When I first got started with FPV (first person view) R/C flying a couple of years ago, I was flying with a Boscam RX-LCD5802 LCD monitor. After I decided to progress to flying with video goggles, the monitor was not getting much usage. Recently I upgraded my FatShark goggles with the La Forge diversity module, which is quite power-hungry. This got me thinking about building a low cost FPV groundstation which I could use to power my goggles, get some use out of the Boscam monitor and optionally mount additional FPV receivers on in the future. Continue reading to see what sort of groundstation I was able to come up with using some cheap HobbyKing parts and some spare LiPo batteries.
The goals of building my own FPV groundstation (sometimes called a basestation) were as follows:
- Provide high-capacity power source for my FatShark Dominator goggles, so I can fly all day long without worrying about recharging the FatShark battery packs.
- Provide a backup FPV display for safety reasons.
- Allow spectators to watch flying in real-time.
I had been thinking about the best way to build a groundstation, at first considering a custom ‘pelican case’ type unit. As it would be difficult to tripod mount a briefcase style FPV station, I decided this wasn’t for me. I was then considering the Quanum FPV Ground Station Power Supply Unit from HobbyKing. The normal asking price of around £80 for this unit is far too expensive, but it was on a flash sale recently at £25. I ultimately decided not to get this and went with a ‘classical’ DIY tripod based ground station design, as seen below:
I selected the Q-111 aluminium tripod from HobbyKing, which is inexpensive at around £20. It certainly doesn’t win any awards for build quality, but for my needs it was perfect. I have then used epoxy glue, velcro and/or zip ties to affix the various components of the FPV groundstation to the tripod frame. I was able to do this in a way which meant the tripod could still fully collapse and fit in its carrying bag.
My FPV groundstation as it stands features:
- Multistar high-capacity 4S 4000mAh 10C lithium-polymer batteries (via HobbyKing)
- HobbyKing XT60 parallel cable harness (via HobbyKing)
- HobbyKing compact 30A watt meter and power analyzer (via HobbyKing)
- HobbyKing cell checker with low voltage alarm (via HobbyKing)
- Multistar twin output 5v/5A 12v/10A SBEC (via HobbyKing)
- Self-adhesive LED strips (via HobbyKing)
- Boscam LCD-RX5802 7” FPV monitor with 32 channel 5.8GHz diversity receiver (via BangGood)
Fortunately I had many of these parts already in the ‘spares bin’, so the only significant cost was the tripod. The two Multistar 4000mAh batteries had originally been bought for my QAV500v2 quadcopter build, but they didn’t work particularly well in that application. There are LED strips hidden in the bracing struts near the top of the tripod which provide a decent amount of ground illumination for my occasional night flying sessions.
A bunch of JST connectors on the Multistar SBEC provide plenty of 5v/12v regulated power sources for all of the accessories. Before I can connect my FatShark goggles to the tripod, I need a 2S step-down regulator to include in the long power cable I still need to solder up for the goggles. The specifications for the goggles suggest they will work with a 12v input, but there are a lot of conflicting stories on the web, and I don’t want to risk damaging them!
I’m calling this my ‘stage 1’ build for the groundstation, as I have a few future additions planned. At an absolute minimum, I need to get my FatShark regulated power harness made up, fit a globe style compass, and try to find an external DVR unit which has better quality than the FatShark Dominator DVR. I may end up switching to 2.4GHz FPV in which case I’ll need to mount a new receiver to the back of the LCD. I’m also toying with the idea of fitting an IR strobe light to aid night-time long-range FPV landing approaches.
Check back soon to see how ‘stage 2’ of the groundstation is working out. So far in the limited field testing I have conducted, the groundstation works very well!
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