Aerial photography is a popular area of drone flying. These cameras have great practical uses, with the best lenses and processors for beautiful, panoramic shots. Then there are those that just want to add the skill to their personal photographic CV.
However, a whole new sub-section of drone flying has shown that there is another need for a reliable camera system on a drone. Racing drones need something impressive if operators are going to win their next competition.
Drone racing is a new sport in the world of the drone flying with a need for the ideal camera.
Those that have mastered the art of steady flight and careful maneuvers can now compete in races to prove themselves. Int all began in Australia, but it has since gone global.
Now there are drone races covered by ESPN in America and Dubai events with $250,000 cash prizes. This level of competition and the high stakes mean that operator needs to ensure that they have the very best drones and equipment to win.
It means a robust, aerodynamic model that offers a fast, reliable flight. On top of this, there is also the need for high-end aerial photography equipment. A simple Go-Pro with a primary gimbal and a fish-eye lens isn’t going to cut it here. Instead, racers need a top-of-the-line camera with a bright, reliable feed and a receiver with a clear view.
In some cases, some may prefer to go for goggles.
Choosing The Best FPV Camera System For A Racing Drone!
Cameras are an essential element of many racing drones, as they provide FPV. That is a first person view of the area around the drone.
These FPV drones place operators in the heart of the action. It provides a better view of immediate dangers, flight paths, and competitors. With this in mind, there are quite a few different types of camera to consider when choosing the best equipment.
The best FPV cameras are those primarily designed to relay information to the viewer, not to take cinematic footage of the world around. These lightweight cameras send real-time footage to the transmitter.
This issue of real-time images is important here. A competitor in a race needs precise information on where and when to turn, or on incoming dangers. They need to see precisely what their drone is seeing.
It means a capable system with no delay. It is another reason why serious competitors cannot get by with a basic Go-Pro or low-quality camera. These devices have such a long lag time that the drone could be metered ahead of the visuals on the transmitter.
In addition to low latency, racers need a camera with a good field of view. The more they can see around them, the better the idea they have of the drone’s surroundings, route, and obstacles.
However, operators must be careful not to go for a lens with too high a field of view as the image can distort. On the 1.2mm lenses, with the 185-degree field of view, there is the risk of the horizon curving.
Then there is the quality of the image through the TVL resolution, dynamic range, and color reproduction. The dynamic range is the capability of the camera in low light and extreme brightness. Some have the option of an IR filter to correct this and provide a better image for longer.
The image seen on the monitor has to be as realistic as possible. A high TVL resolution provides this. Most FPV cameras for racing drones are between 420 – 800 TVL. Still, some advanced options go as high as 1000TVL.
The problem with this 1000TVL system is that many monitors cannot cope with it just yet. There is also a point where the difference in the image isn’t distinguishable enough to justify the extra expensive. Therefore, many stick around the 600TVL mark.
A CMOS Or CCD Model?
There are pros and cons to both options here. The CCD models have a better quality of the image. The problem is that some feel that the difference between the two is not broad enough to justify the much higher prices.
Those that go for a slightly lower image quality with the CMOS save money to spend on other features or upgrades to the racing drone. The other benefit in opting for the cheaper CMOS option is that they are lighter and less power-hungry than the CCD.
These factors are important in racing drones where users need the lightest, more streamlined shape possible. It is essential for those that want to ensure that most of the power goes the motors and flight controller, rather than the camera.
The only issue with the lesser-quality CMOS is that they are not so good in low light. There may also be image distortion in adverse weather conditions. Those that favor a high dynamic range will, therefore, prefer the CCD option.
Then there are the choices on how best to view the feeds during these races.
Some watch these images via a monitor on the remote control, or sometimes even a smartphone depending on the software and model. Others like to use goggles for an immersive experience that helps them to see like the drone.
This connection to the machine could be the deciding factor between the winner and loser. Many prefer the digital approach to camera feeds to the analog because of the reduced risk of interference.
It is a competitive sport, and there may be some underhanded tactics to get those large cash prizes. Sometimes, spotter wears those FPV goggles to tap into the feed to make sure that the flight is fair and safe.
There is a lot to consider with the best FPV cameras for racing drones.
An FPV camera requires more than just a good field of vision and clear image. There are important issues here with the lag time on the feed, the TVL resolution, and the dynamic range.
Some models will be too basic and unresponsive for serious racers. Others will be top-of-the-line and expensive, but with few benefits over lower-cost models. The best advice is to find the middle ground with an affordable, responsive system that offers just enough clarity and resolution to get the win.