Author Topic: Digital FPV video for drone racing  (Read 4929 times)

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Offline TheDane

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Re: Digital FPV video for drone racing
« Reply #50 on: January 20, 2019, 06:45:57 pm »
Need I say more?

5.8 GHz
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_WLAN_channels#5_GHz_(802.11a/h/j/n/ac/ax)

Pick and choose your channel(s) - it is ISM.
Talk with the organizers, if they do not understand technology progress - and yes, 2.4GHz is crowded, and not suitable for such things

Edit - More detail; (Pick and choose - it is ISM.)
« Last Edit: January 20, 2019, 06:54:49 pm by TheDane »
 

Offline TheDane

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Re: Digital FPV video for drone racing
« Reply #51 on: January 20, 2019, 06:52:33 pm »
"3.2.3 VTX" (video transmitter)
"TBS UNIFY HV RACE"
"IRC TRAMP HV (with or without NFC board)"

Now, from that information, I hope we can all conclude that any video transmitter other than the 2 listed is out of the question.

3.1.4 Exempted Components:
There are NO spec requirements on the following components:

Flight Controller (Example: Motolabs Cyclone, Revolt)
Flight Controller Software (Example: RaceFlight,BetaFlight)
TX (Example: X4R, Crossfire)
Radio (Example: Taranis, DX8)
Camera (Example: Runcam, Foxeer)

Flight Controller - an additional SBC, raspberry pi zero? (it says COMPONENTS)
TX/Radio - 5.8GHz WiFi Dongle

So, do you need to be limited by what is NOT allowed more than 1 unit of?
 

Offline ogden

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Re: Digital FPV video for drone racing
« Reply #52 on: January 20, 2019, 06:53:56 pm »
As you can see in this image, out of the 14 wifi bands available, only 4 do not overlap

5.8Ghz WiFi have way more non-overlapping 20MHz channels. Obviously 2.4 GHz is too overcrowded, it's not even worth to waste time talking about it. Also using Atheros chipset does not necessarily mean that you shall use all it's features, implement "WiFi as it is".
 

Offline Kilrah

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Re: Digital FPV video for drone racing
« Reply #53 on: January 20, 2019, 07:26:11 pm »
50 [km/hr] = 50.000/3600 [m/s] = 13.89 [m/s] - breakneck drone speed?
You can multiply that by 3. But it's not straight line speed that matters, that's a piece of cake. It's feedback in fast maneuvers you do when dodging obstacles.

Why would anyone shall [digitally] transmit on frequencies allocated for analog video!
These analog video transmitters send in the ISM band in the middle of everything (where most stuff is digital, and where digital stuff is allowed 10x more power!), they don't have reserved bands.

"When constructing your MultiGP Spec Class Racer, you may pick one (1) component from each of the following categories:"

"3.2.3 VTX" (video transmitter)
"TBS UNIFY HV RACE"
"IRC TRAMP HV (with or without NFC board)"

Now, from that information, I hope we can all conclude that any video transmitter other than the 2 listed is out of the question.

For the OP's initial idea yes, but I can assure you that if you can make a better system that is compliant with the RF regulations of all countries where these events take place they'll be more than happy to add your product to the list.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2019, 07:29:06 pm by Kilrah »
 

Offline TheDane

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Re: Digital FPV video for drone racing
« Reply #54 on: January 20, 2019, 07:46:00 pm »
50 [km/hr] = 50.000/3600 [m/s] = 13.89 [m/s] - breakneck drone speed?
You can multiply that by 3. But it's not straight line speed that matters, that's a piece of cake. It's feedback in fast maneuvers you do when dodging obstacles.


There seems to be 2 MultiGP racing variants: Indoor and outdoor.
On the outdoor track(s), it looks like that it is more about remembering the course and when/where to turn - and then turn up the throttle to max.
The indoor track(s?) goes a lot slower, and needs to be more precise. Am I wrong?

https://www.multigp.com/leaderboards/
- lots of YouTube videos, and ample opportunity to get airsick in front of your screen :popcorn:
 

Offline dmills

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Re: Digital FPV video for drone racing
« Reply #55 on: January 20, 2019, 08:22:27 pm »
You'll still need a ~5 GHz synthesizer, already a boutique part to start with.
Not really, use a crystal and multiplier chain instead of a synth and then do the selectivity at a lower frequency.

A chain of clippers and third harmonic filters is old school possibly but it usually has better phase noise then a synth, and the required filters can be printed onto the board at these frequencies, hell a nice quick snap or impatt diode or such and multiplying directly from 1.2GHz to 6 is not out of the question, I bet skyworks or microsemi or such have something that would work.

Once you have shifted the whole lot down to say 1GHz, the field opens way up in terms of how to do the selectivity.

Regards, Dan.

 

Offline Marco

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Re: Digital FPV video for drone racing
« Reply #56 on: January 20, 2019, 08:35:20 pm »
But the channel you are trying to equalise is NOT LTI, because it is the FM channel you need to equalise and NOT the baseband, and there is a mess of bessel functions involved in mapping one to the other.

It's been aeons since I had the mental faculties to do the math on this, but are you quite sure a constant multipath response won't approximately result in a linear response in the baseband as long as the carrier frequency is much higher than the bandwidth? The math in these course notes seems to suggest so, but as I said ... it's been aeons.

Intuitively if the multipath response caused nonlinear effects in baseband, baseband OFDM wouldn't work either.

The mapping of the two responses isn't really relevant, you measure it in baseband and you correct it in baseband.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2019, 08:42:06 pm by Marco »
 

Offline hexahedron

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Re: Digital FPV video for drone racing
« Reply #57 on: January 20, 2019, 09:04:49 pm »
Ok, so I've been looking into inter-frame video compression standards, and I feel like I need some help. I've found http://www.openh264.org/ , an open source .h264 implementation, and after going to the github, I got a bit stuck. You see, I've taught myself everything I know about programming, but as tends to happen when you teach yourself, you end up with gaps in your knowledge. I don't know where the hell to start trying to learn how any of the code in the github repository works. How does one even start reverse engineering such an incredibly large project? Does anyone know if there is some paper or article that goes into the individual steps in order that h.264 goes through? I know I could just find some implementation for an fpga and copy/paste, but I actually want to know how it works.

EDIT: would it be worth it to just try an implement MPEG1/2?
« Last Edit: January 20, 2019, 09:07:51 pm by hexahedron »
 

Offline Marco

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Re: Digital FPV video for drone racing
« Reply #58 on: January 20, 2019, 09:13:29 pm »
You don't, H.264 is not designed for high loss channels ... it's essentially useless to you.

Trying to do all this with a FPGA is a sure recipe for never succeeding IMO.

The output of the cheap receiver modules is actually not at baseband, you still need to downconvert it from 480 MHz before you can even start decoding it. Why not try to build a system which can sync the transmitter and receiver and sends an image as uncompressed PCM YUV before even worrying about compression?
 

Offline hexahedron

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Re: Digital FPV video for drone racing
« Reply #59 on: January 20, 2019, 09:21:25 pm »
Trying to do all this with a FPGA is a sure recipe for never succeeding IMO.

The more I read into compression standards, the more I have to agree with this sadly.
I guess the next logical step will be to purchase a beefy microcontroller of some sort. Any recommendations?
 

Offline ogden

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Re: Digital FPV video for drone racing
« Reply #60 on: January 20, 2019, 09:33:57 pm »
Why not try to build a system which can sync the transmitter and receiver and sends an image as uncompressed PCM YUV before even worrying about compression?

Why not use video camera that provides compressed digital video output?

Any inter-frame compressor like h.264 or MPEG will barely help for FPV drone video. FPV video stream is not like hollywood movie /w fixed camera, every next frame differ too much.
 

Offline Marco

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Re: Digital FPV video for drone racing
« Reply #61 on: January 20, 2019, 10:24:10 pm »
Any inter-frame compressor like h.264 or MPEG will barely help for FPV drone video.
H.264 720p will go a bit fuzzy during motion at 2 Mbps, MJPEG will just look like utter trash non stop.
 

Offline ogden

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Re: Digital FPV video for drone racing
« Reply #62 on: January 20, 2019, 10:52:34 pm »
Any inter-frame compressor like h.264 or MPEG will barely help for FPV drone video.
H.264 720p will go a bit fuzzy during motion at 2 Mbps, MJPEG will just look like utter trash non stop.

MJPEG is jpeg still of each video frame. Better you explain how exactly and why MJPEG will look like utter trash. I am all ears.

[edit] Oh, you mean - at same video stream bitrate. Yes, I agree in such case.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2019, 10:55:51 pm by ogden »
 

Offline Marco

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Re: Digital FPV video for drone racing
« Reply #63 on: January 21, 2019, 12:36:14 am »
I guess the next logical step will be to purchase a beefy microcontroller of some sort. Any recommendations?

I'd try to find a SBC, but you have somewhat restrictive requirements. Light weight, I assume you want parallel CSI (for the cheap 720P60 cameras like OV5647), you'll need sufficient GPIO and a DMA engine which can push data to it for your DAC (I don't think Allwinner chips can do this for instance and Raspberry Pi was very slow with DMA AFAIR). As I said before, maybe something based on iMX6UL or iMX6ULL?

On the receiver the weight won't matter, but there you have to be able to attach a relatively fast ADC ... also as I said, if you use the standard receiver modules like RX5808, you'll still need to downconvert it to baseband.

PS. you could also only use the SBC for interfacing with the camera and compression, and then SPI the bitstream to a microcontroller and let that handle the DAC.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2019, 03:36:57 am by Marco »
 

Offline Kilrah

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Re: Digital FPV video for drone racing
« Reply #64 on: January 21, 2019, 03:05:28 am »
Why not use video camera that provides compressed digital video output?
Because latency from the onboard, non latency-optimized encoder is almost guaranteed to be terribly inappropriate.

FPV video stream is not like hollywood movie /w fixed camera, every next frame differ too much.
Correct.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2019, 03:18:16 am by Kilrah »
 

Offline OwO

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Re: Digital FPV video for drone racing
« Reply #65 on: January 21, 2019, 03:14:40 am »
I would start by implementing something simple like a JPEG stream over BPSK. Cameras like the ov2640 have JPEG compression built in which means all you need to do is buffer up the data and modulate it (and add some FEC later on). You can output the BPSK signal on a single digital pin on the FPGA which means no DAC needed.

For the receiving side I'd experiment using a PlutoSDR or LimeSDR, decoding the signal on the PC initially. Once you have the modulation scheme worked out you can implement the receiver on the FPGA of the SDR.
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Offline Marco

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Re: Digital FPV video for drone racing
« Reply #66 on: January 21, 2019, 01:37:55 pm »
Actually I think the best signal to generate first would be a NTSC signal.

I misunderstood the RTC6715, I thought it only brought IF out, but there's also another FM demodulator in there ... so I assume the IF just loops back around the outside to allow for filtering ... Oops. The mobile phone fpv receivers make a lot more sense to use than the modules I mentioned before I think. The NTSC test signal can be used for tuning the receiver, before you start a digital data stream which will probably make the automatic tuning barf.

So with that the hardware I would use ... Nanopi Neo Air or Banana Pi Zero with a OV5640 camera for the transmitter, some other SBC with a LCD connector for the receiver (for prototyping you could use a laptop running Linux with preempt_rt), ROTG02 receiver, TLC7528 DAC, AD9200 ADC and EZ-USB® FX2LP to create a buffered connection between the SBCs and the ADC/DAC. All in all a rather substantial project getting all that to the point of even being able to communicate.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2019, 02:36:26 pm by Marco »
 

Offline ogden

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Re: Digital FPV video for drone racing
« Reply #67 on: January 21, 2019, 02:11:35 pm »
So with that the hardware I would use ... Nanopi Neo Air or Banana Pi Zero with a OV5640 camera, ROTG02 receiver, TLC7528 DAC, AD9200 ADC and EZ-USB® FX2LP to create a buffered connection between the SBCs and the ADC/DAC. All in all a rather substantial project getting all that to the point of even being able to communicate.

So you are suggesting to make video compressor, >= 6Mbps TX/RX modem(!) with FEC(!) out of Nanopi Neo Air or Banana Pi Zero. Also radio of choice is receiver with specs/description "It has low latency around 100ms" :D
 

Offline Marco

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Re: Digital FPV video for drone racing
« Reply #68 on: January 21, 2019, 02:18:25 pm »
Yes, a 6 MHz datastream isn't really a huge problem for a 1.2 GHz 4 core processor.

The receiver has a NTSC->USB digitizer, that's where the latency comes in. You simply tap a line on the PCB, that 100 ms latency doesn't affect you.
 

Offline IDEngineer

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Re: Digital FPV video for drone racing
« Reply #69 on: January 21, 2019, 05:54:17 pm »
Been watching this thread with interest while on the road and unable to comment.

My son is an internationally ranked drone racing pilot (as just point of reference, he's 1st Place member of the five-person TeamUSA that represented the United States at the IOC-sanctioned World Championships in Shenzhen China a couple of months ago). Video problems are the NUMBER ONE ISSUE in this sport. We talk about ways to address that all the time. We've considered quite a few of the things discussed in this thread.

I'm thrilled that this topic has generated so much interest here. The thing I want to share with everyone - from the direct hands-on perspective of a top-ranked pilot and the literal embodiment of the target market for such products - is that latency is your single most important criteria. Many times at competitions my son has sacrificed video quality to reduce latency. In fact, he flew with B&W-only video for a while because with the cameras and electronics of that era it reduced latency by a pilot-noticeable amount. He also suffered the loss of a qualifying round at Nationals in Reno NV in 2017 because the venue-provided diversity system had so much latency that he and other pilots could not control their aircraft; most of the top pilots switched back to their own gear, enduring the multipath and quality problems to get responsiveness.

If you haven't done this yourself, it's hard to realize just how important low latency is. Most of the world-level racing drones are spinning ~5 inch props on ~200-300mm frames, and on straights they'll hit 80+ MPH heading toward split-S turns that peak 150+ amps (not a typo!) from their 6S LiPo packs. The gates they're shooting for are sometimes only 5x5 feet, and when you're approaching at 80 MPH tens of milliseconds really do count.

There is "tribal lore" in the FPV industry right now that compression cannot be done because of the inherent latency. My son and I have a different opinion and think it's possible by thinking a bit outside the box, but my point is that the industry is so intensely focused on low latency video that everything is analyzed with that in mind.

I'm excited about this thread and where it will hopefully go, but wanted to offer a little guidance about what's important as it moves forward.

Thanks!
 

Offline ogden

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Re: Digital FPV video for drone racing
« Reply #70 on: January 21, 2019, 07:50:56 pm »
The thing I want to share with everyone - from the direct hands-on perspective of a top-ranked pilot and the literal embodiment of the target market for such products - is that latency is your single most important criteria.  Many times at competitions my son has sacrificed video quality to reduce latency.

Kudos to your son and thanx for valuable input. If latency is paramount then as you say, only solution is out of the box thinking. OP did very good job already. If every millisecond counts, then existing solutions of low cost digital video cameras and existing video compressors do not qualify, unless running at insane framerates like 240 FPS.

If we want to beat analog TV transceiver latencyy using digital tech - we can't unless we increase frame rate. So, it shall be 120Hz or higher. Also whole frame buffering to compress/decompress is way too expensive waste of precious time. Analog TV transmits every scan line w/o buffering, digitally it could be "slices" of the frame (16, 32 or 64px vertically), each individually compressed as separate (jpeg?/h.264?) frame/video and transmitted in separate radio frame to receiver. BTW pilots notice rolling shutter effect running 60FPS *interleaved* analog NTSC?

I believe that approach to the problem shall be iterative. Video compressor/decompressor shall be designed first. Uncongested 20MHz 5.8GHz (802.11ac) WiFi can provide sub-1ms one-way latency, such "radio" is good enough for first prototypes: https://mentor.ieee.org/802.11/dcn/18/11-18-1160-00-0wng-controlling-latency-in-802-11.pptx
 

Offline Kilrah

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Re: Digital FPV video for drone racing
« Reply #71 on: January 21, 2019, 08:04:45 pm »
Video problems are the NUMBER ONE ISSUE in this sport.

Frankly I'm surprised contests and races even exist already. I've been doing FPV for 16 years, and 10 years back or so we were discussing setting such stuff up and just concluded that video was just too poor for that to provide a decent experience and amount of enjoyment both for pilots and public and ensure fairness between competitors.

It's still just as poor and now demonstrably so, but it seems some are surprisingly somewhat OK with the compromise and ended up doing it anyway...
« Last Edit: January 21, 2019, 08:06:19 pm by Kilrah »
 

Offline IDEngineer

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Re: Digital FPV video for drone racing
« Reply #72 on: January 21, 2019, 08:38:06 pm »
If every millisecond counts, then existing solutions of low cost digital video cameras and existing video compressors do not qualify, unless running at insane framerates like 240 FPS.
Frame rate isn't necessarily related to latency. 30FPS, or even 24FPS, is a sufficient frame rate as long as the end-to-end latency is low enough.

A few more thoughts:

* Analog video is fine, from the perspective of the pilots. There's no inherent advantage to going digital, or even to higher resolutions. They're happy with 480 lines. Sure more is better, but I promise they'll give up resolution to get low latency and reliability (no dropouts).

* Next to latency, dirtbag @%$##$%ing other pilots plugging in their quads in the pits on the same FREAKING channel as someone in an active heat is the next biggest problem. Despite rules and penalties, this happens ALL THE TIME even at international competitions. Happened to my son during his very first qualifying heat in Shenzhen, in fact... he was doing great and then suddenly he's looking at some guy's shoes in the pit area. His quad crashed into a gate and he was taken out of that qualifier, and due to the scheduling they didn't offer reflies at this event, so his total practice time on the track before the actual races was reduced due to some other jerk's stupidity. (We tracked down who it was using recorded video and got him disqualified, but that didn't help TeamUSA.)

This problem is almost always some pilot believing "It won't matter for just a quick second". They drop their transmitter power to "pit mode" (generally a couple of mW, whereas most racing is at 25mW these days), remove their transmitting antenna (never mind the SWR mismatch), etc. and "plug in for just a quick test". But at these speeds it only takes a moment of zero visibility to crash into something, and since they've dropped to 25mW to reduce inter-pilot interference the receivers are that much more sensitive and can pick up one of these "quick tests" in the nearby pits sufficient to corrupt or entirely override video coming from a quad that's hundreds of yards away on the other side of the track. Yes, we use directional antennas (some really good ones, in fact) but it's amazing how often the offending &!#$&%&!'er must be in one of the side lobes of the pattern and gets picked up just fine.

THIS is the reason we are considering going to digital video. Not because we need better resolution, but because we need to be able to reject interference from other people on the same analog frequency. The uplinks resolved this a few years ago by going digital and using a token-based system where you "pair" a given transmitter (remote control) to the aircraft's receiver. This system works quite well and they can have dozens of pilots flying "line of sight" (not FPV) in real time without incident. But those are relatively low bandwidth comms compared to (even low-res analog) video.

We've thought about doing some sort of cellphone-like TDMA system, but up in the 5.x GHz ISM band where FPV video lives, so that we can successfully accommodate "plug-ins" like I described. It will take some sort of system like that to fix this, because you literally don't know and can't prevent when some stupid, idiotic, self-serving jerk will plug in during a race and take out a pilot by generating an analog signal or a data stream right on top of what the pilot SHOULD be receiving.

* Another issue, though less important than solving the above, is dropouts. FPV pilots scan eBay for truly analog mini-monitors that display snow instead of a blue screen when no signal is being received. All FPV goggles are analog too. Why? Because signal strength varies all over the place during a race. The antennas are constantly changing orientation to each other, the distances (and thus propagation loss) change wildly, etc. Digital video has the incredibly annoying "feature" of simply turning off when the signal strength goes below some threshold. But analog does not suffer from that... your image quality may degrade, you may lose color (due to loss of color burst on each line) and fall back to B&W for a moment, but the key is graceful degradation rather than brick-wall failure. Once a digital video system "loses sync" it can take several seconds to resume operation. That's an eternity. Imagine driving on the freeway inside a curving tunnel at 80 MPH and someone covers your eyes... seconds feel like years, even a couple of seconds can spell disaster. Far better to gracefully degrade like analog video, from loss of clarity to loss of color to higher S/N ratio (snow) because the human brain and vision system are quite good at interpolating in a noisy environment. But they can't interpolate from a blue screen!

For this reason, my son and I have been toying with employing DSP correlation in a multichannel diversity receiver. There are serious volume, mass, and power limitations on the aircraft themselves, but the ground stations are basically unlimited so doing lots of processing on the ground is totally feasible. (Correlation will not address the issue of bat-freaking braindead idiots transmitting on the same channel so that problem would still have to be addressed.)

* Whatever the front end, the output signal would be best as baseband NTSC. The entire industry is tooled up to support that, and the race operators (MultiGP, FAI, etc.) will resist anything that isn't plug compatible. Why do they care? Because they have live judges dedicated to each pilot position, plus they record all video streams, in case someone files a protest. All that infrastructure is NTSC. If a pilot arrives and he cannot provide an NTSC signal to show his FPV, at best he will lose any protests (for lack of evidence) and at worst he will be prohibited from racing.
 

Offline IDEngineer

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Re: Digital FPV video for drone racing
« Reply #73 on: January 21, 2019, 08:44:07 pm »
Frankly I'm surprised contests and races even exist already. I've been doing FPV for 16 years, and 10 years back or so we were discussing setting such stuff up and just concluded that video was just too poor for that to provide a decent experience and amount of enjoyment both for pilots and public and ensure fairness between competitors.

It's big, and getting bigger FAST. Drone racing is already covered on ESPN. It has been on 60 Minutes. It has enormous corporate sponsors (think Red Bull, Pepsi, etc.). My 16YO son has four corporate sponsors and was courted aggressively while in Shenzhen by local electronics manufacturers who treated him like a rock star. They were hunting him down at the venue, calling for him by name over the crowds. Two of them took us on whole-day tours of their R&D and manufacturing facilities, with the senior management (including CEO's) taking us to very fancy, very authentic Chinese lunches, just to spend time with the TeamUSA pilots and get their input on current and future drone racing products and offer them sponsorships.

If they smell opportunity like that, you know this industry is going places. It's one of the reasons we're talking about improved video systems (and that's just one of the product ideas we have). There's real money moving around and some really big players in the electronics industry are starting to take notice.
 

Online TheSteve

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Re: Digital FPV video for drone racing
« Reply #74 on: January 21, 2019, 09:06:46 pm »
I think you're in for a heck of challenge to successfully make a digital system that can replace the analog ones.
Low power, low latency, instant fade recovery, interference rejection etc. As you mentioned the brain does an amazing job filtering noise and working through the signal fades.

In terms of other people turning a transmitter on in the pits, this is a problem that has been faced by RC since it began. Before 2.4 GHz is was routine for big RC car races to have a transmitter impound. You got your transmitter back just before your heat. Same thing in the RC airplane/helicopter world - frequency pins allowing you and only you to use to use a specific channel and of course transmitter impounds. It won't prevent 100% of problems but it works quite well and is what can be done again.

Long term I see FPV racing ending up about the same as battle bots. It will continue but popularity on TV will suffer some. I love RC but the issue I have with FPV is that we could just simulate the entire thing like a video game.

btw, if you've raced at major drone racing events then odds are very good you've used hardware I've built!
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