How to Add GPS to FPV Drone?

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FPV (First Person View) drones have revolutionized the world of aerial photography and recreational flying, offering an exhilarating perspective through immersive real-time video feeds. 

While FPV drones are already impressive enough in terms of agility, integrating GPS technology can take their capabilities to new heights. 

In this guide, we delve into the exciting realm of GPS-equipped FPV drones, exploring the myriad benefits that GPS brings to these agile machines.

From enhanced positioning and stability to autonomous flight and safety features like Return-to-Home (RTH), we unravel the potential unlocked by adding GPS.

Betaflight is an open-source that was originally designed for multirotor. It’s unarguably the most popular firmware for First Person View drones, and luckily, configuring GPS in Betaflight is pretty easy.

The benefits of adding GPS to FPV drone

Integrating GPS technology into FPV drones introduces a myriad of benefits that elevate both the flying experience and the practical applications of these agile machines. Let’s delve into the advantages that adding GPS can bring to your FPV drone:

Enhanced positioning and stability

GPS-equipped FPV drones enjoy remarkable positioning accuracy, offering a stable flight even in challenging environments. This increased precision reduces the drift often associated with non-GPS drones, ensuring smoother flight trajectories and improved control during maneuvers.

Waypoint navigation and autonomous flight

GPS-enabled drones have the capability to follow pre-defined waypoints, offering a whole new level of autonomy. This feature is particularly useful for aerial photographers and videographers, allowing them to focus on capturing stunning shots while the drone autonomously follows the designated route.

Return-to-Home (RTH) functionality

Adding GPS enables you to unlock a crucial safety feature – the Return-to-Home function. In the event of signal loss or low battery, the drone can automatically navigate back to its takeoff point, preventing potential flyaways and ensuring a secure landing.

Geofencing and flight limitations

GPS technology enables geofencing, creating virtual boundaries that restrict the drone’s flight within a defined area. This prevents accidental flights in restricted or no-fly zones, enhancing safety and compliance with regulations.

Real-time telemetry and data logging

GPS-equipped FPV drones offer real-time telemetry data, providing insights into altitude, speed, distance, and more. 

This data can be crucial for analyzing flight performance, optimizing routes, and enhancing piloting skills. Additionally, data logging lets you review flight history, which, in turn, allows you to make informed adjustments for future flights.

The addition of GPS transforms FPV drones into versatile tools suitable for various applications. From cinematic aerial photography to search and rescue missions, GPS-equipped drones offer unmatched capabilities that extend beyond hobbyist pursuits.

Follow these steps to set up GPS in Betaflight Configurator:

1. Connect GPS to the flight controller

Establishing the connection between your GPS module and flight controller is the first thing you should do to add GPS to your drone.

For starters, connect your GPS module of choice to any available UART on the flight controller. As a rule of thumb, you’ll connect TX to RX and RX to TX. 

Afterward, power it with a 5V supply, and move on to the next step.

Contrary to common flight controllers, some controllers have 4V5 pads, which you can power using USB ports. This isn’t only easier to deal with, but it also prevents the video transmitter from overheating because you leave it unpowered while connecting the USB cable.

In cases where your FC has 5V pads powered by USB but labeled differently, you can use a multimeter to confirm their compatibility.

2. Ports tab setup

Navigate to the Ports tab within Betaflight Configurator. Here, you’ll need to specify the UART (Universal Asynchronous Receiver-Transmitter) port where your GPS module is connected. 

Choose the appropriate UART port from the list, then select the baud rate.

While selecting the baud rate, remember that a lower value like 9600 results in slower communication, while a higher value offers faster data transfer, reducing the time for coordinates acquisition. 

Alternatively, you can choose the automatic option, which sets the baud rate to 57600.

3. Configuration tab setup

After selecting the baud rate, go to the Configuration tab. Then, to enable GPS functionality, toggle the GPS Feature setting to ON. 

For optimal performance, activate the Auto Baud and Auto Config options. Next, select the AutoDetect option for Ground Assistance Type. 

During this step, remember to check the communication protocol your GPS module uses. Most modules either use NMEA or UBLOX because they’re the most popular protocols. However, if you’re unsure about your module’s protocol, try both options to determine compatibility.

4. GPS status and monitoring

Once you’ve correctly configured the settings and established communication between the flight controller and GPS module, the Configurator’s status bar will display an active GPS icon. 

By enabling expert mode using the small switch in the status bar, you can access additional information. This includes the GPS status, the number of received signals from satellites, and their signal strength. 

After that, your quadcopter’s location will visually appear on the map once it acquires a GPS position fix.

Tips for optimizing GPS performance with FPV drone

  • Choosing Suitable GPS Antenna Placement: Place the GPS antenna where it has a clear view of the sky to ensure optimal signal reception. Avoid interference from other components and structures on the drone.
  • Updating Firmware and Software: Regularly update both your GPS module’s firmware and your flight controller’s software. These updates often include enhancements to GPS-related features and overall performance.
  • Testing and Practice: Before venturing into critical missions, conduct test flights in controlled environments. Familiarize yourself with GPS-enabled functions, such as waypoint navigation and RTH, to ensure smooth and accurate operation.

Frequently asked questions

Final words

As technology continues to evolve, the pairing of GPS with FPV drones holds the promise of pushing boundaries and shaping the future of aerial exploration and creativity. 

Incorporating GPS technology into FPV drones introduces a realm of innovation and possibilities. From heightened positioning precision to autonomous flight capabilities, the advantages are abundant. 

As our guide has demonstrated, connecting GPS to your drone is an easy process, yet it unlocks highly beneficial features like waypoint navigation and higher stability.

While the notion of a “follow-me” mode may be limited in FPV drones, the overall potential for flight experiences and diverse applications remains undeniable.

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Written By Richard Hargrave

Hi I'm Richard. Since 2018, I've found my calling in the boundless sky, maneuvering everything from mini quadcopters to remote-controlled planes. Today, my favorite pastime is creating stunning commercial videos with FPV drones. I'm a drone instructor by trade, writer by passion.

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