FPV Drone vs Normal Drone: Which One is Right for You? (6 Key Differences)

RCHobby Lab’s Author: Daniel Henderson
Reviewed by Kristen Ward
Updated on
Reviewed by Kristen Ward
fpv vs normal drone

When it comes to capturing footage from a unique perspective, drones are incredible tools.

Flying a regular consumer drone allows you to capture things from the air simply and quickly, but flying an FPV (First-Person View) drone will give you a thrill ride like nothing else.

But how do they stand against one another?

Well, I invited a friend of mine to join me on a trip to Iceland to help me sort out the difference between a regular drone and an FPV drone.

Keep reading!

The Short Answer

The winner of the normal vs. FPV drone debate depends on what you’re looking for.

– If you want to learn to fly quickly and are concerned about safety, price, and ease of maintenance, then a regular drone will get you there faster.

– If you want a drone that is an exciting, fast-paced and immersive flying experience and want to race with it, then the fpv drone is the best.

96c5af7a 42d3 4084 8e53 478dfaabe922.jpg

Normal Drones

2b3e4f7d daf2 47dc 86fc f913aeb9c52f.jpg

FPV Drones

The Learning Curve

50%

90%

Safety and Regulations

80%

60%

Speed and Stability

40%

60%

GPS Limitations and Battery Life

35%

50%

Cinematic Appeal

Video footage is captured without shaking and does not require post-adjustment

First person perspective is unique

Cost

Fully functional regular drones in the $800-$2400 range (accessories not included)

Fully kitted fpv drone at $1000-$2500 (includes goggles, controller, drone itself)

First, let’s clearly define what we mean by “normal” and “FPV” drones.

What is Normal Drone?

DJI Mini 3 Pro Normal drone
DJI Mini 3 Pro Drone

DJI is probably the most well-known drone manufacturer now.

So, the normal drones refer to popular consumer models like the DJI Mavic series (Mavic Air 2, Mavic 2 Pro, etc). I personally fly the DJI Mavic Air 2, and I’ve been thrilled with it over the past few months.

These Regular drones have an integrated camera and gimbal stabilized system, often with a 1-inch or larger image sensor for high-quality video and photos.

In terms of remote control, regular drones are flown using a dedicated remote controller. You view live video feedback from the drone camera on the controller screen or your smartphone attached to the controller. This allows you to compose shots visually while flying.

While DJI has also released two immersive flight fpv drones, the DJI avata and the DJI FPV drone, it’s core product remains traditional drones.

DJI all popular drone
DJI has released just two immersive experience drones: DJI Avata, DJI FPV.

Other than this, DJI and other brands have included advanced features in normal drones like obstacle avoidance sensors, automatic flight modes like Follow Me, and GPS-based functions like Return to Home.

These features allow new pilots to get in the air and capture professional-looking footage with a minimal learning curve compared to FPV drones. That’s why most people use drones like the DJI Mavic series for aerial photography and videography.

Overall, normal drones emphasize ease of use, safety, and integration in one ready-to-fly package.

Also Read: DJI Drone Buyer’s Guide in 2024

What is FPV Drone?

iFlight Nazgul Evoque F6 V2 FPV drone
iFlight Nazgul Evoque F6 V2 

FPV stands for first-person view. FPV drones take a completely different approach than normal camera drones.

First, rather than an integrated camera system, you mount an action camera like a GoPro to the chassis of the FPV drone. This keeps the overall weight low and allows for very fast speeds and acrobatic maneuvers.

Particularly with the recent release of DJI’s powerful O3 Air Unit system, you can get shooting effects comparable to GoPro at a minimal cost. It’s also currently the favorite high-definition digital system in the FPV community.

Second, to fly an FPV drone, you use specialized FPV goggles which give you a real-time first-person view from the drone’s camera while you fly. This immersive perspective makes you feel like you’re actually sitting in the drone cockpit!

FPV controls are manual and require constant adjustments to keep the drone stable and maneuverable. Therefore, you need a specific radio controller, and popular radio brands include RadioMaster, iFlight, JumperRC, among others.

Popular FPV controllers
Popular FPV controllers

I’ve thoroughly researched and reviewed these brands, and you can check them out here.

Also, FPV drones are typically custom-built racing drones or freestyle “cinewhoop” models meant for performing tricks and stunts. You won’t find advanced features like obstacle avoidance sensors on FPV drones, so they require a lot more skill to fly safely.

I recall my first attempt at flying an FPV drone, which didn’t go too well due to my lack of practice in a simulator.

To illustrate this, the following video tells how a YouTube influencer taught a beginner to fly an FPV drone in 4 hours, but it didn’t turn out as smoothly as hoped.

If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend you check it out.

To sum up – normal drones emphasize cinematic camera quality, automated flight modes, and ease of use. FPV drones offer a thrilling immersive flight experience through goggles, with manual control and high speeds for racing and acrobatics.

What is the Difference Between Normal and FPV Drone?

Now, let’s dig deeper into the key pros and cons of each drone type.

1. Comparison: The Learning Curve

fpv vs normal drone build your own
Building your own drone remains a challenge.

I’ve been flying FPV drones for 6 years and have shared my experiences with many beginners.

Initially, they think the biggest challenge is having to assemble the drone themselves. This was a problem I faced back in 2019.

However, many FPV manufacturers now offer ready-to-fly kits to address this issue, unless you’ve been in the field for a long time and want to DIY your own FPV drone.

For beginners, the real challenge was figuring out how to practice flying at a low cost. Yes, nobody wants their newly purchased quadrotor to crash.

Many experienced FPV pilots suggest starting with FPV simulators.

But this too requires a lot of time and effort, especially for content creators. To safely capture stunning photos and videos, you’ll need to practice for at least 40-60 hours.

On the other hand, learning to fly a regular drone is relatively easier due to their built-in stability and assistance systems. Plus, if you buy a DJI drone, their app includes a wealth of video tutorials.

👍 Winner: Normal Drones

2. Comparison: Safety and Regulations

different sensors on the dji drone
Many different sensors on the DJI drone.

When deciding between drone types, you also need to consider critical factors like safety and flight regulations.

There are some clear differences here:

  • Obstacle Avoidance – Normal drones integrate sensors to detect and avoid nearby objects automatically. This greatly reduces crash risks for beginners. FPV drones lack any safety sensors – it’s up to the pilot’s vision and skill to avoid obstacles.
  • Return to Home – GPS-enabled normal drones can automatically fly back and land if the control link is lost. An FPV drone will simply fall out of the sky if you lose video transmission, which often leads to crashes.
  • Geofencing – Normal drones have geographic limitations imposed by the manufacturer that prevent flying in restricted locations like airports. FPV drones can technically fly anywhere, but you assume full responsibility for staying clear of illegal airspace.
  • Visual Line of Sight – FPV goggles can make it hard to maintain a visual line of sight with your drone, as legally required in most countries. A spotter is recommended for safe operation. Normal drones show your drone position on a screen so line of sight is easier.
  • Insurance Availability – Major insurance companies like State Farm and Geico offer policies for common normal drones like the DJI Mavic. FPV drone insurance is harder to find and usually requires contacting a specialty provider.

The automated functions of normal drones provide an extra safety net, especially for beginners. But even experienced FPV pilots crash frequently. So make sure to take it slow and fly in wide-open areas to start.

In terms of regulations, normal drones will deliberately restrict where you can fly. FPV provides more flexibility but also more responsibility to understand and follow local laws.

👍 Winner: Normal Drones

3. Comparison: Speed and Stability

One thing that is absolutely amazing about FPV drones is their speed. Because you can fly up to 200 kilometers per hour, with the normal DJI drones, you can just fly something like 50 kilometers per hour.

So there’s a huge difference in that, and that gives FPV drones a huge benefit over normal drones because you can chase cars, you can chase boats, you can chase… Anything.

Check out the YouTube video shot by well known pilot Johnny.

However, this high speed can result in shaky footage; you have to use software that analyzes the gyro data. But for a regular DJI drone, the footage you get is completely stable.

You don’t need to make any movements.

👍 Winner: FPV Drones

4. Comparison: GPS Limitations and Battery Life

FPV vs normal drone battery life
1300mAh LiPo battery comparison

Another downside of normal DJI drones is GPS limitations because you can’t launch a drone if you’re in a no-fly zone. And with FPV drones, you can basically launch your drone from anywhere because it doesn’t have a GPS signal.

I’m not saying that you should launch your drone anywhere close to airports or something like that. You should always stay within the limitations of laws and respect them.

When it comes to battery life, DJI drones take the win, offering approximately 30 minutes of flight time compared to the few minutes that FPV drones offer.

However, FPV drones have a significant advantage when it comes to repairs. If a DJI drone crashes and something like the camera or gimbal breaks, you have to send it back to DJI for repairs, which could take weeks.

With FPV drones, you can readily access and replace parts as needed.

Whether it’s a normal drone or an FPV drone, my must-have accessory is an SD card holder. This handy tool saves your footage, and even if the drone is damaged, the footage can be salvaged.

👍 Winner: FPV Drones

5. Comparison: Cinematic Appeal

fpv drone cinematic comparison
Whether it’s a regular or a fpv drone, they make amazing videos.

One key consideration when choosing a drone is which one actually captures more cinematic-looking aerial video.

Is it normal drones or FPV models? This question is hotly debated, with good points on both sides. Let’s break down how each drone type lends itself to the “cinematic look”:

Benefits of Normal Drones for Cinematic Video

  • Stable Footage – The integrated gimbal ensures smooth, shake-free video straight off the drone. No stabilization is required in the post. FPV footage is often bumpy and needs correction.
  • High-Quality Camera – Larger sensors and higher bitrate video from Mavic Pro and similar camera drones maintain details and dynamic range better than small FPV cameras.
  • Automatic Camera Operation – You can maneuver the drone while it handles details like setting exposure, focus adjustments, framing, tracking objects, etc.
  • Slow and Steady – Normal drones make graceful, sweeping camera movements easy to orchestrate thanks to stabilized control and smooth throttle response. Achieving a “majestic” look is straightforward.

Benefits of FPV Drones for Cinematic Video

  • Immersive Perspective – The first-person feel of FPV can’t be matched by normal drone footage, lending shots a lifelike immediacy and dynamic motion.
  • Extreme Speed – While normal drones top out around 40mph, FPV models can hit 80+ mph. This lets you create unique action shots like racing footage and high-velocity close passes.
  • Agile Maneuvering – Tight spaces, proximity flying, flips, rolls, dives – FPV freestyle techniques add a playful energy and personality normal drones lack.
  • No Limits – The lack of geofencing restrictions means you can try risky shots like weaving through skyscraper gaps, under bridges, and inside abandoned buildings – opportunities that are impossible with locked-down normal drones.

Both drone types offer unique cinematic appeal.

The choice between the two ultimately depends on the story you want to tell and the emotions you want to evoke in your viewers.

👍 Winner: No

6. Comparison: Cost

All FPV drone cost
All My FPV drone

Pricing is another factor that may help decide between normal and FPV drones. Let’s compare costs for each type:

Normal Drone Cost

  • Drone: $500 to $2000+ – A fully featured normal camera drone will run you anywhere from $500 for a DJI Mini SE or Autel Nano, up to $2000+ for higher end models like the DJI Mavic 3.
  • Extra batteries: $100 to $200 – Figure around $100 per additional high-capacity Intelligent Flight Battery for Mavic series drones. Stock up on at least 2-3 extra batteries.
  • Accessories: $200 – Essentials like extra propellers, ND filters, battery hub charger, carrying case, etc will add a couple of hundred bucks.
  • Total: $800 to $2400+ – With drone, batteries, and accessories you’re looking at an $800 entry point minimum, up to $2400+ invested for a high-end rig.

FPV Drone Cost

  • Drone airframe: $100 to $300 – A basic 5″ freestyle or racing FPV drone frame costs $100 to $300 including motors. Cinewhoops run about $300 to $500 ready to fly.
  • FPV goggles: $300 to $600 – Fat Shark and SkyZone goggles cost between $300 and $600. Some starter box kits include goggles.
  • Video receiver: $100 to $300 – FPV receiver modules like the RunCam Phoenix cost around $100 to $300. Used to receive the camera video feed.
  • Controller: $100 to $300 – Radio transmitters start around $100. More advanced controllers go up to $300.
  • Batteries and charger: $150+ – 5” drone batteries are around $20 each. For a charger and 5 batteries expect to spend $150+. Get at least 10 batteries.
  • Camera + video transmitter: $300+ – A GoPro Hero 10 plus video transmitter module will set you back around $500. Can also use cheaper action cams like the RunCam 5 ($200).
  • Total: $1000 to $2500+ – Everything you need for a ready-to-fly FPV rig will run you $1000 on the low end, ranging up to $2500+ for high-end gear.

It’s comparable to a normal drone!

So, while an FPV drone itself can be cheaper, by the time you buy all the required gear your total investment may end up being very similar to a high-capability normal drone. Mid-range options exist for both types too.

One upside is it’s cheaper to repair and upgrade components of an FPV drone. Crashing or replacing an integrated normal drone camera will run you hundreds of dollars.

👍 Winner: No

Normal vs FPV Drones: Which is Best for You?

So, when it comes to choosing between normal and FPV drones, which is better for your needs? Here are some final recommendations:

Best for Beginners – Normal Drones

If you’re brand new to flying drones, normal consumer models like the DJI Mavic Mini 2 are the way to go. Their automated modes, safety features, and simplified controls mean you can pick up the basics quickly.

Just be sure to practice flying well clear of people, animals, buildings, trees etc at first!

Best for Experienced Photographers/Videographers – Regular Drones

The stabilized camera, long flight time, and integrated shooting modes makes normal drones a perfect aerial tool for seasoned media creators.

You can focus on getting great shots rather than drone control. Most commercial drone pilots use models like the DJI Mavic 2 and 3.

Best for Racing and Freestyle – FPV Drones

Experienced pilots wanting to dive into the fast-paced world of FPV racing and freestyle acrobatics need a capable FPV model.

Be ready to put in the flight simulator hours before taking the goggles off! This high speed style takes tons of skill.

Best for Thrilling Perspective – FPV Drones

The immersive first-person experience of seeing the world from an FPV drone is a one-of-a-kind thrill. Even casual flyers may enjoy FPV as a novel way to explore local landscapes and landmarks from the air.

Best for Creative Freedom – FPV Drones

FPV drones let you freely explore landscapes without geographic restrictions imposed by normal drone makers. You can attempt riskier shots too, albeit with the likelihood of frequent crashes.

If you hate creative limits, go with FPV.

Best All-Around Value – DJI Mavic Air 2

The DJI Mavic Air 2 (or 2S) offers the best balance of automated camera modes, portability, obstacle avoidance, flight time, and pricing. It’s a great entry-level drone for most flyers looking to enjoy and create beautiful aerial footage.

Also Read: The Best FPV Drones of 2024

Conclusion

Thanks for reading our in-depth guide to normal and FPV drones! We covered all the key differences in flight capabilities, cameras, features, and usage.

If you’re still unsure which drone is right for you after reading this guide, here are a few final tips:

  • Focus on your goals – What type of flying and filming do you ultimately want to do? Beautiful vacation travel shots? High-speed proximity flying? Cinematic reels? Race events? Your goals will help point to the best drone.
  • Try before you buy – See if you can try flying a friend’s normal or FPV drone first. Even better, find a store that offers demos. Hands-on experience will give you a quick sense of which drone you prefer.
  • Consider video quality – Do you plan to produce professional videos or mainly capture personal/social media footage? The higher video bitrate potential from FPV drones may appeal if quality is paramount.
  • Factor in learning styles – Normal drones are simplest to fly out of the box for beginners. But some learn best by diving into the deep end. If that sounds like you, FPV could be more rewarding despite the trickier initial learning curve.
  • Double-check local laws – Research drone and airspace rules for your area. Urban environments often have tighter restrictions. This may affect normal vs FPV drone choices.
  • Start small – A cheaper drone model lets you get the basics down without a huge upfront cost. The DJI Mini SE or a basic FPV kit are good starter options before investing in a higher-end rig.

Whether you’re a seasoned drone pilot or a beginner, the world of drone videography offers endless opportunities for creativity and exploration.

So, get out there, start flying, and capture the world from a whole new perspective!

Frequently Asked Questions

Still trying to decide between normal and FPV drones? Here are answers to some common questions about key differences between the two:

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Written By Daniel Henderson

My name is Daniel Henderson and I'm an avid FPV pilot and videographer. I've been flying quadcopters for over 5 years and have tried just about every drone and FPV product on the market. When not flying quads, you can find me mountain biking, snowboarding, or planning my next travel adventure.

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