Install a FPV camera on Donkey Car

One day in a donkey car meetup, my friend Ally brought a Makerfire VR008 Pro FPV Headset and a Crazepony FPV camera with her. She is thinking to drive the Donkey Car from a first person view instead of a third person view. I never came across these two interesting FPV kit before so I am very interested. I think it is a brilliant idea and I followed her idea to install the FPV on my Donkey Car. This is how it looks like:


The FPV camera could be easily attached on top of the Donkey Car cage. However, how to power the camera is an issue. The input voltage required for the camera, according to the spec, is 7.4V~14.8V. We can either

  1. Use a small 2S LiPO battery as a power source
  2. Connect the camera to the PCA9685 Servo Driver
  3. Connect the camera to the battery of the Donkey Car

For (1), it is too clumsy to carry another battery on the car so I don't like it. 

For (2), I tried connecting to the PCA9685 Servo Driver which provides a 5V output and it was alright until I make a left or right turn. As the servo is drawing power from the ESC, the power is disconnected intermittently.

For (3), probably this is the most elegant approach if you are using a LiPO battery on the car. (The default Donkey Car starter kit is using a NiMH battery due to battery shipment restriction). However, the cable comes with the camera is not long enough to connect it to the battery. As shown in the picture below, I used an extension cable to connect the camera to the 5V converter input terminal to draw power directly from the battery. When I don't want to power on the FPV camera, I just disconnect it from the extension cable, which is quite handy.


Note: The camera could get really hot after a few minute of operation. Don't touch the camera or you may burn yourself. 

As for the goggle, it is just very straightforward. Turn it on and use the auto-scan function to search for the right channel. One good thing about this FPV goggle is that it allows you to put a SD card into it and you could save the live feed to a video file.

The experience 

It is fun, super fun, especially for kids. Obviously it is much more exciting than the third person view that we used to drive our car. On the other hand, it is not as difficult as you imagine. At first I think it would be quite difficult to drive the Donkey Car from a first person view but actually it is quite easy once you run a few laps. Here is a video I drive the Donkey with the FPV headset on.


Way forward

Recently there is a startup in Hong Kong featuring driving a RC model car from a first person angle.  I am hugely inspired by this idea and I am thinking about how we can race the Donkey Car by using a FPV camera connected to, say, a 65" TV. While the driver is having fun just like he race any traditional RC car, at the same time the Donkey Car is learning the best driver how to drive on the track. It would be quite interesting.

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