If you follow me and Brian on social media, you probably already know that one of our hobbies is flying FPV freestyle miniquads. I’ve designed traditional carbon fiber frames that I cut at home on my Shapeoko CNC, and also a 3D printed nylon frame. We’ve hosted quadcopter build classes at our local makerspace here in Plano, TX. Brian has done some crazy things, like adding a payload release mechanism to one of his bigger machines.

It is a lot of fun. I run into people at the park when I’m flying all the time, and most of these folks express interest. They always ask how much my gear costs, and how much it would take to get started.

Here’s the tl;dr: Just go buy the $165 EMAX TinyHawk Ready-to-Fly kit and a $25 6-pack of batteries. That’s everything you need to get started.

DEAL: It $165 seems too expensive, there’s a deal going on at Banggood for the next few days. The Eachine E010 micro drone is on sale for $15 shipped, and it comes with three batteries. It isn’t an FPV drone, so it has no camera. It is most definitely toy grade, but I’ve flown one, and it is a fun toy!

FPV isn’t a cheap hobby

You don’t have to spend a bunch of money to get started, but I feel it would be disingenuous to hook you with the reasonably priced starter kits, and then have to tell you how much you might spend once you’re hooked! I’m going to tell you about what I carry around when I go flying, and some of the things I have at home to support my fleet.

My battery charging setup cost around $150. The backpack I carry my quads around in costs $200. My FPV goggles and the video receiver module I use cost around $500. The radio transmitter I use with all my drones cost $180.

The parts to build one of my 5” miniquads cost about $450, and I carry three of those. Each battery for my 5” quads cost $25, and I carry 6 to 12 of them. It is normal for me to have around $2,000 worth of gear in my backpack.

I’m committed to the hobby. You don’t have to spend nearly as much as I do to have fun. I wouldn’t be surprised if fewer than 1% of the people flying have spent as much as I have. You could easily be out there getting juicy, high-definition freestyle footage with a $250 miniquad and a refurbished $100 GoPro Session.

FPV isn’t an expensive hobby

When I tell people about our hobby, I always compare it to my experience with golfing. You can buy all the entry-level gear you need to be flying a 5” freestyle or racing miniquad for about what a high-end driver would cost. There are a couple of Ping drivers on Amazon in the $350 to $600 range.

You don’t have to pay to rent a cart. You don’t pay greens fees. The gear costs money. Repairs cost money. Flying is free!

The EMAX TinyHawk

Until recently, I was bummed out every time someone asked me what they should buy if they want to get started. It has always been a game of balancing low cost, entry-level gear against the probability that you’d be upgrading it in six months.

You could always buy a $40 radio transmitter, but you can get good transmitters for $100 to $120, so it is almost silly to save money here. You’d be upgrading to the $100 transmitter pretty quickly!

You can get a usable set of box goggles for under $100, but a nice set of Fat Shark goggles with a nice diversity receiver module will cost anywhere from $450 to $700. Maybe you shouldn’t just right into the deep end there.

EMAX has made my recommendation so simple now. Just go out and buy the EMAX TinyHawk RTF kit for $165. It comes with everything you need to get in the air. The TinyHawk is an indoor, brushless, whoop-class FPV drone. It will fly outside, but a small breeze will carry it away, so be careful!

The kit includes the TinyHawk FPV drone, a set of box goggles, a radio transmitter (a.k.a. the controller), a 6-port charger, and one battery. Each battery is good for about 4 minutes of flight, so you should spend $25 on a 6-pack of batteries.

You’ll be flying around your house in no time, and I think this is just so stupidly awesome and amazing!

My first experience with an FPV miniquad was watching my new friend Alex make a few laps around the parking lot of our makerspace with his $600 Blade Vortex 250. It looked like fun, but it was going to cost a lot of money just to get in the air. I waffled for weeks before finally spending $230 on a radio transmitter and $70 on a toy drone, and it didn’t even have an FPV camera!

If the TinyHawk bundle was available on that day nearly three years ago, I would have been ordering one at Amazon before Alex even finished landing. $165 is down near impulse purchase territory. Spending $230 on a radio just to gain the ability to control something that I’ll have to spend another $250 to $300 or more on was much less appealing!

Simulators

There are plenty of drone racing simulators available, and you can use your TinyHawk kit with them. Using the TinyHawk kit with a simulator is a bit convoluted. You plug the TinyHawk into your computer, and you set the TinyHawk up to act as a gamepad using the Betaflight Configurator. It is a bit clunky, but it works, and your controller won’t be tethered to your computer while you fly.

There are free simulators, like FPV Freerider. The most popular simulator with drone racers seems to be Velocidrone. I fly freestyle, and I am a fan of Liftoff. Liftoff is $20 on Steam, and one of my favorite features of Liftoff is that it uses the same rate settings as your real FPV quadcopter.

Your rates define how the quadcopter responds when you move the sticks. Once you get accustomed to flying, you’ll most likely wind up tweaking these. Being able to try new rates in the simulator is quicker and easier than doing so on your real quad. Once you get them dialed in in Liftoff, you can plug the same settings into your real drone.

The simulator’s rates won’t feel exactly the same as your real quad, but they will be close. In fact, different quads won’t even feel exactly the same from one quad to the next. Real world physics tend to get in the way!

I bought the TinyHawk, and I’m sick of flying indoors!

Don’t worry. As of a few weeks ago, EMAX has you covered. They released a new model called the TinyHawk Freestyle. Let me tell you why I’m excited about the TinyHawk Freestyle.

It is stupid fast and powerful, but it comes in a tiny, lightweight, durable package. My $450 5” miniquads are much faster, but they’ll also do a ton of damage if you fly one into a car at 120 MPH. Your TinyHawk Freestyle probably won’t kill anyone, but you should fly it as if it can!

The TinyHawk Freestyle uses the same batteries as the original TinyHawk, although you will have to load up two batteries at a time. This is awesome, because you already have a charger and a boatload of batteries for your TinyHawk, and if you decide to buy more batteries, you can still fly them indoors on your original TinyHawk!

You can also use the Ready-To-Fly kit’s radio with the TinyHawk Freestyle. Supposedly. I haven’t done it myself, but the manual tells you how to do it.

I still prefer flying my 5” miniquad. You can think of it like the difference between a Ferrari and a go-kart. The Ferrari is a big, well tuned machine: fast, well tuned, and precise. On a big track, you will have so much fun, but all you have is a tiny parking lot. In that situation, the go-kart will be so much more fun!

You need a pretty big space to fly 5” miniquads. I can race my TinyHawk Freestyle up and down the street in front of my house.

The TinyHawk freestyle is an amazing little machine for only $105. This is another thing I would have loved to have been able to buy three years ago!

Am I going to outgrow the TinyHawk drone, the radio, or the goggles?

The good news is that your original TinyHawk will be relevant for a long time. I’ve been flying for three years, and I still enjoy setting up a track and ripping a dozen packs in the house. It is a lot of fun, and it is a good way to get your fix when the weather just isn’t cooperating!

You will outgrow the radio controller and goggles.

The TinyHawk bundle’s controller is a toy. It isn’t all that precise, and it doesn’t feel anywhere near as good as an FrSky X-Lite or Taranis X9D+. The radio is the first thing you’ll want to upgrade, and I would think about doing it before adding the TinyHawk Freestyle to your fleet.

You won’t outgrow the goggles as quickly. If you took my $500 Fat Shark goggles with their ImmersionRC RapidFire module off my head and replaced them with the EMAX goggles, I would be able to fly just fine. Sure, I’d really miss the better reception with my RapidFire module, but I would fly just as well.

You can hang onto those goggles for a long time. When you finally do upgrade, you can let your friends use your old box goggles to spectate while you fly!

Conclusion

Five years ago, you would have been spending almost $1,000 and building your own miniquad if you wanted to fly FPV. Three years ago, you could have done it for around $500.

I’m excited, because today you can spend less than $200, and you will be zipping around your house with your own FPV drone in just a few minutes. If you pick up a 6-pack of extra batteries, you’ll be able to fly for about 30 minutes without needing to wait for batteries to charge!

What do you think? Are you interested in FPV, but you don’t know how to get started? Do you already own a TinyHawk or another brushless whoop? Do you prefer the Newbeedrone Acrobee bundle? Let me know what you think in the comments, or stop by our Discord server to chat with us about it!