For beginners who want to start flying drones, it helps to understand the difference between FPV and regular drones.
An FPV drone transmits live images directly to the headset for accurate, high-speed flights. In contrast, a regular drone is what we usually see in the sky. It can hover, photograph, film, and use many intelligent functions.
In this article, I will explain in detail the differences between these two drone types, including an overview of which could be better for you and some tips.
What is an FPV drone?
First-person view or FPV drones use goggles to receive live images in a virtual reality mode where you see directly what the drone sees.
It’s an immersive experience you have to see to believe.
FPV headsets became widely compatible with standard drones such as DJI Mini 3 Pro, DJI Mavic 3, and Air 2S in the past year or two.
Pilots have used FPV drones for years to refer to custom-type drones that can fly acrobatically.
This flight mode is totally different from how a standard drone flies.
You must train in simulators and gain experience before flying in acro mode in the real world.
That’s why getting into FPV is difficult compared to flying regular drones, but once you do it, you will never go back (I can tell you from experience).
An FPV drone only moves forward continuously due to the camera angle unless you manually attempt to fly sideways, backward, or hover.
Also, you can never let go of the controller joysticks of an FPV drone. It will fall out of the sky, whereas a standard drone will hover in place.
» MORE: Best Beginner FPV Drone Kit
What is a regular drone?
If you’re a beginner who wants to get into flying drones, you need a regular drone to take photos and videos.
These are the safest drones to fly for a beginner, and you can take advantage of many intelligent and innovative drone functions.
A regular drone not only hovers due to a downward vision system and GPS satellite positioning but also avoids obstacles, performs quick shots or circles, follows a subject, and returns home with the tap of a button.
An FPV drone cannot perform anything mentioned above. In the truest sense, they require pure manual control of a drone.
» MORE: Best Drones for Beginners
Flight modes between FPV and regular drones
A regular or standard drone usually has three flight modes (hence, most DJI drones adopt them).
- Normal mode: This is where the drone will fly normally; anti-collision sensors are active, and the speed is limited. This is the most used mode of a standard GPS drone.
- Sport mode: The drone is faster (able to reach maximum speed) but won’t benefit from the anti-collision sensors due to its higher speed. It’s best to use this mode when you need to reach distant destinations to photograph.
- Cine mode: This mode is the slowest and is made to create cinematic content with a standard drone. Many pilots dislike this mode because it is too slow to fly. They prefer to adjust the normal mode for cinematic flights.
These three standard drone modes differ from what we find in FPV drones.
- Acro mode: The drone can fly acrobatically and rotate at specific degrees per second as set by rates (e.g., 800deg/sec) and can rotate in any direction depending on the joystick input. This is the fully manual mode of an FPV drone.
- Angle mode: The FPV drone can only tilt about 40 to 45 degrees and cannot flip over. When you return the sticks to the center, the drone will return to its initial position. This is the best mode for beginners without acro experience.
- Horizon mode: It’s a mode between angle and acro, where the drone can flip over at full stick input. However, the drone will self-stabilize if you let go of the sticks. It’s not a true means of doing acrobatic tricks with an FPV drone; it’s more like trying something similar to a toy drone.
How do we change the flight modes of a drone?
For normal drones, all we have to do is use the switch on the back of the remote controller marked as N, S, C, or similar.
This will change the flight mode while the drone is in mid-air.
For FPV drones, you must first set all these modes in Betaflight or similar software and assign them to one of your remote controller switches.
Then you can change how the FPV drone flies.
Hint: The purest form of flying FPV is in acro mode, where you have total control of the drone. You can also perform acrobatics freestyle tricks, race, and create unique cinematic videos.
Are FPV or regular drones safer?
There is a significant difference between flying standard and FPV drones.
Are you looking for a big boost in adrenaline?
As mentioned, standard drones are the safest to fly because they take advantage of hovering, intelligent flight modes, auto-landing, auto-takeoff, return to home, and many more functions.
Even a beginner with basic knowledge of stick input can fly a standard drone without issue.
You can practice creating cinematic movies and observe everything from above as your camera angle is adjustable in real-time.
However, the FPV drone camera angle remains fixed. The direction you face your FPV drone is the direction you fly. It’s as simple as that.
Now, because you will have FPV goggles on your head, you can see everything in real-time and each detail of how you fly your drone compared to watching a screen while flying regular drones.
A standard GPS drone hovers and safely moves around, while an FPV drone can fly at 80+ mph a few feet above the ground while getting through a 30-inch gap.
These maneuvers can never be made with a standard drone, but flying an FPV drone is a pure adrenaline experience.
Of course, expect to crash and repair your FPV drone so often that you’ll get tired of it. Or not.
That’s why expanding your knowledge base beyond FPV flight skills like repairing, soldering, changing parts, and so on is advisable.
When you buy a DJI drone such as the new Air 3, it comes in a standard form with the same specs and parts for everyone.
However, you can add any parts you like to a custom FPV drone without stress, creating something unique.
Hint: Flying FPV requires a monthly budget to allocate for repairs, changing parts, propellers, batteries, and improving these drones.
Now, standard drones have a camera tilt with real applications from 0 degrees to -90 degrees (facing downward), whereas FPV drones’ camera angles face upwards (usually between 10 to +45 degrees).
Flight time comparison between regular and FPV drones
The newest DJI standard drones can fly up to 45 minutes per battery pack, which is extraordinarily long.
If we talk FPV (except for DJI FPV and Avata), these drones can usually fly between three and 10 minutes per battery pack.
This is primarily because of the powerful FPV motors, which can create much higher thrust than standard GPS drones, and the ability to accelerate and reach incredible speeds. The motor requires a lot of battery power.
Moreover, custom FPV drones will use custom Lipo batteries with no safety features.
Some have a discharge rate 100 times higher than the battery capacity at peak. That can be even more than the standard discharge rate of a car battery. Imagine this.
For instance, a 1200mAh Lipo battery with 100 C-Rate can quickly drain up to 120 amps.
Of course, this could burn out your drone if you do not set any limits in Betaflight.
Flight speed comparison between regular and FPV drones
This is like comparing a Skoda car with a Ferrari. No offense DJI, you are the Skoda.
Let’s look at a few DJI drones’ top speeds vs. FPV to see which is faster.
- DJI Mini 3 Pro can reach a top speed of 35.7 miles per hour.
- DJI Mavic 3 Pro, which is one of the fastest standard drones, can reach a whopping speed of 47 miles per hour.
- The new DJI Air 3 can reach a maximum speed of 47 miles per hour, the same as the Mavic 3 series.
Now, what are the speeds of FPV drones?
Let’s start with the DJI FPV and DJI Avata. They are not the best FPV drones, but they are made for beginners.
- DJI Avata can reach a speed of 60.3 miles an hour.
- DJI FPV drone can reach 87.2 miles an hour.
If you’re looking for a custom FPV drone, this is the speed you can expect.
- iFlight Protek 35 (Cinewhoop) can reach 74.5 miles per hour.
- Nazgul Evoque F5 V2 6S can reach 118 miles per hour,
- DRL Racer X has a top speed of 179.6 miles per hour.
The registered world record for the fastest drone was by an XLR V3 at 257 miles per hour.
FPV drones can fly faster than even the speediest standard GPS drones.
Even Cinewhoops drones made for slow flights can fly faster than any normal drone.
How fast do drones accelerate?
Standard GPS drones can reach their top speed in three to five seconds.
DJI FPV can reach 60 miles per hour in two seconds.
However, custom FPV drones with powerful motors can reach 100 miles per hour in one second or even less.
In the speed and acceleration comparison between standard GPS and FPV drones, the FPVs are clear winners.
Beware that as fast as these drones fly and accelerate, they present a real danger if not flown by a capable FPV drone pilot.
Camera capability differences between standard and FPV drones
Standard GPS drones (DJI, for instance) are made for professional photography and filming and have fantastic cameras with large sensors and zoom capabilities.
FPV drone cameras are mostly for live transmission and are not meant to be used for professional recording.
They are okay; the best is the camera found in DJI Avata, but it cannot be compared to standard GPS cameras.
Best for photography
We have a clear winner here for photography – regular GPS drones such as DJI Mini 3 Pro, Air 3, Mavic 3 Pro, etc.
These drones create astonishing photographs with high dynamic range, in RAW and 10-bit or more.
FPV drones cannot even photograph.
The best you can do is grab a snapshot of the screen.
How can we use these drones for photography if they fly at extreme speeds?
We can’t. For photography, we always choose a standard drone.
Best for filmmaking
Now, as for filmmaking or recording videos, that’s another story.
There will always be a debate about which type of drone can record better videos.
Standard drones can record extraordinary high-quality videos due to large sensors.
Although FPV drones do not have good cameras for photography and filming, pilots usually attach a GoPro or similar action camera and take advantage of the larger sensor to capture immersive moments.
The content you can film with an FPV drone cannot be matched by anything else.
This makes many pilots, filmmakers, and content creators learn FPV to extend their video portfolio.
Most professional drone pilots will use a cinelifter.
This is a contest-winning cinematic FPV video:
» MORE: Best Drones for Video
Latency and transmission distance differences between a standard and FPV drone
GPS drones have better transmission distances than FPV drones, and this is a fact.
With the new Ocusync 4.0 released with the DJI Air 3, the max flight distance is nearly 20 miles.
Legally, you cannot fly that far, but having a good transmission range is nice, right?
An FPV drone’s transmission range depends on the video transmission system.
Although with Caddx Vista and other DJI air units used in FPV, you can fly long-range for at least a few miles, most analog transmission systems are barely scratching the surface in long-range.
Moreover, we must remember that FPV drones may have a separate radio receiver that receives radio links from the controller.
Both VTX and RX systems should be capable of transmitting long-range for the FPV drone to fly afar.
However, if we talk about the real-time video latency between the video feed and the drone, GPS drones have a latency of about 200 milliseconds.
In contrast, FPV drones have a digital transmission latency of around 28 milliseconds, whereas the analog transmission can get down to even a few milliseconds.
This is because, flying with the goggles, we need to see everything in real-time without any delays so the drone can react as quickly as possible to perform sudden maneuvers.
Goggles or no goggles?
Suppose you’ve flown standard drones or seen others do it.
In that case, you know the video link is displayed on the phone connected to the remote controller or, in the best-case scenario, to a remote controller with an incorporated screen.
That’s okay, but as someone from an FPV background, I can say that everything changes by seeing everything in goggles instead.
You will not only be able to observe the live image in real-time and all those details, but your immersive experience is simply unreal.
Beware that not everyone can adapt to using FPV goggles to fly drones.
This can induce motion sickness, especially since the live transmission video could have about 100 frames per second and the monitor refresh rate is 100 to 120hz.
Should I buy a standard drone or get an FPV drone instead?
Now, it’s time for the big question: What type of drone should you get? A standard drone or an FPV drone?
If you are a beginner looking to buy your first drone, I recommend a standard GPS drone because FPV requires much more knowledge and skill.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get an FPV drone or learn it someday. You can get a tiny whoop and have fun with it, and at the same time, learn to fly in acro (after a bit of training in a simulator).
I recommend either the Cetus X or Cetus Pro.
However, for a more experienced drone pilot, I suggest extending your flight knowledge and getting into FPV.
Between the DJI FPV or DJI Avata, I recommend Avata. With this drone, you can also fly in normal mode on top of manual/acro mode, and it’s quite crash-resistant.
If you have excellent knowledge of flying FPV drones and want unique video footage or are interested in freestyling and racing, a custom FPV drone is best.