Today I am going to show you how to build yourself a pair of FPV Goggles on the cheap using whatever scrap materials you having laying around.
But first off, please read this entire tutorial first before purchasing anything. The main objective here is to use as much scrap materials/spare parts you have just laying around as possible. I do post a lot of links to purchase individual materials, but these are just in case you are missing something and have no suitable replacement. Remember Tony Stark’s first Iron Man suit he built in a cave? Ya, this is going to be something like that. Now, back to the tutorial.
For this specific build, I used the screen off my JXD 509G. So these exact instructions should work with any 5.8G screen from JXD (like the 510G or 506G) as it looks like they all use the same screen. But in theory, you should be able to apply these instructions to any drone that has a separate/removable receiver screen. Even a mobile phone, for those of you using a MJX X600 with a WiFi Camera.
Mod Difficulty: Intermediate
Mod Time: 4 to 8 Hours (depending on how OCD you are)
The most important part of this build is a good Fresnel lens. There are a few other guides out there on the Inter Webs, but most use a credit card Fresnel lens. Though a credit card sized Fresnel lens works, I found it too small to be practical. And I just happed to have a rather large Fresnel lens that has been sitting in my garage collecting dust that I salvaged from an old school overhead projector about 20 years ago. I was impressed at how powerful it was when used to
burn ants start a camp fire, compared to a traditional magnifying glass. But I have never really had a use for it until now, as I grew out of burning things with it don’t really go camping these days and always have access to a lighter or matches.
I will be honest, this build took some serious MacGyver skills, as the other online tutorials I found generally use some ski goggles, of which I did not have or could find on the cheap on short notice.
First, what do you need to build these?
What you need.
So here is a quick list of supplies you will need to build your own DIY FPV Goggles. Please note, I have provided links to purchase some of the supplies online, should you not have anything suitable laying around or easily obtainable through local resellers. But again, the goal here is to purchase as little as possible, if anything at all.
|7 inch Fresnel Lens Set (better for LCDs)
Buy Now: $7.29 from BangGood
5 inch Fresnel Lens Set (better for Mobile Phones)
Buy Now: $729 from BangGood
Please Note: These are not the exact same lenses/lens I used. I could not find replacement Fresnel lenses for overhead projectors anywhere online except from eBay. Though I have not used this set, it looks like it would be a better fit. You should be able to adjust the measurements of the build so you don’t have to cut these lenses. I think the 7″ lenses should be better for FPV screens, whereas the 5″ lenses would be a better fit for mobile phone. What did you use and how did it work out for you?
|Elmer’s Black Poster Board
Buy Now: $11.11 from Amazon
If you want to go all black, this is what I used. Otherwise, recycled cardboard works just fine. Or, go crazy and use some spray paint.
|3M Black Duct Tape
Buy Now: $6.97 from Amazon
Again, I wanted to go all black, and I had some black duct tape in stock already.
|Elastic Head Strap
Buy Now: $8.00 from BangGood
Use an old garter belt, the head strap from some old ski goggles, or some good old elastic bandage. Whatever works best for you. I had an old head strap laying around from a broken head mount flashlight. Got nothing? Well you can try to use these.
|6-32 x 1/2 inch Nuts and Bolts
Buy Now: $5.46 from Amazon
You need 4 matching nuts and bolts to hold the Fresnel lens together if you are using an overhead projector lens like me. If you are using the lens set from BangGood, then these are not necessary.
|1/4″ x 1/2″ Foam Tape
Buy Now: $3.27 from Amazon
Any foam tape or weather seal should do.
|1-1/2 inch D Rings
Buy Now: $2.49 from Amazon
If you are making your own head strap, you will need some way of attaching it to the goggles. I used some D Rings for this purpose.
Then, here are some of the tools you will need.
Micro Phillips Head Screw Driver (Plus Driver)
Precision Knife (X-Acto Knife)
Straight Edge Ruler (Not for measuring, but for drawing and cutting straight lines)
Then, if (and only if) you are using an Overhead Projector Lens, you will need a Cordless Drill and Saw. I used a HackSaw in my build. But this turned out to be a messy and time consuming, plus the hacksaw damaged the lens. Instead, I would recommend using a Dremel Rotary Tool or similar cutting tool.
Got everything you need? Fantastic! Now, let’s get back to the build.
The Prototype Goggles are just a PoC (Proof of Concept) to see how feasible this build would be using the Fresnel lens from an overhead projector. So this build is going to be rough around the edges until I start with the Beta Goggle build.
First you will need to remove the Sun Shield from the screen. You can see there are 6 screws total. Please note that the bottom middle screw is shorter than the rest.
Here you can see all six screws with the short screw in the bottom center.
Once you have removed the back cover, you can see 3 of the 5 tabs you will need to eject to remove the Sun Shield. Please note, you will need to remove the two screws at the bottom to get access to the remaining two tabs.
Here is what the screen looks like after the Sun Shield is removed. You can see the five slots where the tabs attached to the screen.
Next I had to determine how far the Fresnel lens had to be away from the screen and how close I could be to the lens to make the goggles as short as possible while giving me the biggest viewing area as possible. After much trial and error, I found that the Focal Length of the lens is approximately 9cm (3.5 inches), so you need to position the lens 9cm away from the screen, which just happened to be about the width of a hard drive.
This lens is actually two separate Fresnel lenses, sealed together along the edge. So there is a pocket of air trapped in the middle between the lenses. Also, this lens has a Positive Meniscus shape to it. With the top lens being convex in shape, and the bottom lens being concave in shape. I tried positioning the lens with the convex side facing the screen vs. the convex side facing me, and found I got a much better picture with the convex side facing me.
Here you can see that using a positive meniscus lens actually removes a lot of the Full-Frame Fisheye Effect you experience when using wide angel lenses.
Next up, I started building a box around the screen so I could mount the screen to the Fresnel lens. Please note, you will need to cut out areas for the antenna, on/off switch, charging port, and mounting clamp.
I built a box using some recycled cardboard, to position the lens 9cm away from the screen. I attached the screen to the Fresnel lens using some duct tape as this is just a prototype build. Just something quick and easy.
Then, on the other side of the lens, I used some more card board to start shaping the area that would sit flush against my face. Notice how I cut the cardboard to allow me to fold/mold it into a more curved shape to sit flush on my face. Again, this took a lot of trial and error to get the shape of the cardboard to match my face.
Once I was satisfied with the shape and feel of the goggles, I covered the headpiece with duct tape to hold the shape/form.
Here you can see how I had to shape the goggles to accommodate my large Polish nose.
Here you can see how I kept the nose piece from bending back up/out.
After some final adjustments, I was very satisfied with the outcome. So I took them to the park to get an opinion from my friends. Here you can see one of my friends testing the goggles while I flew LoS. As this was shot using the 808 #16 D lens, skin tones turn blue, while anything blue turns orange. Sure, it makes you look like an Andorian enjoying the orange skies of Planet Vulcan, but other than that, it is pretty cool/fun. As these were just a PoC, I opted out on a head strap during the prototype build. So you needed to hold them up the entire time.
I ended up making a mistake though, and learned a huge lesson here. After we were done testing the goggles, I placed them on the park bench with the screen down and the lens facing straight up. Normally not a problem with all of my indoor testing. But this was outside around high noon. Remember how I told you how impressed I was with the lenses ability to burn stuff? Ya, all of the sudden I could smell burning plastic. Luckily I caught it fast enough before it did any serious damage. It only ended up burning a hole in the plastic bezel and missed all the vital components. You will see the battle damage in a few pictures below.
So now on to building the Beta Goggles.
Here I will give a lot more detail on the actual build, as this is more of a final version. I wanted something that looked a little more professional and I wanted to see how far I could take this, so I opted to purchase some black poster board. If money is an issue, I don’t recommend this. After all, my main goal was to build something from scratch using as little or no money as possible.
So first off, I measured the screen at 13.7cm x 10.4cm. Here you can see the battle damage I received at the park. If this was just a centimeter more to the left it would have hit the LiPo, and that would not have been a good day.
So next I cut two pieces that were 13.7cm x 9cm, and two pieces that were 9.5cm x 9cm.
Notice I have the wider pieces overlap the thinner pieces. I then used some regular scotch tape to hold the pieces in place. At this point in time, I am only working on the main frame for the goggles. As I plan on making the screen removable, I do not attach/tape the screen to the main frame.
Next I work on finding the exact center of the Fresnel lens. As this lens is comprised of two separate layers, I want to make sure to join both pieces together before I actually cut out the shape that I need. With the help of some scotch tape, and eyeballing the rest, I find the center of the lens, and position the base frame I just built over it. I then use a sharpie to trace around the edges of the main frame. Finally, I drill a hole in every corner, and use a nut and bolt to secure the two layers of the lens together. Only, after feeling overly confident with cleanly drilling the first three holes, I press a little too hard on the final hole, and end up splitting the plastic. Though this is not really the end of the world for this build, as the crack is only in the corner and out of your main field of view.
Here is a quick view of the crack from the other side.
Just to make sure I don’t loose any bits while cutting the lens, I went ahead and covered the crack with some scotch tape for good measure.
Finally, after about 30 to 60 minutes of cutting away with a dull hack saw, I have the shape I am looking for. Though I did end up chipping off a little extra on the top right and bottom left of the lens. Not to mention the crack that split from the bottom right to almost the center of the bottom layer of the lens. Surprisingly, none of these cracks or splits made any significant difference in the final image. Though I would suggest using something other than a hack saw to cut the lens. Like maybe a Dremel Rotary Tool,or a lightsaber, whatever you have laying around.
To attach the lens to the main frame, I had to cut away some poster board from the corners to make space for the nuts and bolts. I then used some more scotch tape to attach the lens to the main frame.
As I was pleased with the outcome of the prototype goggles, I salvaged the original face piece. Which I basically taped back to the convex side of the lens. I then added a second layer of poster board to the top and bottom of the goggles. Again, I stuck with the default 13.7cm wide, and this time I went 16cm long. Notice how I let the poster board stick out about 1.2 to 1.3cm from the original main frame. This is to allow the screen to sit nice and snug inside the goggles. You will see more on that later. Also, again I used scotch tape to attach the second layer of poster board to the goggles.
Here you can see where I had to cut out a place on the bottom piece of poster board to make room for the nose piece.
Here you can see the top of the goggles, with the second layer of poster board coming all the way to the edge of the face piece. The crack looks pretty bad from this angel. But when viewing the lens at a 90° angle, you barely notice it, if at all, especially during use.
Now back to the main frame. Here you can see I am continuing my second layer of poster board on the sides of the goggles. I basically just laid the goggles down on their side on top of a piece of poster board, then traced the goggles, including the head piece. A few cuts with an X-ACTO knife and I had a custom fit.
Here you can see the second side layer of poster board on the right side of the goggles. Attached to the main frame using some scotch tape. But custom fit to cover the entire right side.
I repeat the above step to adhere a second layer of poster board to the left side of the goggles. Then you need to cut out some space for the antenna, power switch and charging port, and finally the transmitter mount. I suppose you could cut the transmitter mount off the display itself if you don’t plan on re-attaching it to the transmitter. But I did not want to go this far as I actually have a second display. So I charge them both and use one at a time in the goggles. More on that later.
Next I start to attach the top of the head piece to the main frame. I cut small strips of duct tape to slowly shape and attach the head piece to the main frame. This allows me to achieve a very flush three dimensional shape.
Here is a shot of the top of the head piece from lower angle, so you can see how it looks from the inside.
And a quick shot from the side.
Now on to the bottom half of the face piece. I had to open the nose piece a little wider to accommodate the size of my nose. And began shaping and molding the bottom with the same small cut strips of duct tape to maintain a nice flush fit.
A quick shot of the nose piece from the bottom. I think this is the best shot that shows just how important using thin small strips of duct tape are, as opposed to using one continuous piece of tape.
Next I attach some foam weather stripping to provide a bit of cushion and comfort.
Notice how I cut the bottom of the face piece off at an angle to minimize the overall footprint of the goggles for a more comfortable fit.
A quick shot of the bottom of the goggles, showing the weather stripping as well as the notch cutout in the front to accommodate the screen’s mounting clamp.
Then a shot from the top.
Last shot of the face piece straight on, before I build/attach the head strap, and finally button everything up.
Next we move on to the head strap. In this build, I reused an elastic strap from an old head mounted flashlight. I bought the two D-Rings from a local arts and crafts store. I was able to strap one D-Ring in by just weaving the strap around it. Then for the top D-Ring, I had to actually sew it in.
First I had to poke a couple of holes in both sides of the goggles.
Then I fed a zip tie through the inside of the goggles to prevent it from cutting through the cardboard.
Here is the zip tie going through the plastic straight bracket on the inside of the goggles.
Then here is a shot of the head strap attached.
Then a better shot of the side, with the final layer of duct tape.
To hold the screen in place, I used some spare strips of Velcro Tape.
Here is the Velcro Tape holding the screen in place.
This is what they look like from the top. Notice I covered all the little strips of tape forming the face piece with a final layer of duct tape.
And this is what they look like from the bottom.
The final shot with the antenna attached.
The goggles with screen attached weigh in at 454 grams (1 pound even).
Now, time to have some fun!
So all in all, I think this project was well worth it. It was fun and educational at the same time. Now the question is, are you up for building a pair?
This is not the final version of this post. I just wanted to get something up sooner rather than later, as I have been working on this post little by little over the past month or so. So there will be more updates/revisions to come.
Do you have any questions, comments, or suggestions? Please leave them below and I will get back to you as soon as possible.