Many people think drones are just for capturing high-quality pictures and videos of the world from a whole new perspective. But now, drones have become a competitive sport as well! Racing drones are specially designed quadcopters that can be controlled with push buttons to fly as fast as possible. The racing drones come in many different shapes and sizes, ranging from ultra-small to extra-large, and you will need to decide which one is right for you before buying.
Choose your drone racer
The drone racer is today a discipline which meets with great success. A true phenomenon within the drone world, the drone racer (called FPV Racing, Drone racing or even Drone FPV) combines technique, reflex and concentration. This discipline is practiced with drones, medium to very small, supercharged and extremely maneuverable. This practice is done in FPV (first person view) and allows the pilot to be completely immersed.
Today there are many brands offering different types of drones. This guide is obviously not exhaustive, but will certainly allow you to orient yourself towards a suitable model.
The drone racer is a practice in which it is advisable to have some piloting experience. If you are completely new to the world of drones, we recommend that you first read our buying guide on drones and start with a suitable machine
A little vocabulary on the drone racer
Or ready to fly, it is a complete multirotor including the drone, the receiver and the radio control (and at least one battery).
Or bind ‘n fly, which is the acronym for a complete drone with a radio receiver, but sold without the radio control (pay attention to compatibility with the receiver on the machine).
Or plug & play, which is the acronym for a ready-to-use drone delivered without receiver, radio, battery or charger.
Or almost ready to fly (sometimes also called ARTF), is a name which is much less defined than the other two. The drone is then sold without a radio receiver or remote control, and is not necessarily mounted.
It is the structure of the drone. It is supposed to accommodate all the electronic elements present on the machine. The frames come in different sizes and shapes.
These are electric motors whose rotor is made up of one or more magnets, allowing the motor to rotate without a mechanical system. They are particularly used in the world of drones, as soon as drones exceed a hundred grams.
Electronic Speed Control, is an electronic element used to regulate the speed of motors (and more particularly brushless motors). It is responsible for interpreting and converting the “orders” of the flight controller into an electrical signal that the engine will execute.
Propeller are mechanisms with several blades arranged around an axis (in this case the motor). A propeller has a length expressed in inches, and a pitch, also expressed in inches. If for you the step is an obscure notion, just know that the more important it is, the more lift you will have. The lower it is, the more responsiveness you will have.
FC (or Flight Controller)
It is the flight controller. He will translate the orders you give, thanks to the radio, and strictly apply the instructions. The controller can have several sensors, allowing in-flight assistance (which is rarely used in racing drones).
PDB (distribution board)
It will allow you to power the components of your drone (with the right voltage) from the battery connected to it.
The PDBs have outputs for the ESCs (at least 4, sometimes more) as well as others for related elements such as the camera, the video transmitter or even LEDs. PDBs can sometimes be integrated into the drone or the FC.
It is a measurement unit expressing the number of turns per volt that the motor can perform.
It measures the electrical intensity. This unit is used to calculate the maximum amperage that an ESC can withstand.
milliamperes per hour is a unit of charge and refers to the capacity of a battery.
Discharge rate (C)
It qualifies the discharge rate of a battery. It designates a value X expresses the possibility of the battery to deliver a current X time greater than its charge.
Voltage expressed in Volt. It is used in particular to express the number of Volts at the battery output. Each battery has a number of cells which determine the voltage at its output.
A drone racer, but for whom? Why?
The practice of drone racing is quite recent and is a variation of FPV practice. It involves a sport pilot in the race or in low riding (flight at low altitude), all in immersion (FPV). If for you, flying is only useful to take beautiful shots or cool videos, the racing drone is surely not suited to your needs.
FPV Racing will bring you incredible thrills, and although sitting on the floor or in a chair, you will feel like you’re spinning at incredible speeds.
This practice should be reserved for people who already have experience in the world of drones. Drones racers are nervous machines and difficult to control, we strongly advise against putting one in the hands of an uninformed person (and even more than a child).
Drones racers are machines that are relatively simple to operate. However, you should know right now that you will inevitably have to get your hands dirty at one time or another. Having a basic knowledge of welding, and knowing how to modify the parameters via software are far from a luxury. All of this will obviously require a bit of investment in time, especially if you fly regularly.
Drone to assemble or pre-assembled?
Before you start, you need to ask yourself a question: do you want to ride your drone racer, yes or no?
Today, we find ready-to-fly (RTF), ready-to-bind (BNF), no radio or receiver (ARF) drones on the market, or even in spare parts. If you are a complete beginner and do not want to edit, an RTF drone can certainly be a good solution. However, it is possible for you to choose an ARF or BNF model if you wish to purchase a particular radio control.
Pre-assembled machines are very often homogeneous machines with interesting characteristics. Some models are more intended for learning and improvement and others for performance (ImmersionRC, in particular, specializes in this type of machine).
The personalized configurations to be mounted (or to be mounted) are much more malleable and will allow you to customize all the components of your drone. However, it will be necessary to keep a certain balance in order to have a powerful machine. It is also good to specify that these machines will ask you to assemble, weld and configure your drone. Although it requires more investment, these activities will be very formative.
What size of Drone is better here?
Racer drones, although often small and compact, can come in a variety of sizes. Until some time ago, most were on a 250 format (250mm diagonal motor to motor) or even more for some.
Today, although this format is still a standard, especially in racing, machines tend to see their size reduced. The 210, 180, 150 formats and even the mini racers (format below 130) are very developed. Small-format racer drones are often very maneuverable and allow you to fly in confined spaces (especially indoors).
There is no ideal size for a first racer. Everything will depend on where you fly. If you have the possibility of being able to fly in large areas without obstacle, you can quite leave on a 250 format. Ideals.If you plan to fly in various and varied places, we cannot recommend too much for you to go to an intermediate format (210 or 180), or to have at least 2 machines if the budget allows it!
Which drone racer to start?
Here is our selection of FPV Racer drones to get started. These drones have interesting characteristics for novices (strength, availability of spare parts). We focus on pre-assembled drones, but you can definitely take inspiration from their components if you want to assemble your machine.
There are drones on the market for high performance drones in ARF / BNF / RTF version. Ideal for training and progressing, these FPV racers have particularly interesting characteristics while avoiding a sometimes tedious assembly. In this game, ImmersionRC is the champion with a wide range of variations of the Vortex, all available in ARF.
You will find that the EAChine brand is particularly represented thanks to an excellent value for money, while offering solid and accessible drones. MM130 frame, TBS Source Two 5″ V0.1, Nutmeg – Shendrones, Geyser Chassis – Shendrones, SpearX v2 – Kinetic Aerial, Holybro Kopis CineWhoop, IFlight Mecan FPV Car, Mr.Croc HD 5″ – Flywoo, Mr.Croc HD 7″ – Flywoo, Spector 6 pouces – Kinetic Aerial, Drone DJI FPV Combo, Replacement DJI FPV Drone, Hook “Fincky Edition” ARF monté – PiratFrames, RaceWhoop30 HD PNP with Caddx Vista – HGLRC, Drone Roma F5 V2 digital – Diatone, RaceWhoop25 HD PNP with Caddx Vista – HGLRC, Drone Rekon 6 Mini Long Range 4S PNP with Caddx Vista – HGLRC, Cinewhoop Veyron30CR HD PNP with Caddx Vista – HGLRC, Rekon 5 Long Range drone with Nebula Pro PNP 6S – HGLRC, HEXplorer LR 4 HD 4S with Caddx Vista – Flywoo are all favs in this field.
Brands like EAChine and Walkera also manage to offer very interesting machines, offering more than honorable characteristics with a very good quality / price ratio!
What components to assemble your racer?
Do you have the soul of a handyman or at least you like hacking and getting your hands dirty? Then you can completely assemble your drone racer! On the other hand, you will need some material (screwdriver, soldering iron, etc.) but the assembly is relatively simple.
On the other hand, you’ll need to select the correct components for the right model. We take stock within the following few lines on the fundamental focuses to select your configuration
The chassis is the backbone of your drone racer, and its choice is more than important. FPV racing causes many crashes and therefore the chassis dedicated to this practice is almost exclusively made of carbon, an ultra strong and rigid material.The thickness will greatly depend on the strength, but also the weight of the chassis.
The chassis has a number of predefined engine locations (most of the time 4 (quadcopters) but it is possible to meet tricopeters and hexacopters). Their shape can vary: X, H, Y ect.Note that some chassis have a PDB (integrated distribution card), protections, specific locations, etc., do not hesitate to consult the product sheets for details.
A smaller chassis will by definition be more maneuverable and with less lift, therefore slower. Conversely, a larger chassis will be less maneuverable but will have greater lift and will therefore be faster.
The flight card (FC)
The flight controller (or FC) is the nerve center of your drone. This component will simply interpret the commands you give to the radio to transform them into an order for the motors (via the ESCs), into a change of flight mode, or even into a predefined automatic action.
Flight cards have (in most cases) a processor, a gyroscope, an accelerometer and various modules to enhance their performance. Today, some of the flight cards have an integrated PDB (distribution card) or even in rare cases of integrated ESC.
Pay close attention to the dimensions of the card. The standard format is 36 x 36mm, allowing them to be fixed directly to the frame via spacers. However, you may find some cards with a different format that will be adapted to specific chassis or that will require a bit of hacking to secure them.
The choice of motors is crucial in the design of your FPV racing drone. You will find several different formats, named with a series of several numbers (usually) denoting the diameter and height of the motor stator (the brushless motor magnet). For example: 2204 designates a motor whose stator measures 22m in diameter and 4 millimeters in height. Some frames can only receive certain diameters of the stator (and therefore of the motor), remember to check.
The number of KV will determine the number of revolutions per minute per volt. Example: a 1000 KV motor powered by 10 Volt can perform up to 10,000 revolutions per minute. This factor will tend to determine the size of the propellers. Be careful, the KV does not give the power of the motor (it would be enough to play on the voltage of one motor to obtain the same number of revolutions as another). High KV motors will be more suited to small machines (and small propellers), while high KV motors are more suited to larger machines.
ESC could be compared to the nervous system. They will transmit the info from the flight controller to the engines (they are also responsible for powering them).
There are several features on ESCs. First of all the amperage, will determine the maximum intensity that can pass through the ESC. The intensity required for your motors is going to be determined by a lot of parameters, but you can remember that the bigger your motor and your propeller, the more you will need an ESC supporting a great intensity. We indicate, in our engine sheets, the type of ESC recommended.
The ESCs are composed among other things of a microprocessor. The more it is efficient, the more the ESCs will be reacting in sending directives. These microprocessors can run under various firmwares (BL_Heli and SimonK being the best known) and offer different operating protocols (Dshot, Oneshot125, one-shot 42, Multishot) which influence the transmission of information.
Obviously the characteristics of weight and size are to be taken into account so that they adapt according to your wishes on your drone racer.
The propellers are defined in almost all cases by two numbers expressed in tenths of an inch. The first indicates the size of the propeller and the second the pitch (the angle of attack). This second number will be just as interesting as the first because it will influence the thrust you will benefit from. Knowing that the higher this number, the stronger the thrust and the stronger the consumption. Example, a 5040 propeller has a length of 5 inches and a pitch of 4 inches.
The propellers can have a number of blades ranging from 2 to 8. The more blades the propeller has, the more responsive and stable your drone will be, and the less it has, the more the top speed will increase (not to mention a certain gain weight).
The propellers are consumables on an FPV racer drone and will need to be changed regularly. You can therefore make some stocks in anticipation, and nothing prevents you from having several types of propellers available. Remember, however, that your drone will absolutely have to have exactly the same type of propellers on all engines when you fly.
Like all the other components of a drone racer, the batteries will determine a lot of parameters. A battery has a number of cells (generally 3 or 4 for the drone racer) which will influence the voltage delivered by the battery. The nominal voltage of a cell is 3.7 V (which will vary depending on the load), and therefore you will have 11.1V for a 3S battery and 14.8V for a 4S battery. As we have seen previously, the voltage delivered by the battery will strongly influence the maximum rotation speed of the motors!
The battery has a “capacity” expressed in mAh (milliampere per hour) which will clearly influence the autonomy (but not only). The higher your battery capacity, the better your autonomy will be, and the heavier it will be. After FPV Racing, even if obviously we want to be able to fly for more than 30 seconds in a row, there is little interest in having a high autonomy and therefore we often favor relatively light batteries offering 5 to 6 minutes of air time. ‘Autonomy’. During the race, the pilots, in search of the smallest gram to remove, fly with batteries with an autonomy allowing them to simply finish the few laps of the circuit.
The discharge rate is one of the most important parameters for a LiPo battery since it will indicate its capacity to deliver maximum current. Expressed in “C” the charge rate indicates two values: the first is the rate of discharge over a long period, the second is the value in “burst” (peak, over periods not exceeding a few seconds). This makes it possible to quickly calculate the intensity delivered by the battery since it suffices to multiply its capacity (in mAh) by its discharge rate (in C). For example, a 2000 mAh 50C battery can offer a 100A current without deteriorating (and overheating).
The most famous battery brands today for FPV racer drones are Tattu and EPS.
Please note, LiPo batteries must be handled, charged and stored with the greatest care. Do not hesitate to consult our user guide.
The radio control
The radio control is going to be an extremely important element in your choice. It would be difficult to advise you too much because there are many models on the market and there is something for everyone. You must, on the other hand, already know from the basics whether you are piloting in mode 1 or 2 (or other sometimes), knowing that mode 1 puts the throttle on the right and mode 2 the throttle on the left. Today the 2nd is much more widespread, to the detriment of all the other configurations. You will find some remote controls that can switch from one to the other, but this is not always the case.
RTF drone radio controls are always pre-programmed, allowing you to use your drone almost right out of the box. When you build your own drone, you will need to bind and program your remote control so that you drone receives the information. The advantage of programming your radio control is that you can assign various functions to your potentiometers and switches.
Who says radio, also says the receiver and you will have to check the compatibility with your flight card. There are many protocols, but the most common currently are PPM, SBUS or even DSM2.
Today, the FR Sky brand radio controls are widely used in the world of FPV Racing but other brands such as Spektrum or Radiolink are also doing well. Note that it is quite possible to have several configurations recorded and you can therefore use a single remote control for several drones (on the other hand, you will need a compatible receiver per machine).
Transmitters, cameras, glasses
The full video feedback portion merits a full guide as there are so numerous conceivable outcomes. We are moreover within the prepare of building one that will give you with more points of interest.
The most important thing is to remember that the frequency currently used is 5.8 GHz and that there are complete systems that can adapt to almost any racer.The vast majority of video feedback is done in analog, however HD digital systems are coming onto the market (like the Amimon Connex Prosight) and offering a huge amount of feedback in terms of quality.