Congratulations on the purchase of your new FPV Drone! You’re about to experience a new type of freedom in the form of 4 propellers.
Before you go ahead and plug that battery in, there’s some very important basic safety tips we have to tell you first!
5 Important Safety Tips!
- Always turn on the Transmitter Radio before plugging in your drone.
- Ensure you stand at least 2m away from the drone when preparing to take off.
- Always remove the propellers before changing any software settings on the drone.
- Never leave any batteries charging unattended.
- Never fly over other people.
It is important you learn and remember these 5 basic rules before starting your first flight.
Not following these rules can result in severe injury or bodily harm.
Okay now we’ve got that out of the way, it’s time to get to know your new FPV drone. We know you’re itching to fly, but we recommend reading up on the basics first if you’ve never flown an FPV drone before.
Practicing on a Simulator First
To save your drone from the first few crashes you’ll inevitably have when flying it for the first time, we highly suggest practicing on a simulator first. There are plenty of great programs out there that will allow you to accurately experience the controls and flight experience of fpv drones using your very own controller.
Our Top Picks:
To connect your controller to your simulator, you can either use a Simulator USB Dongle, USB cable, or wirelessly by connecting it straight through your drone’s USB port on the flight controller (often the easiest way).
Get your first few crashes out of the way, get the hang of throttle control and other stick controls first with a simulator to save your drone from any unneccessary repairs!
Betaflight – the Software on Your FPV Drone
You may have heard the term Betaflight mentioned a lot during your reading. Betaflight is an open-source software project built by hobbyists and other drone enthusiasts. The software runs on your drone’s flight controller which also controls the OSD (on screen display) you see in your FPV headset. Betaflight can communicate messages to you through the form of messages on the FPV feed, LED patterns on the flight controller, and beeper noises if you have one attached to your drone.
Betaflight has a configurator software which can be run on Windows/OSX. The configurator software allows you to tweak with just about every setting on your drone, including how the controller inputs feel, the behaviour of your drone, and the configuration of the OSD in your FPV feed.
To connect to betaflight, you’ll typically need a micro-USB cable which plugs into the USB port on your flight controller board. You may also need to install some drivers the first time you connect.
As you grow more comfortable using and flying you new FPV drone, you’ll likely want to change some of the flight characteristics of your quad to better fit your stlye of flying. You may also want to fine tune some settings which includes calibrating your voltage and current sensor to get a more accurate measure of the battery.
The 5.8GHz FPV Video Link
With the introduction of DJI’s HD Digital FPV technology, we now have two main technologies for getting video feed to your FPV goggles. If you’re using the traditional analogue FPV feed, read ahead. Otherwise, you may want to read our article on DJI HD FPV here: Everything you need to know about the DJI HD FPV System.
The video connection between your FPV drone and FPV goggles relies of analogue radio wave transmission – which is the same technology used to get FM radio in your car. Just like in your car, if you go out of range, your received signal degrades until you see just static. If your signal starts to become full of static, you’ll need to fly your craft closer to get better reception.
Other factors that influence your FPV signal include flying behind metal structures, mountains or hills, buildings and other obstacles, the hardware used such as antennas on your FPV drone or goggles, and also the output power of your video transmitter.
The easiest way to enhance your FPV feed is by using a high powered video transmitter (or VTX) and a decent set of FPV goggles such as the Fat Shark Scouts or better. To set it to maximum power, you will need to change the output power of your VTX by changing the setting in the OSD in Betaflight.
Max range / Drone Failsafes
When you fly your drone, you’ll gradually get a feel for your maximum range. This can be in the form of increasing video static, or through a low RSSI (Received Signal Strength Indicator). The RSSI reading is usually displayed on your OSD and is a value between 0-99. Generally you do not want to go below 30-40, which means your receiver is only receiving 30-40% of your input. Keep an eye on this value while flying and you’ll quickly feel more comfortable taking your quad further distances.
If your RSSI drops too low, you will experience a failsafe condition. This is where your drone will disarm itself and drop wherever it is to ensure it does not fly away. The video feed will display a message “FAILSAFE” and you may need to rearm the drone.
Arming / Disarming your Quad
One of the distinct differences between a quadcopter running betaflight and a photography drone like the DJI Mavic is the ability to Arm and Disarm at will. This is essentially turning on and off the motors’ power at the flick of a switch in the case of an emergency, or immediately after a landing or a crash.
We generally set the Arm switch to the top left of the controller for quick access. It’s important to develop a habit of reaching for the arm switch if you’ve crashed. By disarming the motors quickly, you can save the motors from a ‘burnout’ where the motor will try to spin even when it’s stuck in the ground. If the motor tries to spin but is stuck, you may damage the internal coils which will result in costly repairs to the Motor or Electronic Speed Controller (ESC) board.
A pre-arm switch (optional) is an extra switch used to prevent the accidental arming of your drone. To arm the quad, you will need to hold the pre-arm switch (usually a momentary switch) down before flicking the arm switch to on. If you don’t do this, the quad will not arm and you will see a “NOPREARM” message displayed on the Betaflight OSD.
Propeller and Motor Orientation
If you’ve never owned a drone before, you may not notice there are two different propellers used on your motors (Clockwise and Anti-Clockwise). It’s very important to ensure the correct propellers are on the correct motors. Otherwise your drone will not fly, or even take off.
Propeller and motor directions are oriented diagonally, which means opposite corners are the same as each other. In a standard configuration, your front-left and back-right motors will be turning clockwise. The propellers will then spin inwards towards the front and back of the quad.
Betaflight Flying Modes
There are several different flying modes built into Betaflight which control how your quad responds to stick input. We’ll break these down into the three most basic modes below. We recommend starting on Level mode so you can practice how each stick input feels and practice throttle control.
This is the default setting on your quad if no other mode is set. You have complete control over the quad when flying, with no assistance at all. This is the most common way of flying but certainly not the easiest.
It is worth mentioning Air mode is a variation of Acro mode where the propellers will always spin, even if the throttle is at 0.
Level mode means that if you let the right stick (pitch/roll) center itself, the quad will balance itself back to level. This does not include any momentum or drift as the quad will not hold itself in place. You will still need to apply the correct throttle control as the quad will not keep itself hovering automatically. Level mode also applies an artificial limit to how far your quad can tilt in any direction. This means you will not be able to do any flips or tricks.
In Horizon mode, your quad will self balance just like level mode does, except with the artificial tilt limit removed. If you apply a full forward pitch, your quad will continue to pitch forward until it goes upside down.
Betaflight Error Messages
Below you’ll find the most common faults you will see in the Betaflight OSD. For a full list of Betaflight error messages, see the official documentation on GitHub here.
NOGYRO – If you’re seeing this error after a flash, you’ve likely flashed the wrong Betaflight Target to your flight controller. If you haven’t recently flashed your board, this error may indicate a hardware fault.
FAILSAFE – Your quad has experienced a failsafe state. This may be due to a loss of connection between the transmitter and receiver, a receiver hardware fault, or a bad soldering connection which has caused the link between flight controller and receiver to fail.
RXLOSS – Your flight controller has lost connection to the receiver. It may indicate a bad connection or loose wiring.
BOXFAILSAFE – You have activated the ‘failsafe’ mode which is dictated by the Modes tab in the Betaflight Configurator.
RUNAWAY – The likely cause of this is you’ve got either the motors spinning the wrong way, or you’ve put the propellers on wrong. A runaway is a safety prevention to ensure your quad does not go crazy if something is incorrectly configured. This condition is triggered in the first few seconds of flight. It can also occassionally be triggered accidentally by launching too fast.
THROTTLE – You need to ensure the throttle is at 0 before arming. If you’re seeing this and your throttle is at 0 before arming, then your channels are likely misconfigured. You may need to change your mapping from AETR to TAER in the Receiver tab in Betaflight Configurator.
ANGLE – This condition triggers if the angle of the quad exceeds the Arming Angle setting in the Configuration tab in Betaflight Configurator. To disable this check, set the Arming Angle to 180. This fault may also indicate a need to recalibrate the gyro on your quad.
NOPREARM – You have not triggered your pre-arm switch before your arming switch.
We hope this page has served as a good guide to getting started in the world of FPV drones. We’d like to add more information to this page to help beginners. If you think some important information is missing, please let us know so that we can add it!
We’re also always available via email and phone if you need direct help