FPV Drone Cameras – How do they work?

FPV cameras are cheap and lightweight components that enable you to attain the best ‘real-time view’. These are mounted on to the drone and send live pictures via a video transmitter. FPV cameras are becoming increasingly popular and from amateurs to experts, there are varieties available for all levels of skill.

In this article, you will find out more about FPV Drone Cameras, and read about they work.

Why use an FPV Drone camera?

Fact file-FPV drone cameras are nothing but CCTV cameras

Most of the High Definition (HD) cameras installed on drones will provide you with live coverage of the respective area. You can connect the camera to your video transmitter to see the aerial view and then record the photos/videos.

The issue here, however, is latency. The latency is approximately 100-200 ms which is negligible for general flying drones but could be an issue for FPV racing drones.

The FPV racer flies at a typical speed of 50 kph and a delay of even 100ms means that you receive the footage after 1.7 m. This time lapse could be a close call in missing or hitting an obstacle. Using suitable FPV drone cameras with your FPV system that have a latency of less than 40 ms, will be pivotal in reverting accidents and mishaps.

How do FPV Cameras function?

The FPV camera is mounted on the drone to send real-time videos to the ground such that you can see where exactly the drone is flying. The drone sends the live coverage to your remote control screen, FPV goggles, tablet, smartphone device or monitor. Using the latest FPV technology, some drones are able to fly to almost 5 miles away.

Most FPV cameras work on an analog video, the resolution is measured in TVL. The better the TVL means a better-detailed capture of the image.

The latency of your FPV camera can be easily measured. All you have to do is to install a stopwatch facing the FPV camera so that the output is visible on the FPV monitor. Using a second camera, you can take the picture of the stopwatch and the FPV monitor in the same click. By calculating the time difference of the FPV monitor and the stopwatch, you can calculate the time lapse, and hence, the latency.

Let’s explore the important features of an FPV Drone camera:

  1. Size
  2. Aspect ratio
  3. Sensor Type
  4. Lens Field of View
  5. Additional Features

1. Size

FPV cameras come in different sizes. FPV cameras that were first used by pilots were originally security cameras repurposed from PCB board cameras. It was an industrialized size were many components were exposed and, therefore, cases were made to cover the cameras. These were the HS1177 style cameras that were 28 mm square in size. This size became the standard size for drone cameras. As technology progressed, the cameras became smaller and more advanced and are now available in sizes:

HS1177- 28 sq mm
MINI- 21 sq mm
MICRO- 19 sq mm
Nano/AIO- 12 sq mm

2. Aspect ratio

Aspect ratio refers to the shape of the image that a drone camera captures which is usually 16:9 or 4:3. While 1:9 is the shape like that of an LCD TV or a computer monitor, the 4;3 ratio is more square in form.
Here the factor to be considered is that the aspect ratio of camera should be proportionate to your head mounted device is that the image is displayed clearly. Also, it is a misconception that 16: 9 proportion gives you a better view of the surrounding than the 4:3 aspect ratio, both give the same view. The 4:3 ratio pixel camera will, however, provide more of the image view vertically.

3. Field of View

Many FPV cameras come with multiple lens options. The focal length of the camera lens refers to the length of the lens and a larger focal length means a narrow FOV(Field of View) and a smaller focal length will have a larger FOV. A 2.8 mm lens is the standard lens size. Lately, with flying becoming speedier, the pilots find the 2.8 mm size little narrow and hence these lenses were replaced by the GoPro lens which has a wider FOV while still providing better picture details. Now, GoPro ready drones have cameras come with a 2.5 mm lens.

Note- If you chose a lens with a lesser FOV, you will have a better detailed FPV video. Although, flying with a lesser FOV camera makes it difficult to see clearly through the narrow lens while focusing on the details of the surroundings.

4. Sensor type

Sensor refers to the ratio component that captures the light entering the camera and converting it into electrical signals.

There are two types of sensors, namely, CCD and CMOS.

Latency is the biggest hindrance in providing a smooth video coverage, as any delay in transmission might mean an accident that could have been otherwise avoided.

Originally CCD cameras were considered superior due to low latency and a good WDR( WIDE DYNAMIC RANGE), while CMOS cameras had high latency and poor light handling. But lately, the CMOS cameras are becoming very popular as now they possess even better WDR systems and the sensor type is now more advanced to reduce latency. For areas where light handling is given priority like under the trees or dark areas, CCD cameras are still the more reliable option.

5. Some additional features

FPV Drone cameras have seen significant amounts of improvisation over the years. One of the most useful features incorporated into the FPV camera is the On Screen Display (OSD) which displays important features like battery voltage and the length of the flight time.

Some FPV cameras have a built-in microphone that records the sound of the quadcopter to monitor the working of the motors. Nowadays, special night FPV cameras are available which work efficiently even at night as they are fitted with a suitable lens and camera settings.

These days most FPV cameras have the IR Filter Cut installed in them. The IR Filter cut prevents any infrared rays from reaching the camera as this light makes the visuals a little blurred. An IR cut filter enhances the clarity and picture quality of the videos. Also, these cameras enable the pilot to see better in low light conditions like dawn and dusk.

Conclusion

Hope this article has helped you understand how FPV Drone Cameras function. If you are keen to buy the best FPV drone, you can read an article that we posted on the Best FPV Drones.