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"Can I replace the Vision+ Camera?" - ANSWERED!

Discussion in 'Phantom 2 Vision + Discussion' started by Dirty Bird, Oct 21, 2014.

  1. Dirty Bird

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    Scarcely a day goes by without someone asking, "Can I replace my Vision+ camera with a GoPro?" or some other camera or gimbal.

    Here I attempt to provide an answer to that question, along with a few details:

    Basics - First we need to understand a few basics. The Vision+ utilizes 5.8 Ghz for controlling the aircraft and a 2.4 Ghz Wi-Fi system for FPV, camera control, & telemetry. The Vision+ FPV system incorporates three components: A Wi-Fi module mounted within the Phantom's shell, the camera/gimbal assembly slung beneath the aircraft, and the Wi-Fi extender mounted on the controller which functions as a bridge between the aircraft and your phone or tablet. All three components are required for FPV & telemetry. If you remove the Vision+ gimbal, you will lose ALL FPV, camera control & telemetry features. If you are intentionally replacing the Vision+ FPV system, you can remove the Wi-Fi module & antennae from the aircraft, saving weight and making room for custom components.

    FPV Solutions - Option #1 - Since the Vision+ uses 5.8 Ghz for control, installing a 5.8 Ghz FPV transmitter is not recommended due to interference. Therefore, if you want to replace the integrated FPV system, the least expensive path is to look to FPV solutions that operate in another frequency band (ie 900 Mhz, 1.1, 1.2, or 2.4 Ghz). Note that lower frequencies offer greater penetration & range, with the tradeoff being lower frequencies require a larger antenna. Opting for an FPV solution in a band other than 5.8 Ghz minimizes the complexity & expense of customizing your Vision+ as you will retain the stock 5.8 Ghz controller & receiver.

    *Note that you will NOT have camera control capabilities with this system. Before flight, you must manually start recording video or engage the camera's intervalometer function for stills.

    Option #2 - The most popular FPV solutions operate in the 5.8 Ghz range. These systems do NOT provide the longest range, but use smaller antennae more suited to use on a small aircraft like the Phantom. Choosing a 5.8 Ghz FPV system means you will also have to replace the Vision+ controller & receiver. Obviously this increases the cost and complexity of the project. This solution allows you to install the more popular 5.8 Ghz FPV solutions, and also affords the opportunity to make use of more common, feature-packed, & programmable 2.4 Ghz controllers. The standard Phantom 2 operates on a 2.4 Ghz system that is compatible with Futaba's FASST technology. One choice would be replacing the 5.8 Ghz Vision+ receiver with the 2.4 Ghz Phantom 2 receiver. The benefit here is the 2.4 Ghz Phantom 2 receiver fits perfectly in your Vision+. You could opt for the standard Phantom 2 controller, or any FAAST-compatible controller. Alternatively, you can replace the receiver with any 7 channel (or greater) 2.4 Ghz receiver and the controller of your choice (Hitec, Spektrum, Tactic, etc..)

    *As with Option #1, you have no in-flight camera controls.

    Option #3 - DroneExperts makes a system designed to allow you to replace the camera/gimbal while retaining the Vision+ FPV/telemetry system. I am uncertain if the system has actually begun shipping, nor how well it performs? IMHO it is rather pricey. The base unit is ~$390 + $50 for the adapter for your choice of gimbals, + gimbal, + camera. If you were getting the base unit with mount + Zenmuse H3-3D + GoPro Hero3 Black you are looking at over $1200 - The cost of a complete new Vision+ and nearly TWICE the cost of a new Vision+ gimbal module! In a serious crash you risk destroying ALL of these components.

    *As with the Options #1 & #2, you will have no in-flight camera controls.

    Option #4 - The totally bare bones approach: Purchase the Vision+ GoPro mount & the GoPro of your choice. Keep the Vision+ Wi-Fi system & gimbal base. You will have telemetry, but no FPV, no stabilized video, & no in-flight camera control.

    Telemetry - The Vision+ FPV system relays telemetry from the aircraft, to the Wi-Fi extender, and ultimately to your display device. You need the Wi-Fi extender, along with both the Vision+ Wi-Fi module & the camera/gimbal assembly (or at minimum the gimbal base) to receive telemetry. If you want telemetry without these components, you need to install something like DJI's Mini-iOSD to provide the telemetry data. The Mini-iOSD connects inline between your camera feed & FPV transmitter, overlaying the telemetry data onto the video feed. This is my recommended telemetry solution.

    Gimbal - If you desire stabilized video, you obviously require a gimbal. If you are replacing the entire FPV system you have many choices available. The Zenmuse line is popular, though there are many less expensive models from which to choose. Whatever you chose, select a gimbal designed for your intended camera.

    Camera - The GoPro series seem to be the most popular choice in standalone camera systems. They range in price from $150-$500+ for the newest "Hero4 Black" model. Some GoPro models offer Wi-Fi connectivity & camera control through an App. The effective range is unknown as the connection will be directly between your phone/tablet & the camera. You may be able to add a boosted Wi-Fi bridge & antenna array to increase range, but this increases the complexity & cost required for the upgrade.

    FPV Monitor - You will require either a monitor or goggles for receiving FPV from the aircraft. Choose a system compatible with the FPV solution you have selected. There are lots of choices available. They range from a standalone FPV receiver & monitor with external power supply, an integrated monitor/FPV receiver with an internal rechargeable power supply, to FPV goggles with an embedded FPV receiver.

    Summary - The answer is yes, you CAN replace the Vision+ camera, but it is involved and rather pricey to do so. It requires some technical expertise to bring everything together. Your Vision+ may not look as sleek with components mounted externally and wires dangling about. You will likely wind up with shorter flight times due to the increased weight of components. You will likely lose in-air camera control. Many feel that the Vision+ gimbal is excessively fragile & expensive at $679. No doubt the Vision+ gimbal is expensive, but it is generally LESS expensive than replacing the entire system. I am sure opinions on this subject will vary as much as do the choice of components, but I hope this serves to provide insight for the daily question of "Can I replace my Vision+ camera?"

    NOTE - I will try to keep this updated should things change. If you have suggestions for improvement please feel free to let me know. - Dirty Bird
     
  2. Skynet1

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    I strongly suggest this important & very useful information become a sticky, rather than see it lost amongst the many other daily postings. Nicely done, DB.
     
  3. Dirty Bird

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    Thank you. Hoping this helps those with questions since we get asked almost every day. ;)
     
  4. doug86

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    Hey Dirty,
    Wow, great post!! Can you add a paragraph about the DJI Lightbridge system? Can a person control a GoPro with Lightbridge? What freq. does it work on and with? What phones/tablets? etc....
     
  5. aartsf

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    Thanks Dirty Bird, again for a great, informative post !!
     
  6. nhoover

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    Very nice summary!
     
  7. NRL777

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    Not 100% sure but I was flying my PV+ where another person was flying via FPV 5.8ghz.. and my PV+ experienced a fly away..
    It went hard left.. until he turned it off to help me recover..

    Does anyone definitely know if the FatShark or FatShark-Like FPV 5.8ghz frequency does jam the 5.8 on PVs?
     
  8. Mako79

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    Just an update for those who want to venture down this path...

    Addition to gopro with built in wifi approach:

    GoPro 3+ Black edition (any wifi gopro) with Go Pro App on phone to control camera setting and video setting and streaming.
    Zernmuse gimbal.
    Wifi Repeater Bridge using an ASUS RTNU10 with DD-WRT 2.6 v.2 (Linux firmware on wireless access point). The Asus RTNU10 is a 150 a/b/g/n router with a 5di gain antenna. Cost was $20 used. Essentially, the Repeater bridge acts as a range extender by mimicking the gopro's wifi network settings.

    In summary, this does work.. But with little gain. I did not go as far as having phantom+zenmuse+gopro as the wifi was the limitation. Also, the 2.4GHZ on the gopro wifi should not affect the 5.8GHz transmitter control.

    My test ended due to the poor transmitting power on the gopro.
    In an open wide field, I placed the go pro on a tree. I walked with the Repeater and smartphone FPV and walked away from tree.
    Without repeater, the go pro had 25-30 meter (80-100 ft) of range. The video lagged about 1.5-2.0 seconds.
    With repeater it was 40-50 meters. The video also lagged about 2 seconds.
    All the Gopro settings still worked with out the FPV. I could still trigger the camera but could not see what I was framing.
    The lagging wasn't a problem as I don't fly far and always have the bird in visual range.
    The other issue was that you had to restart the app, to restore the FPV when back in range.

    The only way of improving this was to actually attach a repeater bridge to go pro and repeater bridge to phone. This would inherently be more costly than a 2.4ghz TX/RX solution and it will also weigh down the bird.

    Maybe the TL-WR703N Mini Portable Wireless Router 150N/G/B DD-WRT with a modified antenna (about $70) on the phantom and at the Smartdevice/phone end would work but I don't have the funds to test.
    http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/TP-Link-ENGL ... 41672ec792

    It was also time consuming to find an access point that was capable of being flashed with DD-WRT. It was also tricky to configure it work on IOS and android. I could not get the GO PRO App to work on the android as the app required static ip with netmask 255.255.255.0 because android uses prefixing for masking. It however worked on the IOS. You can set static IP 10.5.5.XXX on IOS with a subnet mask of 255.255.255.0 and the gopro's gateway of 10.5.5.9.

    So yes, it would work, but you would rather buy a 10 ft pole with a go pro with wireless remote.

    I hope I haven't missed something... if I have feel free to suggest a solution.
     
  9. mixstreme

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    viewtopic.php?f=27&t=29161

    Camera AV output from stock gimbal base and using stock TX - - No gimbal / camera control, but FPV works.