2018: An end of the year update

Welcome to the first update in over a year. Topics covered:

  • Why I haven’t been more forthcoming about development status.
  • Development hell and an example of what the end of December looked like.
  • Specifications for fpv.blue’s 2.4 GHz version.
  • Timeline for the materialisation of the aforementioned product.

As a small introduction for people out of the loop, fpv.blue’s first version was on sale for a very short period at the end of 2017. No sale has been made since then and all of the efforts shifted into designing a second revision working on 2.4 GHz. By all of the effort I’m talking about a single person, the underwritten, working full-time starting from June 2018, which is 6 months and counting.

The Apology

fpv.red – I mean, .blue, was first announced as little more than a proof of concept – one that could fly, but nothing more than a proof of concept nevertheless. I had very little experience with electronics design and manufacturing and was relaying on the help of an external freelancer to help me with it. I had to learn how to solder those tiny resistors the hard way, damaging expensive boards. I barely knew anything about embedded software development and there too, employed external help for part of the codebase as I couldn’t fathom having enough time for it all (the initial code for the STM32F746 on fpv.blue’s first batch wasn’t written by me, even though I spent a lot of time on it before shipment).

All of this brought me to shipping a first batch in late 2017, in an economically unsustainable manner and with a technical result I’m not proud of. Learning from the wise people I had employed, I then started doing everything myself. I’m a perfectionist, so I had to let go from time to time, but I’m glad I went this route as I now have a 360 degrees view on the product and can in some of the cases work much more efficiently then when I had to coordinate with other people not physically around me. The end result of all of this integration, in my humble opinion, is phenomenal.

Anyway. Back to us. The way I had conducted .blue had to stop and did so just after shipping the first batch. I patiently collected my ideas for a second revision and waited until the end of my Computer Engineering degree at Trinity College Dublin in June of this year before jumping into developing FPV hardware full time again.

This time, I promised to myself, I wouldn’t have engaged prospective customers before I myself had the ability to commit to performances and timeline. I then went silent and had to watch people wondering if the project was dead, answering to them in my inbox, but seldomly doing so publicly.

A story of the last couple of weeks of December

As December arrived hardware development was pretty much completed and focus shifted on to software. I had a flight booked for the 24th of December, when I was planning on leaving for my parent’s home where I could test the results of my efforts in the real world. A few days before that, when it became clear I couldn’t make it, I moved my flight to the last day of December. The 24th of December would have ended up being the first day a video frame was making its way through the system, and I was going to spend Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve working. After that, a few hours worth of scheduled work turned into a week of kernel hacking (underperforming DMA hiccups and insane workarounds), the pattern repeated itself, and I finally moved my flight to the 4th of January.

Yesterday night, a bad move on a very messy workbench fried a voltage rail on the receiver and with it all of the associated chips. Magic smoke, old friend, we meet again. With DigiKey being closed for holidays on the first day of the year there was simply no way I could have gotten a replacement here before leaving.

I gave up.

I plan on taking advantage of my flight tickets to go see my family, and I will be back in the office on the 11th. I booked another flight this morning, from the 26th of January to the 1st of February and I cannot foresee any set of events where I don’t have data on the performance of the system by the time I come back.

.blue’s 2.4 GHz specifications

This is what the system is currently designed to do and to the best of my knowledge, it is true and accurate. It won’t be perfectly matching the product that is going to be actually released, but as of now, I have no reason to doubt any of this.

  • 2.4 GHz: Worldwide, legal operation.
  • Video, RC control and telemetry over the same radio frequency link. You will be able to stick the receiver at the back of your RC Radio and have it transmit the RC signal to the video transmitter.
  • State of the art sensitivity, up to -105 dBm for video (-110 dBm for control) in ultra long range mode. In full data bandwidth mode, video sensitivity is -95 dBm or better.  The system dynamically adjusts the link budget according to interference to provide the best tradeoff of quality and range.
  • 1080p @ 30 fps. This mode will be available both via the HDMI input and via a custom camera. The standard camera will be 720p.
  • Two video inputs, switchable in real time and connected with an extremely flexible, user replaceable cable of arbitrary length. The inputs can be two HDMIs, one HDMI and one camera, one FLIR and one custom camera, etc.
  • Real receiver diversity employing MRC (Maximal Ratio Combining) and advanced interference rejection.
  • Fast interference recovery, as low as 8 ms for a short interference burst.
  • Digital audio microphone on the transmitter going to the HDMI output at the receiver.
  • Glass to glass latency still at 50 ms or better when without interference, 40 ms or better with blueSync enabled.
  • Currently being debated: Analog video output at the receiver.

Target pricing will be of USD/EUR 180 for the transmitter, 260 for the receiver and from 30 to 90 for each video input.

 The next timeline

When I talk about the timeline for the “materialisation of the aforementioned product” I’m trying my best to subtly joke about a topic I find frightening. The last thing I want is to mislead people with wrong timing expectations. The follow is optimistic, but I believe I can do it.

  • January 11th – 25th: more software development, reaching a mature level as far as the radio frequency subsystem performances are concerned.
  • January 26th-February 1st: real world testing and results.
  • Beginning of February: test results publication and opening pre-orders.
  • February (2 weeks): receiver’s PCB size shrink and integration, sent for manufacturing.
  • February (1 week): video input subsystem/cable prototyping, required for the following transmitter PCB shrink
  • February (1 week) and March (1 week): transmitter HDI PCB shrink, prototype sent for manufacturing.
  • March (1 week): final receiver bringup. If everything green lights, begin bigger scale manufacturing of the receiver for the pre-orders.
  • March (1 week) final transmitter bringup. Just as above, if nothing goes poorly the final HDI PCBs can be sent for manufacturing.

Allow one month for manufacturing and more time for timeline slips and you get to the end of April 2019 for the first shipped preorders.

Thanks for reading.

February Update:

Unfortunately due to personal reasons I couldn’t work as much as I thought I could and the timeline above is now postponed by four weeks. I hope to have real world test results by the end of February.

30 thoughts on “2018: An end of the year update”

  1. Nice Update Davide, Thanks. Video, control and telemetry over same link all I can say is Crackin Toast Gromit.
    Take your time and dont be rushing anything,the naysayers can wait. Hate to be a PIA but I still think 900 mhz is still good for us old shites. Keep up the good work

  2. Good morning from Australia.

    Will the 2.4g product meet (Australian ) 2.4g specs.

    I look forward to seeing the final product.

  3. Keep up the good work. Although I am really sad we are going away from 1.3 I am glad to see you are moving forward.
    I didn’t read anything about your maximum range with the new system? Can we get a maximum range of 10 miles or longer?
    I suppose anything above 5 miles is acceptable.
    I look forward to being one of your customers.
    I still think you should do a Kick Starter.
    Im very proud of you and all the hard work you have done.
    P.S. I wouldn’t say a word if I wasn’t going to invest in your gear.

    1. I will publish real world test data as soon as I have real world test data 🙂 Ideally those numbers and better are very much achievable.

  4. very good news. specifications of the second party wonderful. it will would be desirable to learn in the future batches 900 or 1.3? Video, RC control and telemetry over the same radio frequency link – I correctly understand, the RC receiver is not necessary now?

  5. Thanks Davide for the update and your commitment to this project. As a Batch 1 owner, I will be looking forward to the buy new 2.4Ghz version! Keep up the good work!

  6. Been wondering what happened to you…. look forward to see whats to come. Was bummed i missed out on the last order. Keep up the good work!!!

  7. Would it not be best to focus on video rather than bolting on control/telem? We already have things like ezuhf, crossfire, dragon link for this sort of thing?

    1. A 2.4 GHz system requires a control channel to function properly. Building control/telemetry over it is just a very minor annoyance. You don’t have to use it, it’s just there.

      1. The RC control option is a very good idea! How many rc channels will be available?
        It will probably be the best system on the market. Good luck!

  8. Sounds awesome I was hoping for something like this. I look forward to it coming out. Like alot of others I am hopeful for more 1.3 or 900 versions for the extra range and penetration. Will it have mavlink output I want to hook it up to an antenna tracker?

  9. Reliable HD footage from a long range fixed wing platform is a logical next step for the FPV world and I want to echo some of the comments already made:

    – Keep up the good work, but don’t take too many shortcuts as most of us would rather wait for a quality product
    – Hope you take breaks along the way to maintain health and sanity
    – Keep us up to date with ways we can help fund your efforts (consider alternatives to Kickstarter so you can collect all funds received without needing to reach a goal)
    – Thank you for not giving up on this!

    Cheers!

  10. Hi Davide, im very impressed by your progress.
    For me, its a hobby, so im in no hurry. I will buy one set when its available. i wish you much succes and endurance in your endeavor.
    🙂

  11. Hello Davide,
    honestly I thought that the project was dad – great that it is not. Your product would be exactly what I am looking for.
    About the analog output on the RX side – in my opinion it would be a nice idea – for something like an additional monitor right on the RC Control or analog blackbox video recorder etc.

    Hang in there and keep up the good work!

    Best Regards from Germany,
    Lorenz

  12. So glad that this isn’t toast by now!
    Will you need to have directional antennae for 5 km range or will it be more or less omni-directional like DJI Mavic?
    Should probably be somewhat robust against us flying out of the ideal direction (such as when our racer flies accidentally out of the signal cone because the cone is narrow compared to the distance flewn by the aircraft within a few seconds…)

    Definitely looking forward to ordering that!

  13. Btw will your system support 3D vision by leveraging 2 cameras with 2 videofeeds which then can be viewed using stereoscopic vision?

  14. This is exactly how success stories begin. Any successful start up, anyone creating a new product (ESPECIALLY technology based) is the same, you will have to go through a re-birth, you have to sometimes hit rock bottom, think that’s it then stumble even further down, find some mental and physical strength and keep going. Passion will carry you through and I know you have that. At the end of the day, you will be thankful for it, believe me.

    Have others test the product before release. Including Bruce from RCModelreviews (I know he doesn’t do public long distance HD video tests – or never gets round to them, but ask for private feedback) and accept feedback with an open mind. All too many companies just rush a product out to market and develop a bad reputation that could be unrecoverable from (Insight 1 HD system from Foxtech for example). But things don’t have to be 100% perfect. Nothing is 100% perfect. Think of any new technology that has come out recently that is perfect… there is no such thing.

    A lesson I learnt was trust nobody, unless you have a contract with them and you treat it as purely business. As soon as you get popular everyone will want to suddenly come from nowhere to help. Or claim they were part of your success…

    You probably don’t know it but there are thousands of people counting on you, maybe tens of thousands all ready to hand over money for a solid product 😉

  15. I am still super excited, Thank you for your work! Legal frequenz and No need for 900mhz or 433mhz Radio Control, this will be awesome!

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