If you’ve either been following RC Drone Arena or been into the RC drone hobby for a while, you’ll have come across the term ‘First Person View’ or FPV (its abbreviation) numerous times… especially as component and manufacturing prices continue to fall.
Speaking of trends, one that seems to have caught up on drone manufacturers seems to be that of producing FPV drones.
With entry-level RC drones being more affordable than ever before, the number of people practising the hobby is greater than it has ever been. Entry-level RC drones, such as the Eachine H8 Mini, are a lot of fun, but hobbyists being hobbyists manage to ‘outgrow’ their first aircraft pretty soon.
With some FPV drones being available for well under $100, they happen to be intermediate pilots’ next choice. However, there are a few different varieties of the FPV technology that can make or break your experience.
Let us explore in greater depth.
WiFi FPV vs 5.8GHz FPV vs 2.4GHz FPV – A Quick Recap: What is FPV?
While I’m sure you have a fair idea of what FPV is all about, it doesn’t hurt to brush up a concept real quick. FPV, or First Person View, is a concept in the drone hobby where a live video stream from the drone is sent to a display in the pilot’s view.
In other words, FPV is the tech that let’s you see what the drone sees. How does this help? For one, the experience of flying in FPV is considered, by some, to be ‘out of the world’; in more subtle language, the degrees of freedom that FPV flights provide are second to none.
FPV is the tech that let’s you see what the drone sees.
Second, when you’re flying long range, it is easy to lose sight of your quadcopter or RC drone, which increases the chances of losing your drone.
With FPV, you know exactly where your RC drone is flying. Because you see what’s around it.
Now that we’ve had a quick recap of the FPV concept, lets move on to the different types of technologies dominating the FPV market: WiFi FPV vs 5.8GHz FPV vs 2.4GHz FPV!
Types of FPV: WiFi FPV vs 5.8GHz FPV vs 2.4GHz FPV
As the sub-heading suggests, there are three main varieties of the FPV technology. Each has its pros and cons, but yet it makes sense to choose one over the other two, as we shall try to explore.
- 2.4GHz analog
- 2.4GHz digital (WiFi)
- and other higher frequencies…
Let us go through each of these varieties to try and understand the basic differences, the pluses and minuses.
2.4GHz Analog FPV
Out of the different variations mentioned here, 2.4GHz analog FPV happens to be the least popular. And there’s a reason why that is the case.
The Lian Sheng LS128 FPV RC Drone, one of the very few quadcopters to use the 2.4GHz analog FPV protocol
The video downlink from the FPV camera of the RC drone to the receiver isn NOT the highest quality. In other words, there is a lot of noise that makes the FPV video that you see while flying blurry, which means that 2.4GHz analog FPV isn’t the first choice for most hobbyists.
2.4GHz Digital (WiFi FPV)
WiFi FPV is, by far, the most popular method to include FPV in budget RC drones. Almost every FPV-enabled drone that’s selling for less than $100 will be using WiFi FPV.
Here’s why: the WiFi FPV transmitter (that is connected to the camera of the drone) is fairly inexpensive. Next, to view the live FPV feed, the drone pilot needs a compatible display. While 2.4GHz analog and 5.8GHz technologies require pilots to purchase additional hardware, WiFi FPV works with any Android/iOS smartphone (or tablet) on the market.
The FQ777-954, the current world’s smallest FPV drone. It uses the 2.4GHz WiFi FPV protocol
What this means that WiFi FPV isn’t just inexpensive to produce, but also affordable to implement because almost every person on the internet has a smartphone or tablet.
Here, the RC drone creates a WiFi network of its own, which you are required to connect to in order to fetch the live feed.
There are a couple of downsides, though. The range isn’t great; the feed also suffers from interference, thanks to the tonne of WiFi networks that we have all around us. The biggest downside, though, is that there’s a lag between what the drone sees and what you see, thereby eliminating the use of WiFi FPV for hobby purposes.
That said, WiFi FPV is a decent place to start if you wish to fly a tiny drone inside the house.
5.8GHz Analog FPV
Now we’re talking. 5.8GHz is the preferred frequency for hobbyists and professionals alike. This is because the 5.8GHz sits nicely between high range and high bandwidth, which means it is the most versatile of them all.
The Fat Shark Dominator 5.8GHz FPV Goggles
However, it requires additional hardware. There are inexpensive screens available that will fetch the live feed sent from your RC drone’s camera (via a 5.8GHz transmitter, of course), and then there are full-fledged goggles in the market to take it to the next level.
That said, 5.8GHz FPV is definitely something that beginners will want to stay away from.
As a general rule, the higher the frequency, lower the range. In other words, higher frequency = less range, clearer video. That said, people from across the world have reported miles of range with 5.8GHz FPV, so you should just know what you’re doing and you’ll be good to go.
WiFi FPV vs 5.8GHz FPV vs 2.4GHz FPV: Conclusion
We’ve tried to break the explanation down to bits as much as possible. If you still don’t have a clear perspective of the differences between WiFi FPV vs 5.8GHz FPV vs 2.4GHz FPV, here’s a quick summary:
- 2.4GHz analog FPV: Outdated technology, hardly in use
- 2.4GHz digital (WiFi FPV): New technology. Very affordable, but suffers from lag
- 5.8GHz FPV: Best of the three. Used in hobby and professional grade RC drones
If you liked the article, you may want to check out other knowledge base articles on RC Drone Arena, all of which attempt to educate the reader about trending technology as much as possible.