This racing drones buyer guide guide has been formulated for the beginner drone racers who want to get themselves acquainted with the essentials of this domain such as:
- Basics of FPV drone racing
- Aspects to take into account when purchasing a RC drone
- The best RC drones available on the market
A racing drone is compact sized quadcopter or small unmanned aircraft system that has been engineered to participate in First person view (FPV) racing contests organized in metropolitan cities across the globe. We will be sharing with you a detailed list of events later on in the article.
Keep in mind that racing drones differ from camera drones such as the DJI Phantom 4 Pro. Camera drones fly at much slower speeds and at lower trajectories in contrast to racing drones and have been engineered to capture sensation aerial video footage of action sports, real estate and surreal landscapes. A camera equipped racing quadcopter cannot accomplish this task, however.
What’s not included in this post
This guide will not be encompassing advanced modding, the complexities associated with optimization of components and DIY assembly instructions.
Technical performance parameters such as the accurate propeller blade angle of attack won’t be discussed in our post.
Here are some helpful websites and blogs for technical information:
- RCGroups MultiRotors Forum
- Down-And-Dirty-Drones’ Drone Physics Guide
- TauLabs Flight Software Forum
- MiniQuad Test Bench – motors and ESC performance testing
- DroneTrest – detailed component buying guides
- UAV Futures video reviews – entertaining video DIY guides and reviews of the latest FPV / racing drones
Once you are through this buyer guide, you can latch onto some of the best racing drones for sale today in our Today’s Deal section.
Best FPV Ready to Fly Racing Drones
These three Ready to Fly racing drones do not require any assembly and can be flown right out of the box.
- Blade Inductrix FPV (Drone for beginners)
- Eachine Wizard X220 (Drone for intermediate pilots)
- Vortex 250 PRO (Drone for seasoned experts)
- Hubsan H107D FPV X4: a magnificent drone for beginners that costs less than $100.
- BFight 210 ($150 to $175)
- Furibee Fuuton 200 (below $200)
- Diatone Tyrant S (about $200)
- Hubsan X4 Brushless FPV Quad (Below $300)
- Team BlackSheep TBS Vendetta (Below $1,000)
Drone built from the ground up win races not the RTF ones!
A close look up at the results of drone races all over the world reveals that almost all winning drones are engineered by pilots in accordance with their preferences and requirements.
Drone racing pilots modify their aircrafts.
Similar to other racing sport, drone racers are on the constant lookout for advanced gear and adjustments that will put them ahead of the opponents. Modding is a common phenomenon in drone racing since drone technology is evolving with every passing day.
Here is some handy advice if you want to win a few drone races:
- Choose your racing class and league first
- Select your aircraft kit, flight controller, RC controller and FPV equipment
- Modify your drone unless you win
Newbies need to ignore the aforementioned discussion!
If you are just a beginner, then you need to get your hands on a small sized ready to fly low cost drone.
It is crucial that you purchase a decent FPV drone upfront since it will assist you learn how to fly your drone and get comfortable with racing using the drone’s camera without having to spend an arm and a leg.
Hey, you are going to end up crashing your drone on numerous occasions and you will certainly commit several mistakes.
So, it is judicious that you learn on a low cost drone rather than an expensive one.
Newbies generally tend to prefer the small sized Tiny Whoop class micro quad FPV.
For instance, the Blade Inductrix FPV is a low cost, lightweight and an almost indestructible drone that is loaded with an inbuilt camera and an RC transmitter along with a controller-mounted FPV monitor. It will keep you in good stead when you learn how to race with your drone.
This video will give you a glimpse of how it feels like while trying to fly one of these things!
Once you have become adept at flying a micro drone indoors, you are ready to move up the ladder and assemble and modify drones such as the Vortex 250 PRO and be on your way to winning a few races!
Why drone racing?
Because it is entertaining! Here is a video that will show exactly what I mean!
That was sensational, isn’t it?
Racing Leagues and Meetups
When you purchase your racing drone, you need to ascertain whether you intend to participate in professional racing leagues or simply take part in less formal events.
The racing format tends to determine the kind of aircraft, controller, FPV equipment and budget that is needed to participate in a certain racing event.
Drone racing leagues
Drone racing leagues are becoming popular all over the world.
Each league has a set of rules of its own that determine the kind of equipment, racing atmosphere, regulations for skirmishes and overtaking etc.
Here are a few popular racing leagues:
- Aerial Grand Prix: This is a gates-and-flags racing league meant for 250Mini, Pro Super Mini and Open Class machines. Events are held in major cities on both indoor as well as outdoor courses
- Aerial Action Sports League: a 3-hour stunt drone and combat drone event
- TV: a social network of racers
- MultiGP: for first-person view (FPV) radio-controlled quadcopters only.
- com: Canadian indoor racing league; 250mm and open class. Flags and gates
- Drone Nationals
- The Mini Quad Club: popular Facebook group where meetups and mods are discussed vehemently
Ensure that you are familiar with the minimum and optimum specifications for suitable drone in the league that you are going to choose. A number of leagues prefer the 250mm/5-inch mini quadcopters.
Along with drone racing leagues, there are plenty of user groups, meetups and other events that are taking place all over the US and Europe.
Most of the local contests are open specifications which means that there are no restrictions on the type of aircrafts and controllers that can participate.
The main purpose of a meetup is to provide a platform to the enthusiasts where they can meet each other and learn from their mutual experiences.
Socializing is also a possibility but it can be a bit difficult to accomplish with everyone wearing their FPV gear.
Local drone racing meetups and communities are present on Meetups.com and Reddit.
Local meetups are handy as they let you do virtually anything with your drone. This also gives you an opportunity to learn more about modding from the fellow dronies. But that is not true for everyone, right?
Indoor versus outdoor
Drone racing league events are predominantly held indoors to ensure that weather does not have a role to play. This is also makes sure that not a single drone gets an unfair advantage over its opponent due to weather conditions. These contests basically involve the drones and their pilots vying for the lead against their rival drones and pilots as they practice their dexterous piloting skills and bank on the features of their machines.
On the contrary, local meetups and user groups can race their drones anywhere as long as the track is suitable. Indoor and outdoor meetups are present in most cities.
In these events, multiple racers compete against one another to see who finishes the course first. This type of format is full of crashes and brims with excitement.
In this racing event, multiple drone pilots accelerate over a short distance which is generally 100 yards or 100 meters.
A drone attempts to complete the course in the shortest time possible.
Components of FPV Racing Quadcopter
Generally, a racing drone, whether customized or RTF, consists of the following components:
- Four motors and spare parts
- Four Electronic Speed Controllers and spare parts
- Four propellers and plenty of spare parts
- RC Flight controller
- Lithium-polymer (LiPo) battery and extras
- FPV Video transmitter and receiver
- Radio Control transmitter and receiver
- Battery straps
- FPV goggles
- Board camera for FPV feed
- HD camera for recording (optional, adds weight)
A ready to fly drone such as the Blade Inductrix FPV and the Vortex 250 Pro comes loaded with all the basic ingredients assembled together. Additional propellers and batteries may need to be purchased.
However, if you want to build your own quadcopter from the ground up, then you will be in need of the above mentioned components along with tons of spare parts and at least a couple of batteries.
$200 is the minimum amount that can get you started with drone racing. However, if you want to be an expert racer who gives his or her opponents a run for their money, then you will have to spend a fair bit more.
Blade Inductrix can be purchased for as low as $200 if you are someone who does not take a fancy to building their own drone from scratch. The Blade Inductrix is a low cost yet fast machine that is equipped with an integrated camera, RC controller with real time video feed and a handy controller software. It may not be able to help you win a lot of races but it will certainly assist you in honing your flying skills without having to spend a lot of money or wasting your precious time.
You can get a 250mm specification racing drone for $300 – $700 to participate in local meetups. Such a drone will invariably be loaded with a decent RC controller, flight controller, FPV real time video feed and a small sized video monitor. Two of the popular drones amongst beginner drone pilots are the Vortex 250 Pro and Eachine Wizard X220.
Another $300 to $500 can be spent on a splendid pair of goggles to get an immersive digital experience such as the Fat Shark Dominator V3.
However, if you are budgeting for a racing league then you should reserve at least $1,000 for a decently crafted drone that could win you a few games.
Ready to Fly Racing Drones
Now it is time to discuss the manufacturers and retailers who deal in ready to fly drones.
These machines can be set whizzing through the skies after unpacking them and loading them with batteries without any assembly requirement. Here are some of the most popular ones out there:
Blade Inductrix FPV
is a tiny whoop class drone that is low cost and equipped with a 720p FPV camera, controller and top quality software. It may be small in size but it is damn tough!
Eachine Wizard X220 FPV
This fast machine can attain speeds in excess of 68mph and is quite a resilient beast. It offers lots of fun and entertainment and comes with numerous upgradeable features.
Walkera 210 FPV:
You can get this beginner drone on Amazon and have some great flying experience.
Diatone Crusader GT2 200:
This one is not a cheap proposition but it is definitely one of the fastest RTF drones you would find on the market.
Vortex 250 Pro:
ImmersionRC bring to you a superb machine that will keep in you good stead for winning 250 class events. It is easy to repair and maintain and will last a generation if handled properly.
Keep in mind that there are plenty of Ready to Fly quadcopters available on the market that can be put together by the retailers from kits. They are not quintessentially bad but it does mean that you will have to bank on the retailers to know what they are doing.
Building your own FPV drone
We were planning to write an extensive post on this one!
But when we came across this half an hour long tutorial, we felt that nothing could be said better than this. It has been produced by Charpu who happens to be one of the best pilots out there. It may be an old one but Charpu certainly knows what he is talking about!
Charpu used the following components to build his own quadcopter from scratch:
- Frame: QAV250 Mini FPV
- Motors: Lumenier FXC1806 (2300kv)
- Electronic Speed Controllers (ESC): Lumenier 12A
- Propellers: Gemfan 5×3
- Battery: Lumenier 1300mAh LiPo
- Flight Controller: Acro Naze32
- FPV Goggles: Fat Shark Teleporter V3
- Radio Transmitter & Receiver: FrSky Taranis X9D 2.4GHz
Keep in mind that most of these components are outdated but our point here is that it is not at all difficult to build your own machine. It all depends on how you tailor it to get what you are looking for!
Assemble to Fly (ARF) Components
Well, we cannot enlist all the good quality components in the racing world. But based on our research, you should stay fine if you get your hands on these components:
- Armatten Quads Chameleon
- DQuad Obsession
- ImpulseRC Alien FPV
- ReadyTosky ZMR250 Carbon Fiber
- RaceFlight Revolt F4
- BetaFlight F3: includes PDB, OSD and SD reader
- Rotorgeeks SSD F3: flat underside / easy to install
Here are the most popular motor manufacturers:
- T-Motor: the F-series offers up to 7kg thrust
- Cobra: great choice
- EMax: especially the RS2205 S
- Brotherhobby: especially the R4 or T2
Motor power ratings are based on Kv (thousands of RPM per volt). For a smaller 250mm spec racer, a 1000-2300Kv motor should be sufficient. Larger quadcopters should have motors with smaller Kv value.
- Drone weighing above 1Kg: ~700 – 900Kv
- Drone weighing between 500g and 1Kg: ~900 – 1300Kv
- Drone weighing below 500g: ~1300 – 2300Kv
You can view the real world performance tests of top motors on MiniQuadTestBench.com.
- DALPropellers: Resilient
- T-Motor F30A FPV 30A: top quality, BLHeli_S Dshot capable
- KISS 24A Race Edition: Expensive
- DYS BLHeli_S XS30A: Dshot capable
- Spedix 30a ESC HV 3-6s DSHOT: low cost, light (5g), Dshot capable and smaller than most other ESCs
LiPo Batteries: ($25-$50)
- Turnigy Nano-tech
- Turnigy Graphene
- Battery Charger: HobbyKing DC-4S
RC Transmitter/Receiver ($50-$100)
- FlySky FS-i6 2.4GHz 10 channel: cheap, popular choice among racers
- Turnigy Evolution Digital: nice looking
- FrSky Taranis X9D 2.4GHz (limited supply)
HD Action Camera ($50-$500)
- Mobius ActionCam 1080p ($70-$100)
- XiaoMi Yi 1080p ($70-$120)
- GoPro HERO5 ($350-$400)
Video Transmitter ($25-$40)
- Boscam TS351 200mW Transmitter
- Crazepony 5.8GHz 32Ch 25mW Transmitter
- ImmersionRC 25mW 5.8GHz
FPV Camera ($15-$40)
- RunCam Swift Mini 600TVL $35-40: more latency, great image quality
- RunCam Swift2 600TVL about $40: less latency, poor image quality
- Eachine OKKAN EK1119 1100TVL Tiny FPV Camera $15
FPV Goggles ($100-$600)
- Best in Class: Fatshark HD3 FPV Goggles
- Best For First Timers: Eachine / Crazypony VR D2 Pro FPV Goggles 5inch 800×480
- On a Budget: Goolsky JJRC JJPRO F01 3D Wireless Goggles
- HotProps: Based on Unity engine. Lots of equipment choices. Offers multiplayer option. Relatively new.
- Velocidrone: full version is $25. 17 real life models, 14 maps, multiplayer option. Graphics are fine.
- DRL Simulator: FREE. Offers lots of fun, but physics are not the best. 250mm only.
Speed and Power
FPV drone racing is linked to your piloting prowess more than a drag race.
There are racing drones that can attain speeds in excess of 75mph but when it comes to flags and gates racing events, speed is not the only thing that is required: you also need great maneuverability!
Lift power is a crucial parameter when it comes to racing drones. The more powerful are the motors and propellers, the more lift power will be produced which assists in making sharp turns and accelerating faster.
There are racing drones available out there that come with a 10:1 power to weight ratio!
Top quality 3S and 4S motors by Cobra are the best ones for drone racers.
Propellers made of carbon fiber are becoming more and more popular due their light weight and efficient design. However, injury has to be taken care when using propellers made of carbon fiber since they can cut through your skin real bad.
Racing drones are best known for their great maneuverability. This is not a quantifiable characteristic, however.
It is an aggregate of the follow features:
- Control response time which is managed by the flight controller and the RC controller
- Flight stability which depends on the flight controller and its software
- Reliable and smooth banking which is based on the flight controller software
- Lift power which is required to stop and change direction and is based on motors, ESC and propellers
Typically, better the quality of the components used in a machine, better will be its maneuverability.
A smaller and lighter drone is likely to be more durable in contrast to a larger sized one.
When it comes to the Tiny Whoop class drones as well as the 250mm specification ones, the probability of these machines succumbing to crashes and accidents reduces a great deal. These drones end up getting their propellers damaged but their frames remain unharmed.
Most of the drone races do not exceed the 5 minute limit. So, majority of the drones are designed to offer a flight time of about 5 minutes of rigorous racing and the battery tends to get drained out real quick.
Camera drones, on the other hand, fly at slower speeds and at lower elevations while offering flight durations of 15 to 20 minutes.
Flight controller is the brain behind a drone. The best ones include:
- RaceFlight Revolt F4
- BetaFlight F3: includes Power Distribution Board, Onscreen Display and SD reader
- Rotorgeeks SSD F3: flat underside / easy to install
RC controllers are available in the cost range between $100 and $1,000.
A reliable controller with seamless, accurate manual control sticks is what you need for a supreme racing experience. Longer battery life is an added advantage.
Sufficient configurable keys are required if you want to perform aerial stunts and maneuvers.
Here are some of the most popular RC controllers available on the market:
- FlySky FS-i6 2.4GHz 10 channel: reasonable, popular choice among racers
- Turnigy Evolution Digital: decent looking
- FrSky Taranis X9D 2.4GHz (limited supply)
- Spectrum DX9: expensive; 9 channels; popular choice of serious racers.
- Spectrum DX6i: 6 channels; less expensive; great for newbies.
FPV Goggles and Gear
Drones are typically raced in First Person View (FPV).
This feature makes a pilot feel as if he were sitting in the cockpit of the machine. This makes the entire flying experience immersive and realistic. The FPV video is transmitted in real time to a monitor or FPV gear.
Following components are part of a FPV setup:
- FPV Video transmitter (vTx) and receiver (vRx)
- Video monitor: smart phone, tablet or dedicated RC controller display
- FPV goggles (optional)
- Board camera for FPV
- HD camera for recording (optional)
Popular FPV googles available on the market include:
- Best in Class: Fatshark HD3 FPV Goggles (expensive)
- Best HD Deal: Quanum Fatshark Genesis HD FPV (mid-range)
- Best For First Timers: Eachine / Crazypony VR D2 Pro FPV Goggles 5inch 800×480 (affordable)
- On a Budget: Goolsky JJRC JJPRO F01 3D Wireless Goggles (affordable)
Typically, a racing drone’s performance can be enhanced by upgrading the following components:
- propellers (lift power)
- motors (lift power, reliability)
- ESC (maneuverability, motor response time)
- flight control software and hardware
Another method to enhance the performance of a drone is to decrease its weight especially the weight of the below mentioned components:
- motor mounts
- landing equipment
All the racing drones may not be able to turn around faster at the corners. Some are built or tailored to perform aerial stunts and maneuvers, or to shoot at targets, to capture stunning aerial imagery and even to engage in a combat with rival drones.
Let’s have a look at some of the most commonly used mods:
- Combat mods
- Stunt mods
- Target shooting mods
Spare batteries, propellers, ESCs, chassis and motors are going to be required in abundance if you want to race your drones.
Crashes are going to be inevitable and your machine is going to come down crashing hard into the ground no matter what.
So, it is crucial that you are well aware of the repair and maintenance costs of a drone when you get embroiled in a certain racing league or class.
Typically speaking, you will be needing to get something replaced every time you go out for a race. Propellers are the most important part that will need replacement more often than not.
Most of the dronies carry with them additional propellers, ESCs, motors and a couple of charged batteries to different racing events.
In contrast to other drones, when it comes to racing drones, warranties are associated with individual components and only encompass flaws. They do not encompass damage caused by a crash.
If you get your components damaged while participating in a competition, then, my friend, you will have to bear its cost yourself!
This holds true for both ready to fly as well as assemble before flying drone kits.
You can come across tons of blogs and forums on the internet where professional drone racers log in and share their experiences, tips and tricks of trade and the latest equipment they own.
Here are a few noteworthy platforms:
FPV Racing Blogs
- DIYDrones – list of blogs
Where to buy components from?