The IMRC Powerplay is a small device that pairs with Fatshark goggles to add some conveniences to the goggle experience. In addition to being able to be used to power your goggles, provide an on/off switch, the added piece serves as an external DVR, monitor, and solution for reviewing footage. While this item is not for every pilot out there, there is a large group that will benefit greatly from the extra tool.
The module runs off of 18500 batteries, which are very common LiOn cells that run cheaper and are more energy dense than the traditional LiPo cells that we run in our goggles. By plugging the module in to your goggles, you are able to run the goggles off the internal batteries in the Powerplay. Thus, presumably, you can have a handful of 18500 cells available for cheaper than the cost of the equivalent amount of LiPo power
High Quality DVR
The Powerplay connects to your goggles’ external aux in/out port and is able to record a 60fps h.264 video to the module. 60 fps DVR playback is much more pleasing to the eye than the 30(ish) fps that you get out of the Fatshark DVR, and h.264 encoding means that the generated files will be much more accessible on your phone or computer. I was able to use a 128gb card in my device, which means that I can record a LOT of DVR without ever forgetting to clear up space.
See the following video for a full heat of the IndyGP Spec Series recorded on the Powerplay.
Once a recording has been made to the device, the user is then able to step back into menus and be able to playback the recorded videos without the use of goggles. In fact, the device is easily detached from it’s mount, and the DVR can be carried separate and viewed separate from the goggles, so the user isn’t required to keep goggles on to review footage.
On/Off Switch for Goggles
For some reason, in the latest generations of Fatshark goggles, we are not yet blessed with an On/Off switch so that we can leave the battery plugged in. However, with use of the Powerplay, you will be able to turn your goggles on and off with the holding down of a button, allowing you to leave everything plugged in.
Yes, this is currently a feature on standard Fatshark goggles, but it’s something that I love and wanted to mention. As soon as the module powers on, you’ll hear a beep and it will start recording DVR.
How to Wear It
I think one of the first questions that I personally had when I saw the unit was “how do I wear it.” The device comes with a few different options and a few have been generated by users in the field. By default, two recommendations are made in the items provided by the product. Inside the box, there’s an extra strap to be connected to your Fatshark goggles to have the power play mount on the back of your head, opposite the goggles on your face. In addition, an included feature is a longer cable that you can use to store the Powerplay in your pocket, and just run a cable back up to the goggles.
For me, I actually found that the best place for the Powerplay was in the spot that is traditionally used for a goggle battery. I took my Fatshark goggle strap and modified it by cutting off one of the two loops where the battery would traditionally be strung up, and was able to force the holster for the Powerplay onto that spot of the strap. Because the seams for the split in the strap were still on either end of the holster, the Powerplay does not move laterally along the strap, and actually fits very nicely. It doesn’t fall out of the strap like Fatshark batteries had, and because of the quick release holster, I can change batteries very easily.
While the Powerplay is significantly larger than a traditional goggle battery, it is actually not much heavier, and with the way that it mounts on the included holster, I actually don’t find that it is any more annoying to wear on my head than a normal battery.
An added benefit of wearing the Powerplay on the side or back of the head, rather than in the pocket is that it makes a very convenient tool for spotting. At a race, I often want a “coach” or “spotter” to monitor my FPV feed alongside me and help provide information about my competitors while navigating a course. By having the screen there and available, it’s very easy for them to do so. In the same way, for long ranging, freestyle, or giving a ride along to someone new to FPV, having that screen there and available for another person to enjoy is extremely welcoming.
Another popular method for wearing the Powerplay is to mount it on your neckstrap for your radio. By attaching the holster to the neckstrap, you are able to then mount the powerplay to the strap and still record your high quality DVR.
In the menu, you are able to access a lot of different settings and features. Access the menu by single-tapping the green button.
In the playback section, you can review recordings that have already been made. Using the rocker-button, you are able to quickly navigate into the menus, which use thumbnails and list in chronological order. Clicking into a video is quick and easy, and rocking the rocker-button forward or backwards allows you to fast forward and rewind the DVR very easily. A tap will play or pause. The green button will navigate backwards in any menu.
Change the setting for recording from one of the following: Manual, manual loop, auto, or auto loop. Manual starts and stops only at the users’ command, and auto will start at power up. Looping means that it will start erasing the oldest content as new recordings are made.
Format your SD Card
Clock setup allows you to set the timestamp so that it aligns with any other recordings that you’re making on different devices.
You can mute the beeps with the “beep” tab
When not in the menu, tap in the rocker-button to start or stop recording./
So to sum everything up, there are a few conclusions that I want to make.
First, it’s not for everyone. If you don’t care about DVR, just stick with the goggle batteries and built in DVR. It doesn’t make your life any easier to have this unless you are constantly wanting to show people what you see in the goggles or want to spectate someone else flying via your own goggles.
Second, it’s especially useful for racers and long rangers. For racers, having the ability to record, review, and then later easily post your footage is crucial. I think that anyone that would ever consider posting their DVR should use this. For long-rangers, you want to have an easy way to review your DVR. When you go down, you can pop these off your goggles, pocket it, and easily review footage as you hunt down your lost machine.
Third, battery life, while it is easy to change the 18500 cells is pretty poor. I find myself maybe able to make it through a couple of hours of flying (i.e. 6-10 batteries per hour) before needing to change the cells. The cells that come with the screen are abysmal and should be immediately tossed and replaced with these much nicer cells. These Panasonic NCR18500 cells are the gold standard for this type of battery.
But.. all that to say, I’ve loved having mine. The easy of use of recording, pulling out the SD card, and uploading that sexy 60 fps h.264 footage is amazing. While the battery life is short, I’ve really liked being able to pack away 10 18500 cells into my bag and not having to worry about running out of goggle batteries. And finally, the ease of use for troubleshooting on the bench is wonderful without having to put the goggles on and off as needed.
Something that I would like to see in the future would be for the DVR to throw away or let the user choose whether to record external audio from the users’ goggles or record the actual DVR audio. I think it would be a neat feature to be able to save the audio that is happening right around the user rather than the annoying, raspy sounds that you get out of DVR audio recording. Secondly, I would have loved to see the module use 18650s instead of 500s. The larger capacity and more popular format for cells would benefit many people.