There has been a lot of interest shown by the Indians in FPV racing after the heroic antics of Karan Kamdar and the Indian Drone Racing League. I strongly hope that this article will infuse more enthusiasm and zeal among Indians towards adopting FPV drone racing as their go-to method of passing their leisure time.
What is Drone Racing and What is Needed?
Drone racing involves building compact-sized quadcopters equipped with cameras and a video transmitter which is designated to send video to a video receiver. More often than not, the receiver is integrated in the goggles that are put on by the pilot on his or her head.
The drone is flown and maneuvered with the help of a radio controller while the drone’s vision is watched by the pilot on the goggles. Racing is carried out on tracks full of obstacles and hairpin turns while the first one to cross the finish line is named as the winner.
If you want you can either get into FPV racing or even fly alone in freestyle mode which means that you carry out stunning aerial maneuvers such barrel rolls, flips and other such sensational stuff.
Let me share with you an extensive list of equipment that you will be needing to pursue this hobby.
If you are looking forward to purchasing devices from local hobby stores, have a look at the recommended list of retailers and just scour through their products. Since they always keep on updating and chopping and changing, so I will not be providing any direct links.
Purchases in the Long Term
A good quality radio controller: One radio controller to rule the roost, as they say! Save some money up your sleeves and purchase a good quality radio controller since the same device can be used to maneuver multiple quadcopters. Once you get into this alluring hobby, you will not stop at just one quadcopter and you will always be tempted to build and get more and more quadcopters,
Here are a few suggestions in this regard:
- Q X7
- FlySky i6
A pair of FPV goggles: Similar to radio controllers, you will also be needing FPV goggles and they will work fine with a wide array of models. Actually, it all depends on the frequency on which the quadcopter’s video transmitter is broadcasting the signal. If the receiver integrated in the goggles is able to receive the signal on that frequency, your goggles will work fine.
Here are a few suggestions that might work for you.
- FatShark Dominator V3 (it requires a receiver module separately)
A charger: A charger will be required to get your LiPo batteries charged. Chargers are generally a one-time investment. So, it is prudent to spend good money on a good quality charger that will last a life time.
Here are few suggestions for a good quality charger:
- Imax b6AC
- ISDT chargers (it requires an external power supply, you can use a SMPS supply or a laptop charger by modifying the barrel connector to an XT-60 connector)
- A decent soldering iron (at least 40 to 50 Watts) and solder wire
- A hex screwdriver set with different thickness
- A Philips screwdriver (optional but you will benefit from it)
- A hobby knife
- A pair of small sharp scissors
- Double sided tape
- Electrical tape
- Heatshrink tubing (3mm, 6mm, 15mm for different wires and parts)
- Needle nose pliers
- Tweezers (optional but you will benefit from it)
Parts of a Quadcopter
Here’s some reading material for your perusal.
Frame: This is the basic chassis on which all the electronic components are mounted and attached. Frames are measured in millimeters generally, which is actually the diagonal distance between the two motors. It represents the size of the propellers that can be fitted. A distance of 200 to 220mm means that propellers of 5 inches can be fitted. 180mm distance is indicative of the fact that propellers of 4 inches are compatible while a distance of 100mm to 150mm implies that propellers of 3 inches are supported by the frame. Propellers of 5 inches thickness are the most common when it comes to drone racing since it is splendid combination of easy transportation and some ruthless power.
Motors: The motors are responsible for rotating the propellers. 2205 or 2206 motors are suitable for propellers of 5 inch thickness and 1306 1407 motors are responsible for propellers of 3 inch or 4 inch thickness. Motors are listed as XXXX/XXXX kV. 4 motors are required for building a quadcopter.
In the above mentioned format, the first couple of digits represents the width of the diameter of the motor. The next couple of digits portray the height of the bell of the motor. A 2205 motor has 22mm diameter and a 5mm bell.
The next four digits are the Kilo Volts value or the number of turns of the copper wire inside the motor. 2300 kV is a sweet spot for 2205/2206 motors. If you are starting out your hobby with this, I recommend you to carry on with it. Stick to 3000 kV, if you have started out with 1306/1407 motors.
ESC: The Electronic Speed Controller is responsible for informing the motor how fast to spin or rotate. They are connected to the Power Distribution Board (PDB) and the flight controller or transmitter. They come with varying current ratings. An ESC with 20A to 30A is safe for a quadcopter running decent motors, moderate to belligerent propellers and on 4 cells. As far as the racing quadcopters are concerned, BLHeli_S is a must-have firmware loaded on the ESCs. Most of the ESCs that are available on the market have been pre-programmed with this firmware.
Flight Controller: It is the brain of the whole quadcopter machine. It included sensors that are utilized to ensure that the quadcopter remains stable during flight. It, based on the input instructions by the pilot by pressing different keys and moving the joysticks in varying directions, tells the quadcopter what and how to do certain things. It is prudent to use the BetaFlight firmware for racing quadcopters in the flight controllers. The controller should at least have a F3 processing chip. Look out for F3 flight controller anywhere you will definitely get your hands on a good piece of technology. The Omnibus Flight Controller is a decent choice in this regard.
Receiver: The receiver is designed to receiver signals from the radio and transmits them to the flight controller. SBUS receivers are the way to go if your transmitter is compatible with them. If you are using the FrSky XJT module, FrSky and Turnigy Evolution will be compatible. SBUS receivers are small in size, sensitive and only need three cables for all the desired connections in addition to a fourth one if you want to configure telemetry option.
FPV Camera: Do not make any compromise when it comes to buying a good quality FPV camera since it is the most important component of your build. It is what will help you do all the flying. HS1177 cameras and their likes are pretty good. RunCam 2 is ideal if you have some money up your sleeves. These are decent quality cameras for FPV racing.
Video Transmitter and Antenna: The video transmitter captures signals from the FPV camera and broadcasts them through the antenna where it is received by a designated video receiver or one inbuilt in the goggles. A 32 channel transmitter should be used at the minimum, and 200mW is decent transmitting power. For those intending to fly alone, 600mW should be a better choice. But this means that you will not be able to fly with other dronies since your video will interfere with their reception. A circularly polarized antenna should be used with the transmitter. Foxeer is well known for developing good quality affordable antennae.
Keep in mind that your transmitter and antenna have the right kind of connectors such as the RP SMA or SMA. The specifications sheet will provide you information regarding the two. Any attempt to mismatch the RP SMA and SMA could be catastrophic and your transmitter could be ruined.
Here is a nice post on getting into FPV Drone Racing with Force1 RC’s FPV Drone Racing Kit.
Where to Buy All this FPV Racing Stuff From?
There are tons of retailers in India that showcase top quality hobby grade products at their stores. The main advantage you get from buying locally is that you will not have to bother about all the intricate Customs procedures and you will also get decent customer service. This is always an issue when you purchase something from overseas.
Banggood has the policy to refund for any defective components but then you will have to wait for another 3 to 4 weeks for the replacement part. Local stores on the other hand will help expedite things.
Here are some of the popular retailers in India that showcase top quality hobby grade products at their stores.
Quadkopters: They boast a wide array of quadcopter parts and gear at the moment. If you are lucky enough you can get your hands on batteries and radio controller from here before they sell out. They provide very good customer service as well.
RCHyper: They showcase a nice collection of motors, ESCs, and propellers. Their sister site RCHLipos has plenty of options when it comes to batteries.
GetTBS: They have a range of the most advanced products. They come up with products for the professionals. While some of their products might not be suitable for the novices but still they are one of the best retailers in India.
RCMumbai: They have lots and lots of LiPo batteries of all kinds. Keep an eye at them and look for their growing range of quadcopter parts.
eBay: Their some retailers resident on eBay India that might have some of the parts that you will be needing.
There are Chinese retailers too such as Banggood, GearBest, MyRCCart, RCPapa, DroneMatters, 65 Matters and many others.
How to Assemble it all Up for the FPV racing
Once you have decided the appropriate propeller size for you quadcopter and the right frame, it is time to assemble all these components. We won’t be discussing this in detail here (however browse through our website, to find more in detail about building your quadcopter) Also you can find loads of useful tutorial videos on YouTube that will help you learn plenty of stuff about how to build your quadcopter for FPV racing.
Safety is the most crucial thing when it comes to flying quadcopters in FPV racing. Keep in mind that your quadcopters come with very fast-moving propeller blades, which can cause serious injury to anyone who come in their path. Ensure that there are no children or even adults near you when you fly your quadcopter. Children will surely try to come near you and have a look at what you are doing. Insist on all the onlookers to stand behind you.
This does not mean that you start flying drones in crowded spaces in order to gain traction among the visitors. Whenever you feel that space is getting crowded, it is judicious to make a move from there and look for wide-open spaces.
The ideal way is to rise early in the morning and fly your drone when there are not many people around. A large-sized football or cricket ground could be ideal for flying a drone especially when you are new to flying drones. Once you get a hang of flying, you can start flying drones in places with trees and buildings.
What Not To Do in FPV Racing
- Do not make an attempt to make a spectacle of you flying your drone
- Do not try to take your drone beyond the safe altitude
- Do not hand over the radio controller to someone who does not know how to fly a drone. Tell him to try his hands on a simulator first.
- Do not fly a drone in front of the law enforcement agencies.
- Do not fly inside or around buildings or construction sites even.
- Do not fly near children.
- Do not fly above people’s heads.
- Do not be jerk above all. This hobby already has some stereotypes associated with it. Try not to malign it further with your irresponsible behavior.
The drone community in India is the most important thing about FPV racing. Despite the fact that we are located in faraway places, but we are always in contact with each other and are always eager to share our adventures. You can get yourself registered to the IDRL website. Once your request for membership is approved, you will be added to a Whatsapp group and you will get to contact dronies from all over India.