E-flite FPV Vapor RTF with headset



By Terry Dunn.
Put yourself in the pilot’s seat.
Onboard camera footage.
Full review in the Spring 2015
Park Pilot.


Specifications

Type: Ultra micro
Skill level: Beginner
Wingspan: 14.8 inches
Length: 15.3 inches
Weight: .86 ounces
Price: RTF with headset $449.99; BNF without headset $189.99
Info: horizonhobby.com


Features

• Completely built, flight-ready airframe
• SpektrumVS1100 ultra micro FPV system
• Fat Shark Teleporter V4 headset with digital head tracking
• Full-color QVGA 320 x 240 LCD headset displays
• Ultra-lightweight, film-covered carbon fiber airframe with modular construction
• No FCC license required


Pilot's Choice Product Review

FPV (First-Person View) flying has captured the attention of many modelers. It is fun to pilot a model airplane with a view from the “cockpit.” However, many aspiring FPV pilots back away when the time comes to choose the components of an FPV system. They are unfamiliar devices to many of us.

Many take a step back when they realize that most FPV equipment requires an FCC amateur radio license to operate (although the license isn’t difficult to earn). The E-flite FPV Vapor addresses both of those concerns by providing a ready-to-fly model with a fully integrated, license-free FPV system.

The FPV Vapor is built around E-flite’s flagship indoor model. Other than the addition of the necessary FPV gear, it appears that nothing else has been changed about the Vapor’s proven design. The airframe is a study in airworthy minimalism, featuring carbon-fiber rods, a few plastic parts, and thin Mylar covering.

The receiver, ESC, and both servos are integrated into a single tiny circuit board. A one-cell 150 mAh LiPo battery powers the radio equipment, the onboard FPV system, and the geared, brushed motor.

The FPV Vapor’s most impressive feature is the combination camera and video transmitter. By my calculations, this device weighs only 7.5 grams—pretty amazing if you ask me. The unit is mounted on top of the wing. E-flite mitigated the detrimental effects of the lens looking through the propeller arc by using a clear plastic propeller.

This model is available in two packages. The RTF (Ready-to-Fly) version reviewed here includes absolutely everything you need to fly and enjoy FPV, including the Fat Shark Teleporter FPV goggles. The BNF (Bind-N-Fly) version omits the radio transmitter and goggles. You can link any four-plus-channel DSM2 or DSMX transmitter. To take advantage of the onboard camera, the BNF package also requires a 5.8 GHz video receiver with goggles or a screen.

The FPV Vapor comes completely prebuilt, so my first task was to begin charging the batteries for the airplane and goggles. A USB charger is included for the flight battery, while an AC charger is provided for the goggle’s two-cell 760 mAh LiPo battery.

I read through the manual while the batteries were charging. Although it seems like a lot to read, the manual is printed in four languages, so you can quickly cover its contents. Even if you’re an experienced Vapor pilot, you’ll want to read up on the FPV system.

After the batteries were charged, I checked the center of gravity and found that I had to slide the battery tray forward slightly to get the correct balance. I also noticed that a tab on the ESC side of the battery plug interfered with the fit of the connectors. I bent the tab back slightly and everything snapped into place. I also verified that both of the control surfaces moved in the proper directions. All of the factory settings were correct.

My first few flights with the Vapor were made without the goggles. This let me get used to the airplane and make trim adjustments without the additional concentration that FPV flying requires. Although the Vapor is intended for indoor flying, it also does fine outdoors when the air is still.

In many ways, the FPV Vapor flies like my standard Vapor. Full throttle gets the airplane off the ground in a short distance and hand launches are no problem. As befitting an indoor airplane, everything happens in slow motion—slightly faster than walking speed. On high rates, the Vapor is very responsive, swapping directions effortlessly. Low rates tone things down slightly, but the airplane is easy to fly either way.

I noticed a few differences in flight performance between the FPV Vapor and the legacy model. Although the FPV equipment adds only 7.5 grams, that’s a 60% increase to the original 12.5 gram airframe. My original Vapor cruises easily at half throttle, but the FPV Vapor requires roughly three-quarters throttle to maintain altitude. Climb performance is noticeably muted as well. It has adequate power to fly, but I think the FPV model needs a little more “oomph” to be considered sporty. I usually get 5- to 6-minute flights on the stock battery.

Although I typically prefer standard-size transmitters, I found the smaller unit included with the RTF version comfortable to use. The radio has all of the functionality that I require for such a simple model, so I don’t have a compelling reason to link the Vapor to any of my larger Spektrum transmitters. Plus, I like the idea of having an inexpensive, dedicated transmitter that I can keep in the Vapor’s box for last-minute outings.



The RTF version of the FPV Vapor includes all the equipment that you will need for indoor FPV flight, and no FCC license is required.





FPV flying is a lot of fun and the FPV Vapor provides a low-stress way to learn its nuances.





The FPV Vapor flies happily in calm air, whether indoors or outdoors. The weight of the FPV system makes it less nimble than earlier Vapor models.


There has been much talk recently about the legalities of FPV flying and the AMA’s efforts with the FAA to produce a reasonable outcome. No matter how things unfold, it’s unlikely that indoor models such as the FPV Vapor will be affected. FAA rules do not apply to any airspace within a building, so the future of indoor FPV seems bright.

It doesn’t matter how much “regular” RC flying experience you have; FPV is a different kind of experience and requires a few unique skills. There will be times when there is disagreement between what your eyes are seeing, what your ears are hearing, and what your body is feeling. Being able to reconcile those differences and fly the airplane is key to enjoying FPV. Some pilots are able to quickly make the necessary adjustments, while others need more time.

The slow flying speed of the FPV Vapor makes it a good vehicle to introduce the nuances of FPV. Just as when you initially learned to fly RC, having a forgiving and predictable airplane makes learning easier and less stressful. Even if you happen to bounce off of a wall or basketball hoop, the model is so lightweight that damage is unlikely.

Another challenging aspect of FPV flight is the limited situational awareness afforded by the view through a small camera lens. Sometimes, you can’t see an obstacle until it is too late to avoid it. The best way to overcome this limitation is to have someone spot for you while you fly.

I was initially concerned that the relatively low resolution of the Vapor’s video system (320 x 240 pixels) would make the image in the goggles fuzzy, but that has not been the case. As long as I adjust the brightness and contrast to complement the lighting where I’m flying, I get a clean image that is easy to follow. I have also flown the FPV Vapor with Skyzone brand 5.8 GHz FPV goggles and had no problems with clarity or reception.

The stock Fat Shark Teleporter goggles offer a digital head-tracking feature. Rather than articulating the camera to alter your view, the system crops the full-size image and pans/tilts the viewable area as you move your head. It is a neat feature, but I prefer to fly with the normal, wide-view display setting.

If the FPV bug is biting you, the E-flight FPV Vapor RTF is an ideal model to begin with. It includes everything you’ll need to get started. You can try out this fun activity without worrying about an FCC license, FAA complications, or what components to buy. Like the other Vapor models, the FPV Vapor is an easy flyer and a lot of fun.

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