve long suspect that I was only returned to the Consumer Electronics Show because I didn’t crash mine too hard (not for want of trying), but it’s good to see the cheerfully toothy micro-copter has made its way to stores.
What really makes this copter stands out is how inexpensive it is for a kit including goggles and a controller. Sure, the build quality might not compare well to some machines, but useful features are still available; standby charging is available on the goggles, which also have enough vents to avoid trouble. The camera’s 170˚ field of view works well for flight through goggles, too. Very usefully, for both first timers and for those making the transition from gadget store toys – the system has all the same safety features, not to mention rolls and flips, associated with toys in that category too, making for an easy transition.
Bigger than some whoop-class drones, the CineLog 35 has a few refinements which make for longer flights. It’s also possible to sacrifice some minutes and direct the power to lift heavier GoPro cameras. You can hold a GoPro 10 aloft to record your flights for posterity using the included mount. Better still, the camera – if attached – will be connected to a dampening platform to reduce the jelly effect from the drone’s motors. Nevertheless the aircraft 203 x 203mm pusher frame is 236.6g so you can also fly free of weight restriction concerns when you’re operating without a recording camera. GEPRC offer both a 4S and 6S edition of the compact quad.(opens in new tab)
This is one geeky quad (if you’ve not got this far through the list without realising there is a lot of self-building in the FPV community, that’s on us really, so sorry). The BUZZ Freestyle is built to go fast, but it does have a built-in camera which – if you supply your own FPV goggles – you’ll be able to pilot through. As is typical with drones in this class, you can tweak the angle the camera points back at base, but there is no option to adjust things mid-flight. On the plus side, the Caddx Ratel 1200TVL HDR camera supplies a better-than-average video signal, though still via NTSC or PAL.
Where EMAX do provide a welcoming hand into the deeper depths of the hobby is by supplying two full sets of props (propellors); one they call 'AVAN Flow’ – for speed – and the other ‘AVAN Scimitar’ which are slightly smaller and afford a longer flight time. We appreciated the rubber pads on the base to protect the screws on a hard landing (not to mention the immense 3K of carbon fibre woven into the frame).
Gear up with a FrSky receiver (plus batteries and a balance charger) and you’ll be off.(opens in new tab)
This deal isn’t the cheapest on here, but the quad comes with everything you need to get flying except a 14.8 4S li-po and the balance charger you’ll need to top it up. That, though, is a choice most developing hobbyists want to make for themselves anyway, so there is no real loss there. The transmitter is powered by either AA batteries which should last a while, and the F210 is largely built from carbon fibre so it’ll survive a few bumps – which is just as well.
We weren’t’ 100% sure about the two-blade props included; three blade props can sometimes put out more power – but most of the time the difference wasn’t very apparent. Walkera used to make them available for an automatic 3D flight mode (the drone would automatically fly them backward when the drone was inverted), but that novelty doesn’t seem to be on the list any more and we can’t say we miss it, so why not tri-blade props? Ah well. On the plus side, having included goggles and a controller makes this a great starting FPV quad.
There is no arguing the quality and relative value of the DJI Mini SE; it captures excellent video and images for a drone considerably cheaper than others in its stable. The only problem is that – by the strictest of enthusiast definitions – it isn’t technically a FPV drone.
That said, the view seen on your phone screen (acting as monitor) is a first-person view. After all, a shooting game like Doom doesn’t require VR goggles. With a little ingenuity it is also possible to get that phone image in front of your eyes FPV-style: Get hold of a headset which can accept a mirrored video signal from your phone, or an HDMI signal. If the later, connect the HDMI to your phone using a device like a MiraScreen).
The fact the Mini SE isn’t the quickest drone is probably useful given that the digital video, especially mirror-cast (control isn’t as responsive as on a racer), but the experience is still good – plus all the advantages of DJI’s video recording system. In the Control menu, set the Gimbal Mode to FPV and the camera will tilt with the drone (rather than maintain level horizons), again like a ‘real’ FPV drone.
See our full DJI Mini SE review.
FPV systems explained
There are two kinds of FPV system. Analog – the first on the scene – involves a drone’s camera having a low-power NTSC or PAL transmitter (VTX) and the pilot’s goggles including a receiver. The technology is essentially the same as that once found in all TVs, except that you must choose the drone’s broadcast frequency, then make sure you match it on your goggles. The signal is visible to anyone who tunes in (but you won’t be transmitting far – authority rules keep power output to a minimum). The radio control is bound entirely separately to the drone’s ‘brain’ (flight controller), though some overlay data onto the video feed.
If you’re looking to add a high-quality digital video signal to your FPV experience, but don’t want to buy an off-the-shelf DJI drone, then you certainly aren’t alone. One solution is to ensure you have (or fit yourself) the DJI FPV Air Unit. This is a linked camera and digital transmitter/receiver which can bind with DJI FPV controllers and goggles – all accessories you can acquire separately:
• DJI FPV Air Unit
• DJI FPV Remote Controller
• DJI FPV Goggles V2
Digital systems ‘bind’ to each other with relative ease, and offer greater range without glitching video, though the DJI Goggles V2 do need re-binding to the Air Unit each time.
The Caddx Air Unit can replace the DJI Air Unit in this list and can be found for less money, though the overall cost of digital FPV is still much higher than analog.
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