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Home FPV/UAV flight tips, how to and guidelines Drones: Differences between FPV & UAV/UAS

Drones: Differences between FPV & UAV/UAS
Thursday, 28 January 2016 22:04

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Types of Drones: Differences between FPV and UAV/UAS

Drones comes with many shape and sizes and some might even surprise you that others are like 'wolf in a sheep costume' exhibit capabilities beyond what people imagination.  Back in the days when people think of drones they would think of something like a big ugly unmanned aircraft with weapons, camera and spy stuff.  But today thanks to advance technology drones have reached into civilian hands and come with many shape and sizes both for recreational use and some are for business tools. Some may look like the smaller mockm up version of military plane while others looks like typical everyday unsuspected toy model in handy size.  Yes they all can fly regardless what they look like plus they can perform many task unmanned.     For many years you've witness many great aerial flight adventure of my drone models roaming through great plains of forests, urbans, oceans, countless distance over vast white clouds towards the blue stratosphere. Also demonstrated

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various uses not only for Aerial/Photography flight but also other cool feature like 3D mapping, 'Selfie' follow me flight and long range autonomous flight. With ever expanding improvement in community based open source hardware development (especially Arduino/ATMEL) and micro electronics/nanotechnology made available to the public at cheaper price thanks to Eastern mass manufacturing over the years, drone flight now made more accessible to public and affordable for everyone to own one.  From the year 2010 towards 2016 public perception on drone technology no longer a military taboo but consider as symbol of commercial status, tools for media publicity, recreational, security and transportation tools.  Public now can buy drones as toys under $50 or going hobby grade Pro drone above $299 from normal supermarket shelf by the 2015 fully equipped with cameras.  It is impossible to ignore the use of drones in daily life both personal and commercial use. Media such as advertisement and documentary make full use of drones to capture aerial flight over housing, land and property to showcase sale of housing estate, buildings or mapping potential area for development or inspection...these task is what we called  "Aerial mapping" and "3D mapping".   Even popular TV channels such as DISCOVERY CHANNEL, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHICS, ESPN and other documentary/sports media maker uses drone to track down wild life activity, scenic landscapes and other interestitutor fpv uav 27ng to the viewer at exciting angle/vantage point without risk and low cost ways to do it...this task is what we called Video/Aerial Photography.  Even my friends who or not even into flying hobby neither have background on radio control models took advantage over drone technology for use of Aerial Photography and Videography for their client now making profit and live comfortable life too in very short period.  In short period of time (thanks to media speculation about drones, raves and publicity stunts) Drone technology have taken the market by storm and now is an integral part of life personally and public at large.  Not only that other gadget that ties close relation to drone use such as portable action HD camera such as GoPro Hero, SJCAM, MOBIUS, RUNCAM, SONY, JVC and other new comers spawn rapidly in the market thanks to the use of drones.  Lets no forget the use of Smartphone for 'Selfie' remote control drones, VR video goggles, expansion of wireless video technology and the R&D for alternative Lithium battery to increase runtime and reduction of weight.  Let's get back to our main point of my discussion as per above topic, today drones divided into two category all thanks to rapid changes of technology over the years.  These are FPV (First Person View) flight and UAV (Unmanned Autonomous Vehicle) flight or sometime preferred to be called as UAS (Unmanned Autonomous System).


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  • FPV (First Person View) details:
    • tutor fpv uav 71FPV models key characteristics: First Person View flight via live wireless video feed + manual flight.
    • Flying/moving platform:  Plane, multirotors, helicopter, ground vehicles.
    • Basic builds key FPV components: Camera with video output + wireless video transmitter + On Screen Display module + Flight controller with GPS (*Optional)
    • Basic FPV parts cost ( without flying/moving platform):  USD$200 approx.
    • User/Piloting gear: Video receiver + LCD monitor/FPV video goggle + Radio controller.
    • User building skills required to build:  Basic R/C model building.
    • User flight experience/skills to operate: Basic flight experience on multirotor, helicopter or plane.
    • Basic add-on/payloads: HD camera.
    • Basic civilian usage:  Hobbyist recreational flight, Aerial video/photography.
    • Commercial  usage:  Aerial video/photography.
    • Basic flight distance it can travel straight line: 100m~4km



  • UAV/UAS (Unmanned Autonomous Vehicles/Unmanned Autonomous System) details:
    • UAV/UAS models key characteristics:  Autonomous flight.
    • Flying/moving platform:  Plane, multirotor, helicopter, ground vehicles.
    • Basic builds key components:  Flight controller with GPS + Power module + Radio telemetrytutor fpv uav 116
    • Basic UAV/UAS parts cost ( without flying/moving platform):  USD$150 approx.
    • User/Piloting gear:  Notebook PC or Android powered smartphone/tablet.
    • User building skills required to build:  Basic R/C model building + ARDUINO program/setup (for Atmel based FC chipset).
    • User flight experience/skills to operate: None.
    • Basic add-on/payloads: HD camera, aerial optical sensors/scanner, mountable delivery parcel.
    • Basic civilian usage:  Precision aerial video/photography.
    • Commercial  usage:  Oils and gas pipe inspection,  Agricultural plantation health and green ecology monitoring (NDVI), Civil infrastructure and building inspection, Earth surface/terrain/topology 2D/3D mapping (GIS), strategic aerial surveillance on waterways, land and border control (FLIR imaging technology), next generation parcel delivery services and Archaeology site mapping. The possibilities of autonomous UAV/UAS usage is unlimited not only in the air but also include self driving automobiles and marine ROV vehicles which share similar technology to air based vehicles.
    • Basic flight distance it can travel straight line: 4km~45km>>


tutor fpv uav 16UAV/UAS technology was long been use by the military drone before 2008.  Today FPV is consider known as manual flight via video wireless from ground pilot where flight distances limited to video and radio range before it cut-off into failsafe and return automatically to home base RTH mode (RETURN TO HOME) which has been a traditional way for aero modeler flight enthusiast to control their plane beyond line of sight.  The later years especially starting from 2012 and beyond, aerial flight models can now be flown completely Autonomous without ground pilot controlling it most of the time, just setup the flight path and mission parameter via computer or in smartphone then it take off  flew on its own until it finishes its intended course of flight...pretty much the same stuff what military do back then...sit back and enjoy the ride.   All these made possible via small smart computer like board called the 'Flight Controller' equipped via GPS to assist real time autonomous navigation. A UAV/UAS can have an FPV feature with extra 'i'm lazy to learn how to fly it' capability.  Below are details and explanation of differences between FPV and UAV/UAS model.


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List detailed comparison between FPV and UAV/UAS models:

  1. Autonomous/Autopilot flight:  (A feature which allow models to be flown without manual control and having hands on the controller).
    • FPV models:   Some cheaper models under USD$200 doesn't have any autopilot feature which requires manual stick flight.  While some top end ones with cost at least above USD$200 have autopilot feature controller by a "Flight Controller" CPU hardware + GPS module which process the automated flight.  Autopilot feature on FPV models genrallyoffer consumer a  auto-stabilization flight, hands off 'Cruise mode' flight, Loiter(plane)/Hovering(rotors based) and Return to Home (RTH) flight when fail safe activated.  Still user need to intervene and have its hand ready on its controller anytime for manual take over flight.tutor fpv uav 153  FPV pilot need constant monitoring it flight through it FPV live video feed/screen to ensure smooth and safe flight.  This sometimes called SEMI autonomous.

    • UAV/UAS models:  It has all the above feature that inherited by FPV models with added more feature such as 'Waypoint flight' and ROI (Region Of Interest) mission goal.  User can use any computer or portable smart phone devices via MISSION PLANNER software/apps, plot a dot of waypoint/lines on the map to instruct where the models should be flown, trigger a condition and set a home base where the model should take off and land. Once done the user upload the mission to the flight model via USB or wirelessly. After flown up in the air the user no longer needed to intervene with its flight, off the stick controller let it fly on its own and wait for its return from mission.

  2. Telemetry communication: (A wireless data communication that give feedback to ground station/user/pilot on the ground to inform status of the plane in the air in real-time.  This data can be viewed on the dedicated LCD devices, FPV video OSD screen, computer screen or smartphone).
    • FPV models:  A higher end FPV models do have a basic telemetry system which offer data feedback such as RSSI (Radio Signal Strength Indicator), Battery level indicator, GPS lock strength and disttutor fpv uav 115ance from HOME base.  Usually its a one way communication where user/pilot only receive and read the data from an active flight model.

    • UAV/UAS models:  It has all the above feature which inherited by an FPV flight models with added more advance data broadcast over the air to the ground station such as showing the actual location/position of the flight model on map with accurate coordinate, ground speed/air-speed, flight mode/mission status/payload trigger status, and sensor condition.   Telemetry communication run in both ways which allow user/pilot to interact in real-time such as edit/alter the mission or waypoint flight immediately, trigger a status/camera/sensor/payload and control the plane via computer/or connected smartphone instead of using stick based radio controller.

  3. ROI region:   (A flight model able to interact with its surrounding auttutor fpv uav 1omatically once reach its destination by triggering camera/sensors and point it to its target object/region/area.  Popularly used for 2D/3D aerial mapping, payload deployment and agriculture use).
    • FPV models:  Doesn't have any.

    • UAV/UAS models:   Have these feature but dependent of hardware capabilities.  Most popular open source flight controller such as ARDUINO based controller such as ARDUPILOT (3DR) products carry such feature which allow flight models/drone able to interact with its targeted environment automatically upon reaching the destination. For example  once the UAV/UAS model reached its destination it may trigger the camera or sensors (optical) towards a targeted object or an area for 2D/3D scanning as scripted using MISSION PLANNER software.  These feature popularly used for agriculture purpose to count  trees and monitor forest health via NDVI scans (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index).

  4. tutor fpv uav 122Terrain following:(Ability to fly waypoint flight parallel with earth terrain without risking ground collision).
    • FPV models:  Doesn't have any.

    • UAV/UAS models:   Its has such feature but only few flight controller for example: APM/PIXHAWK (3DR) offer a true "Terrain Follow" feature.   It can fly straight to destination and parallel to terrain height based calculated terrain height loaded from Mission Planner (Terrain Data) with mix of logic calculation from onboard Baro sensors and GPS module to keep the altitude at bay.  Some higher end drones or custom build have sonar module or LIDAR module to detect last minutes obstacles.

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  5. Follow me:   (Ability to follow user/pilot or an object distance away.  Provided user carry a GPS embedded devices to give feedback to the drones via telemetry on the user/pilots where abouts and stay safe within distance).
    • FPV models:  Only higher end expensive model have this feature such as  DJI Phantoms 3/Inspire, WALKERA lines and other Open Source based flight controller multirotors with telemetry communication either via radio, WIFI or bluetooth connectivity + GPS..  Marketed to consumer as 'SELFIE' drone.

    • UAV/UAS models:  Have all the above, usually comes as standard feature especially for multirotors platform.  Useful for follow/tracking mission such as motorsports, wildlife tracking or on the ground action video documentary. 

  6. tutor fpv uav 51Payload activation and sensors:  (Things that drone platform carry with it such as camera, sensors and delivery parcel for drop point, how it use those).
    • FPV models:  None.

    • UAV/UAS models:  Capable to drop a payload, "Touch n Go" payload deployment into the mission area.  Its a sought after feature where courier company around the world start building a drone that can send parcel, consumer item or medical payload to remote areas via unmanned.  Popularly use on multirotor platform.  However these feature are at infancy stage of development because the current battery technology flight time (2015) hinder the flight range performance until optimal solution to battery problem solved.

  7. Flight altitude and distances: (How high and how far can it fly/travel):
    • FPV models:  Can fly at ututor fpv uav 22nlimited altitude and distances but limited by wireless video and radio control range.  The advantage of FPV flight able to fly in this range is that the user/pilot is completely aware of its surroundings during its real-time flight.  User/Pilot can see and hear (if fitted with microphone) any possible of incoming collision  in the air and if it does it can make immediate/evasive maneuver to prevent any happenings in the air (See and Avoid flight procedure).  FPV models always made to be manually flight and generally equipped with Semi-autopilot for fail safe situation (RTH mode).  Unfortunately the further distance it flies the higher it must fly to keep the video transmission in 'Line Of Sight' so that any obstacle in between such as the hill, mountain terrain and curve of earth surface can easily block and diminish its video connection quality.

    • UAV/UAS models:  Can fly at unlimited altitude and distantutor fpv uav 101ces not bound by limitation on wireless video/radio range.   Still able to fly without any radio/video links since its flown via uploaded mission parameters and steered via GPS signal.   There's no real-time awareness of what is going on during the flight since its flown beyond video range signal, flight of UAV/UAS models should be well planned and altitude must be limited before flight  to avoid possible collision with real aircraft.  Due to its so called "Blind flight"  where it is to be flown without video or radio connection, the flight altitude for most standard flight procedure for UAV/UAS models is between 100 meter (on 'Terrain follow' altitude) for long range flight to avoid possible collision with any airborne objects such as private aircraft or unplanned civilian flight path. 

  8. Flight time/Power management:  (Battery power consumption efficiency and endurance during overall flight).
    • tutor fpv uav 11FPV models:   Based on my experience handling an FPV models which is completely flown manually hand stick mode are much better in term of endurance and longer battery runtime because the user/pilot can adjust the throttle speed according to wind condition, managing altitude ascending/descending and glide performance since the user/pilot aware what going on around its surrounding and manage everything manually to keep it minimally afloat and move forward without wasting power by needless throttle.  When my Drifter Ultralight platform uses  battery 2200mah 3s lipo (11.1~V12.4V) was flown manually as FPV setup it can have airtime of 120~50 minutes per-session than on UAV/UAS setup which only has 25 minutes of airtime per-session even on the same platform and similar flight weight.

    • tutor fpv uav 42UAV/UAS models:  Just like mentioned above UAV/UAS model is not as effective as FPV setup since all the power management such as throttle speed are controlled automatically by the Flight controller unit using preset speed parameter  set by user/pilot.  Even with installed air-speed sensor module installed (TEC parameters setup on APM/PIXHAWK or compatible controller)  there's no guarantee it will efficiently save power or properly manage the throttle control since artificial control don't have good judgment on the real wind speed or thermal condition around its wings surrounding in the skies.  I lost few of UAV/UAS models due to battle with mother nature rough winds ended drain to much power to battle the head winds.

  9. Hack and vulnerabilities:(How vulnerable these models hacked/foreign entity take control in the air or shot it down intentionally by other party).
    • tutor fpv uav 108FPV models:  Not easily hack (take/capture control) but can be easily jammed (block radio frequency) since most of today frequency driven by 2.4Ghz band and video at 5.8Ghz based on popular marketed FPV hardware.  Ground based culprit or authority may able to jam its frequency of these FPV drone well within  max 1.5km by 'flooding' every band channel on 2.4Ghz if user/pilot still using standard R/C model radio equipment that run on AFHDS, FHSS, DSM, DSM2 and other popular 2.4Ghz radio protocol in the market.  Similarly also applies to 5.8Ghz video channel which currently on analogue band (CCTV video protocol)  at the time of writing.  General thumb rule for FPV user/pilot to avoid being 'jammed' is to fly higher away from potential 'would be' jammer area atleast 1.5km away and beam narrowly your radio control and video frequency using high gain antenna NOT THE MW POWER RATING.  Onboard video transmitter should use low "MW" value to avoid being tracked easily and non-telemetry radio receiver with less diversity antenna to reduce jamming sensitivity.

    • UAV/UAS models:   Depends on the setup, as mentiontutor fpv uav 107ed  before UAV/UAS can have part of FPV setup or completely non with simplified only for UAV/UAS use which mean it can be  flown without radio control or telemetry radio and without wireless video.  So it can fly 'Radio silence' or without any radio equipment installed depending on its mission parameter setup on its flight controller hardware from the start and end of mission with zero broadcast....which means these UAV/UAS will never received any sort of radio nor hear anything during it flight. Radio vulnerability zero.  However most intermediate and beginners into UAV/UAS strapped radio telemetry to make things more redundant for their convenient, these make it more likely 95% more hackable and jammed since current telemetry radio for UAV/UAS made two way communication can be easily listen by third party due to the fact current 433/933Mhz radio technology on consumer hobbyist doesn't have unique encrypted binding technology for each channel when they pairing their telemetry radio unit.   Encrypted radio binding technology are only available for commercial and military use only.

  10. Costing and hardware build complexity:
    • FPV models:  The basic cost FPV models just etutor fpv uav 73nough to get it flown manually without autopilot failsafe feature can be in between USD$100~$150 for out of box ready to fly model usually under toy grade category able to fly within 100m~200m. While custom build moderate performance FPV model which able to fly up to 1km limit can cost around USD$250 for DIY personal home build drones.  For semi-automation (Autopilot + GPS) with Return to Home (RTH) feature that can flew beyond 3~7km can fetch up to between USD$350~500 minimum.  FPV build mostly focus on high quality video feed, good video transmitter, radio control transmission wattage and high gain antenna to make successful 'manual' flight.  On piloting gear would need between USD$250 (LCD screen + Radio controller) to USD$400 (FPV video goggle + Radio controller) expenditure for compulsory on the ground use.

    • UAV/UAS models:  Honestly speaking they are much cheaper to build than ittutor fpv uav 81s FPV counterpart provided if the user/pilot solely use for mission only flight without FPV....or should i say flown fully automated from the start of launching it in the air, reaching its mission and fly back to land automatically without no radio control or live wireless feed visual aid...just use smartphone to control the model.  You don't need to put camera for live feed, video transmitter, OSD module, separate power supply for FPV like setup, specialized antenna for video transmission or long range performance radio and etc. You can use your smartphone to control and monitor its flight and that's it.  A simple UAV/UAS  yet with lots of autonomous capability can have a full build costing around minimum USD$250 complete both its flying platform and smartphone connectivity for control, monitoring and mission planning.  The only Cons is that you'll need to take some time and exert effort to tune it well (board calibration, PID tuning, air speed and fail safe) via trial and error to get it flying properly permanently before its first maiden mission flight.


Below are sample of my FPV and UAV/UAS model in action for your references.

FPV videos : (*I have lots of them but i listed few that are enjoyable to watch).


UAV/UAS videos:




Well i hope the above article helps to give you some clarification of key details between two type of drone platform that exist in the current market at the tutor fpv uav 110time of my writings.  However in the future somewhere in 2 or 3 years time the, gap of technology that defines between these two type of technology will be narrow down because of cheaper manufacturing cost and advance integration of micro/nanotechnology able to cramp and fit every feature of every flying technology that was previous  available separately to be integrated into one small hardware that can be adapted into any flying drones models and begin to integrated as part of our human daily use...soon it will be a technology of must have item just like our smartphone.  For example in 2011 people are phobia about drones, in 2012 we have R/C hobby drone in the market, 2013 it commonly sold at hobby store without camera, in 2014 now affordable as toy at cheaper affordable price....everyone can fly. Then on 2015 toy drone comes with quality HD camera with FPV LCD screen and autonomous drone off the shelf is at large..stupid people can even fly it easily thanks to electronically assisted flight,  so you know what's next for 2016. Slowly the drone will be an integratutor fpv uav 19l part of human society which is why aviation authority such as the FAA in the States and local aviation started to enforce the use of drone into local airspace before created problem in the skies.  Drone use has become a strategic and tactical business tool for property management which help to capture bigger hidden opportunity from the air and save land planning cost in long term.  Today many people have made profit out of drone technology (one of my friend made some $$$$) and job opportunity into aerial task generating business and personal income by selling land (GIS)  information and mapped data to land developer legal or illegally between 2014 and 2015 due to absent of rules and regulation because its regulation on using its technology is still under review globally.  One thing for sure its easy to own one of this since its now affordable for less than USD$100 with full out of box ready to fly capability when compare to previous 2 years ago trends, unfortunately the rise of noobs (beginners) started to flood the scene to making problem in the sky which worries local authority.  That's it for my article today, thanks for reading and stay tune for my next tech updates. 

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Last Updated on Thursday, 11 August 2016 22:18
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