longest fpv range

How to get the longest FPV range on your drone

Editor’s note: this article was originally written in 2017 and its content is now out of date.

The following post was written by Jack Brown, Chief Pilot at MyDroneLab.com.

How far can a drone go without losing the video signal when flying FPV? And what extra equipment do you need to get the longest FPV range?

When it comes to the ideal frequency for mini-quads — that’s the famous 5.8 GHz — the best you can expect is 500 meters. But, that means you’re flying in ideal conditions where nothing stands between you and your drone. The moment your drone goes behind a tree, a hill or building, the range will drop significantly and you even might lose your signal completely.

The bottom line is, if you want to do some long range FPV flying, the 5.8 GHz frequency should be avoided.  But what if you want to fly beyond 500 meters?

Change the System

For long range FPV flying, you need more than yourself and the drone — you’re going to need a ground station that works on a different frequency. (And bring a spotter with a pair of binoculars.)

The most popular frequencies for long range flying are 1.2 GHz and 2.4 GHz. Personally, I prefer using the first one because it offers you 10km of range. It’s worth noting that 1.2 GHz is generally not recommended because in case the drone goes down and you don’t have a beacon, you’ll easily lose your drone. It is also much more effective when it comes to flying through abandoned buildings as this signal easily penetrates the walls.

However, due to the legality issues and having tough luck with finding the transmitters and receivers that work on that frequency, the 2.4 might be an easier choice.

Ground station

If you want to achieve long range FPV flights, use a good directional antenna array. This means changing the antenna scheme. If you choose to fly in FPV on 2.4 GHz, I recommend getting the TBS ground station, and combine it with the Yagi antenna (2.4 GHz – 11 dB). It might not be ideal for everyone’s budget, but you will get a really great gadget that is nicely placed in a rugged, metal case, comes with a screen for the video feed, a built-in receiver (2.4 GHz), holes for mounting a tripod, areas for mounting the antennas, all the necessary things you need to connect your FPV goggles, and a USB port for charging your batteries.

The unit is reliable and allows you to focus on your FPV flying while your spotter has something to do — and they can even look at your flight if they gets tired of looking through the binoculars. 

You can also fly in FPV using the 1.2 GHz frequency for the video signal, but you will need a separate receiver, transmitter, filter and antenna to be able to “Hide” the video in the 5.8 GHz frequency.

The best way is to use 1.2 GHz omnidirectional antennas, or a cloverleaf on the drone and helical on the ground. This is one of the best frequencies for long range and for getting the signal through walls and trees, but it is not as reliable as 2.4 GHz and is not legal in most states since planes tend to use these lower frequencies as well.

Getting the longest FPV range: don’t forget about the RC transmitter

If you use 2.4 GHz for your video signal, you will not be able to use this frequency for the control of your drone since you can’t have both video and control signals running on the same “Path”. Essentially, the two will interfere with each other, resulting in a loss of control over the drone and ultimately a crash.

But, fear not as this frequency is not the only one good for drone control. Old school transmitters that work on 433 MHz, or even lower, on 72 MHz, offer a much longer control range. These are known as the Long Range Radio Systems and are the best choice for long range FPV flights.

My recommendation would be the use of openLRSng equipment, allowing you to get an open source system that can be configured easily, through Baseflight similar app for Chrome.  Furthermore, in case of a crash, it will act as a beacon and help you locate your drone.

For those who use Frsky Tarantis transmitter, I recommend trying the DTF UHF Hawkeye XJT module. It turns your transmitter into a 433 MHz, 1W radio, and you will have telemetry. It easily drops into the back of your transmitter.

On the other hand, if you are more of a Turnigy 9x fan, then I recommend the same manufacturer only the Deluxe model.

What about DJI FPV?

Some of you might be flying the DJI FPV drone. In that case, you have a huge leg up. The DJI FPV drone includes O3, the third iteration of DJI’s proprietary OcuSync technology. OcuSync is a transmission system designed almost entirely for increasing range while simultaneously allowing low-latency transmission of 4K video at 60 fps. With it, you’ll get 10km transmission range, auto-switching dual-frequencies, and a high bitrate of 50 Mpbs.

The bottom line on getting the longest FPV range

Even if you do manage to make the perfect drone control and FPV system setup, the range can still vary. Your enemies will always be a bad radio environment, bad atmospheric conditions, the angles of the antennas, and so much more.

If you’re worried about FPV range and you’re not flying the DJI FPV drone, there are steps you can take to make the most out of your flights. Besides the aforementioned systems and gear, never leave home without the following extra replacement parts and tools:

  • Video transmitters
  • Antennas
  • Batteries for goggles and the ground station (With a battery tester)
  • Radio for tracking down the beacon
  • Extra cameras if you can afford them (there are many cheap Gopro alternatives that deliver really good video quality) 
  • Props (A box of them)
  • SD cards (As many as you have)

For the toolbox:

  • Soldering iron that runs on butane and solder
  • Vice grips
  • Silicone tape
  • Any kind of Super-glue (Locktite would be the best choice)
  • Wire strippers
  • A whole bunch of zip ties
  • Multifunctional  screwdriver
  • FTDI board
  • Laptop with as many USB cables you can get
  • Scissors and a knife
  • Packing tape

Find out more about drone racing and FPV flying here.

The author of this piece, Jack Brown, is the Chief Pilot at MyDroneLab.com. He is a graduate of the Drone/UAV Pilot Training Certificate program and a member of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. Besides having all the necessary technical knowledge when it comes to drones, Jack and his team love to spend the time outside by the ocean, working on new features and teaching others how to pilot these amazing and exciting new robots.

16 Comments

  • Mike Johnston says:

    From 2014

    The Daemon relay.

  • Bobby Hisser says:

    lol 500m max for 5.8 video? You dont know much apparently? We are pushing 2 Miles with decent video. No obstructions of course… but saying dont go over 500m is like saying change you oil every 1000 miles just in case.

    • Davrbs says:

      Hey, what antenna do you use

      • Kevin says:

        You obviously don’t know what your talking about I guess the writer don’t even fly fpv drones….they probably go buy a toy drone from Walmart and then pretend like ok now I know everything about drones….the most I have gotten out of a 5.8ghz setup nothing special just basic. Was 7 miles…..that was running the TBS receiver in the drone at 1000w…500 meters lol no one would hardly fly them if all you could do was 1500ft or 500m….don’t try to write a arrival when you are obviously so so far away from a expert…a expert you are not.

    • Justin says:

      I also laughed a little when I saw that too. Only 500m??? I regularly go out past a mile, the other day I was out 1.3 miles or 2092m and had great video reception.

    • FixBad Info says:

      Wow thats pretty terrible info. I hit 3 miles on just 400mw, no special setup. Rapidfire, a patch and a omni, not even an amazing patch either.

  • I want to get a used drone and transmitter that has 30min to 1 hour flight time do yo know of anyone with one for sale

  • Pants on Fire says:

    Sure, I’ve got one you can have for nothing

  • Andy says:

    I use a multi section colinear antenna at rooftop height and a Kuhne downconverter feeding an old analogue satellite RX. I regularly see drone video on 5.8 GHz from miles away, even as far as Huddersfield and Emley Moor in Yorkshire (from my home in East Manchester). Closer to home, video from the Etihad stadium about 5 miles away is strong. I suspect this setup has better performance than most of the commercial kit.

  • Mick logan says:

    500 Meters?
    I’ve been out 4.7kms on 5.8

    • Tim L. says:

      Damn, I hope you’re not married. If you are, I feel sorry for your wife. I can’t imagine living with someone who calls another person for making one error.

      • K says:

        What do you mean making 1 error….she wrote a whole damn article giving incorrect information. I could not imagine living with a push over like you that’s in a constant it’s ok it’s ok they didn’t mean to rob us…..yes it’s very important people get the correct information so we can bring more people into the hobby and saying a damn Walmart toy drone running on WiFi gets more than a basic analog setup is not just 1 mistake….it’s 100% false information. You are the reason the faa is allowed to push on us with made up numbers they just magically pulled out of their azzes…..as when they was asked how far and how high….someone that don’t have and that hasn’t even flown a fpv drone was like aaaahhhh how about 400ft high and 400ft distance…..it’s ok they won’t say a word and will be like thank you master….. it’s obvious you are a simp pusher over snowflake…..and the writer which apparently don’t know anything about fpv drones needs to either change the information or just take this fake and 100% wrong article down…..and for you for your info and the writers info I get 7 miles which is 11,275 meters before it starts to get so static that I need to turn around….and at 7 miles there is some static but you can still see pretty damn good, good enough to keep flying…..not to mention you can literally get 36 miles with 5.8ghz in perfect conditions and the right setup.

  • Johnny says:

    Is 4,000 a long range for a DJI FPV drone

  • rob.ingrey@yahoo.co.uk says:

    I run my long range quad with TBS crossfire, 500mw VTx with Furious FPV True D module coupled to 2x SpiroNet LZR 13dBi antennas and often fly out 3 miles from home. By quality products and get quality results. 500m is so misinformed.

  • Tim L. says:

    Christ, some of you commenters are really shitty people.

    ….ironic considering the letters “y” and “o” are too complex for you to use.

    “You dont know much apparently?”…implying you know more, yet don’t understand the difference between a statement and a question.

    Out of her entire article there’s one error, and the rest is quite useful information to even a more seasoned drone pilot such as myself…but instead of being civil and politely correcting her (as I see many others do on drone forums and my Discord groups) you go straight for her throat. It must be miserable living in y’alls heads.

    @ OP, sorry for the fucking clowns in your comments but most of your information was insightful and otherwise accurate. Thank you for taking the time to write the article and sharing your knowledge.

  • jomacuk says:

    Oh dear, I don’t think you have done your homework here. First lets clear up channels and useage. 1.2GHz or 23cms was never intended or allocated for drone use worldwide. Some countries do have an allocated ISM band within 23cms but this is on a shared basis, usually with radio hams, their transmission pack considerably more power than a drone on the same frequency, my 23 cms transceiver runs at 25 watts. Some countries, excluding the UK can use the 900MHz band which is for cellular phones. There is an ISM band at 863 to 870MHz for low power devices and does NOT allow video use. Taking 2.4GHz as another band, this is completely clogged up with WIFI devices. Using a simple spectrum analyser and high gain antenna will show you how busy this band actually is, even flying deep in the countryside you will find high power security video links, some of these use a channel hopping system and can change channel without notice. This brings us to the 5.8GHz band which IS intended for drones and other devices.. Whilst there is a small difference in the range between1.2GHz 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz its not that dramatic. One BIG advantage of using 5.8GHz over the other two bands is the size of the antenna. Cloverleaf antennas are the most compact high gain antenna you can use, but if you compare the physical size of a cloverleaf at 2.4GHz which is much bigger, it isnt compact or practical, a cloverleaf on 2.4GHz at both ends is usually bigger than the drone. If you want range at 5.8GHz the best method is to use a 5/8 over 1/4 wavelength on the drone and a 5.8GHz high gain Yagi at the receiver end. Both antennas are cheap and pretty compact, look on Aliexpress. One of my drones uses a small transmitter designed for vehicle reversing cameras. This set up gives me a little over 2 mile range, the transmitter is VERY low power running with an output of only 10 milliwatts or 0.001 watts. I have successfully flown large drones in excess of 20 miles distance using a diversity system (home made) and Yagis at the base and a 5/8 over1/4 antenna on the drone.

Leave a Reply