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FPV 101

Choosing your Video Frequency

When starting out in FPV, one of the first things that you have to do is choose a video frequency. While there are many different frequencies that you can use to fly, picking the right one to suit your need as a pilot is important. When it comes down to it, you want to choose that frequency early on, because for each different frequency you will need both matching TX and RX solutions for each. However, each different system comes with a different set of pros and cons that you should be aware of, when making your decisions.

Now, before we get into it, we should understand a few different things about these frequencies. In general, the higher the frequency, the smaller your antennas will be. Because antennas are determined by the size of the wires that comprise it, they get progressively larger as you decrease in frequency. Next, we find that the lower the frequency, in general, the further the signal will be clear from the video transmitter to the receiver. That being said, it doesn’t necessarily mean increase in penetration.

For the purposes of this article, we will stick to the most popular FPV video frequencies, and talk about the pros/cons of each. 

First, is the most popular: 5.8. 5.8 video frequencies range from about 5685 to about 5945. These signals are measured in MHz, and specific numbers in MHz represent a particular “channel” within a frequency. 5.8 is the most common video signal with FPV and FPV racing for two reasons: (1) antenna size is relatively small, and (2) you can have many machines powered on at the same time within the 5.8 frequency. Eight transmitters is generally seen as the upper limit that can transmit on the 5.8 frequency without causing many problems for other pilots. The penetration (ability to see “past” obstacles that are between you and something else) is high, but the range is low (relatively speaking). The top end of 5.8 range tends to be in the 3-5km range.

The next most popular is the 1.3 frequency. This is one of the next most popular because of how well it suits longer range missions. 1.3 has been known to easily achieve over 20km of range, which is further than many RC connections can reach, forcing the user to upgrade their RC transmission system. While 1.3 supports a very long range, it is also a double edged sword. 1.3 circularly polarized antennas are very large -- larger than a softball. These antennas then start to almost dwarf the size of miniquads, so they tend to stay on large, fixed wing planes or multirotors for flying long range missions, where minimal weight isn’t the largest concern. Another thing to keep in mind is that only 3-4 channels are available on the 1.3 video frequency, so more than 3-4 pilots in the air at the same time is out of the question.

Finally, 2.4 is another popular frequency. It is very similar to 1.3 in that the antennas are still large and cumbersome, but slightly smaller, and can only reach slightly shorter ranges. The only thing to keep in mind when considering 2.4 for your video frequency is that it is the “dirtiest” band. Because WiFi, RC, and many other connections operate across the 2.4 frequency, it’s much more likely that weird signal interference could occur. In addition, you’ll have to use something other than 2.4 for control, which is the most common RC transmission frequency. This also means that you might not be able to fly with other pilots, because your signals could potentially interfere with one another.

In conclusion, there are plenty of options to choose from when picking your FPV video frequency, but there are general rules of thumb to follow when choosing. 5.8 is generally suited for mini quad and small, short range planes, 2.4 and 1.3 are good options for large, long range ships that will travel over 5km away. Pick your frequency, and stay flying.