Relatively new to the market, the Rapidfire is a FatShark compatible goggle module from Immersion RC that features some highly sophisticated software that is able to squeeze the best possible video from our quads analogue system. We will be taking a look at this in detail and deciding if it really is an improvement on the markets current offerings.
What Makes it Special
A typical diversity module features two separate receivers and uses a switching algorithm to always use the one with the strongest signal. What makes Rapidfire special is it's software which instead of switching between the modules, combines the images in real time along with some clever techniques in order to build the clearest possible picture.
How it works is a bit of a secret however Immersion RC have called it 'Analogue Plus'; here's how they describe it:
Not ‘just’ a diversity module, but a module that has intimate knowledge of analog video signals. A module that can repair the damage caused as the 5.8GHz analog signal bounces around the environment. The rapidFIRE module fuses images together, predicts noise before it is visible, rebuilds analog signals to avoid tearing, rolling, and dropped DVR frames, all with zero added latency.
This is more than Analog, but not Digital, so we called it ‘Analog Plus’.
This all sounds very clever and exciting but the big question is does it actually make a difference?
The answer to the previous question is a resounding yes! The Rapidfire really shines in high multipathing environments. This means anywhere with lots of obstacles like dense areas of trees or near any structure that would typically be very noisy is now very clean and seamless. The picture honestly feels more comparable to an onboard DVR with small hints of noise disappearing very quickly leaving you completely undistracted and able to focus on flying.
In open environments performance is good but not noticeably better than regular diversity modules such as the Furious True-D. Improvements are noticeable however when passing behind odd trees especially those with lots a leaves that normally give a distracting amount of breakout.
Race conditions I would typically describe as a small open area with six pilots all flying on 25mW all very close together. In these situations the Rapidfire did a great job of locking on to my signal and rejecting interference from others. If you've ever raced you'll be familiar with the noise and issues with video most pilots see as they take off from the starting blocks. The module handled this great and I'd strongly recommend it for racing.
It was interesting to note that the majority of pilots at the indoor I Series Championships in the NEC recently opted to use a Rapidfire module over a Clear View system.
I could spend a while describing all the features of the Rapidfire however this article would be huge! Here is a quick outline of what the module operates:
The unit offers a simple single joystick control system with a small OLED display. The menu is as simplistic as it can be allowing quick and simple changes without needing to read the manual.
The mains screen shows your selected band and channel, you can use the joystick to change either of these or move to the other menu options. It's simple and in practice works nicely however is a little strange to use at first.
Rapidfire has some compatibility issues with some cameras, to fix it they offer Rapidfire Mode 1, 2 and legacy. These ensure you are always able to have a working setup however all of my cameras appeared to be compatible by default.
You can select which antennas are active in order to conserve power or even turn them both off. Even when using one antenna I found the performance of the Rapidfire impressive.
This allows you to scan the entire range in order to find you or your flying buddies channel even if you have no idea what they are on. This works but I then find it tricky to then select that channel based on the search. This is something the True-D nails perfectly.
Lost Model Finder
Using an RSSI bar and a series of beeps you can track down a fallen quad. This actually worked really well listening to the beeps in a hotter or colder kind of method and was really easy to use.
This is possibly the best feature of the Rapidfire menu system. The module will actually show you a complete list of channels along with RSSI bars on the in goggle view. This is by far my favourite way to select channels with the Rapidfire and is such a luxury compared to taking off the goggles and then checking the feed to make sure that it is yours.
I would however say that entering the osd is confusing and you can sometimes find yourself changing settings by accident whilst trying to get the osd to appear.
What You Get in the Box
Inside the box you will find:
- The Rapidfire module itself prefitted to the FatShark Dominator style red cover plate.
- An additional cover plate that fits the FatShark Attitude series goggles.
- An external power supply board and ribbon cable that can be used in place of goggle modifications in older FatShark goggles (see below).
- Stickers to cover the ribbon cable should you use it across the goggles in red, black and white along with a sticker for a Spironet patch antenna.
So really everything that you would need to get the module set up and installed in any compatible FatShark goggle but what is this goggle mod I've mentioned?
Well it turns out that the Rapidfire module draws a lot of power and only recent FatShark Goggles such as the HDOs and Attitude V4s have been designed to send enough power to the module bay.
This means that older goggles such as the HD2, HD3, Dom V3 etc will need to power the module in a different way.
Luckily we have two options available with one being particularly easy for anyone and the over involving some basic soldering which is even approved by FatShark. If either of these seem a bit too much for you Immersion RC will even do the mod for you providing you are happy to send them your goggles.
I run Dominator SE goggles which are not capable of running the module without a mod.
Power Mod Options
Both options are straightforward and well documented.
Option One - Ribbon Cable
The easiest way to power the module is via the included supply board and cable. All you need to do is plug the included board into your goggles head tracker port and then use the ribbon cable across the front of your goggles to connect it to the Rapidfire. The included stickers can then be used to hide and protect the extra cable.
The great thing about this mod is that you don't even need to open the goggles and everyone should be able to run Rapidfire safely and with no hassle. Of course having the ribbon cable across the goggles is a little inconvenient but you could always run it internally if you felt up to the job.
Option 2 - Bridge Inductors L1 & L10
I have already done the power button mod to my goggles which meant I couldn't fit the power board in the same area and had to proceed with option two.
This mod involves opening the goggles and bridging the inductors marked L1 on the RX board and L10 on the DVR board. I did it with small bits of wire to keep the mod reversible. This mod is a lot simpler than it sounds and once you get used to it opening up your goggles really is nothing to worry about.
This video by Joshua Bardwell covers exactly what you need to do: https://youtu.be/nCIOQi3_3Zw
This image shows my bridge on the L1 inductor on the RX board:
Here is the wire across the L10 component on the DVR board (note that you will have to unscrew the board and flip it over). Many guides don't cover this one so well but it is necessary for most people who want to run Rapidfire. I would suggest you do them both now instead of opening the goggles twice over!
Once you have your module powered by one of these methods you can go to the about section and look at the Low Pwr readout. If it says NO then your module is working perfectly, if yes then you may need to check your soldering or ribbon connections.
Support is one of those things that you hope you never need and often never will however when you do have a problem it can be a lifesaver.
In the UK at least FatShark and Immersion RC use the same support, I have used this service a couple of times with my FatSharks and have been very pleased with the service and have never paid a penny. Dave who carries out the repairs in the UK is fantastic and easy to deal with.
Unfortunately I received a faulty Rapidfire unit, sometimes it happens 🙁
I carried out some basic troubleshooting and then asked on the Immersion RC Community Hub Facebook group for support.
Within minutes of asking, Tony Cake, the genius behind the module put me in touch with Dave from UK repairs who got back to me in a few hours to say that they would repair or replace the module under warranty.
Three working days after sending it in I received a complete replacement, the replacement module worked flawlessly.
Now of course it sucks to get a faulty product however having A Class support really puts my mind at ease when ordering expensive products and support is possibly one of the top reasons why I would recommend people pay a little more to invest in FatShark Goggles.
The module was fixed within a week and I continued to test it. The knowledge that my module is repairable whenever necessary is definitely something that helps to justify the price.
On top of just physical support the Rapidfire is continuously being updated with user suggestions and new features and an impressive rate. Tony appears very interested in listening to the community and making the module better and better every day.
Who Should get One?
The FatShark module market is starting to get very crowded and there is now a large number of options available at different price points.
At £119.99 on Banggood at the time of writing this article the Rapidfire is considerably more expensive than existing options such as the True-D (£63.48) however it is drastically less than than the ClearView module which comes in at £247.99.
If you have the extra cash available I would say the extra £57 for this module over the True-D is certainly worth it. The improved performance, extra features such as the in goggle OSD and first class support add a lot of value to this module.
The True-D or other cheaper options such as the Achilles module both offer fantastic performance for a great price and there really isn't much need for most users to upgrade unless you find yourself in high multipathing environments or find yourself racing competitively.
One odd demographic would be Tiny Whoop or micro quad pilots who find them self flying indoors. Here in particular is where the Rapidfire stands and having clear video dramatically will improve your flying experience.
I don’t own a Clear View to compare to Rapidfire however must pilots who are considering ClearView will be top tier racers looking for the best possible signal. I would consider ClearView just too expensive for typical fun fliers or casual racers.
PROS AND CONS
Contributor: Ashley Norman aka Speed Sloth
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