Drone racing is not only a fun hobby, but it’s now a fully recognized competitive sport with several commercial organizations like the Drone Racing League. And pilots are entering competitions to battle through tough, technical, and tight tracks with blazing speeds nearing 100 mph. And they’re doing so to win a handsome six-figure cash price. That’s quite the motivation.
It used to be something of fiction and an element seen in movies, but now the thrills of FPV racing are available to all. And today’s market has plenty of ultra-rugged machines ready to test your skills with an impressive birds-eye view. So whether you’re looking to enter the competitive side of drone racing or want to set up your own course to fly recreationally, there’s plenty of opportunities.
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But, when it comes to selecting the right drone for racing, there are many considerations. You can either go the DIY route and build it yourself from the ground up. Or you can opt for a ready-to-fly model, bypassing the technicalities and the steep learning curve involved.
Thankfully, there are plenty of ready-to-fly models that are equally as competitive and available to the masses. So you can enter the sport immediately and fly right from the get-go. Either way, though, today’s post will give you a starting point to begin your search. And we’ve compiled a detailed guide discussing the factors you’ll want to consider in both routes. But we’ll cover the best racing drones on today’s market.
DJI’s FPV is the company’s first foray into the FPV scene. And with this release, the tech giant joins the party.
The FPV comes to market to make this flight experience more practical, simple, and accessible for pilots. And it sits just above the Mavic 2 Pro, but unlike the 2 Pro, it’s tuned strictly towards the flying experience. So now it uses a fixed-wing design focused on aerodynamics, bringing a high-end race car appeal. But, it’s a design that also boasts class-leading battery life, now standing at 20 minutes. And it’s also one of few quads in this space with a genuinely useful camera.
In this case, it obtains a similar setup as the Mavic Mini 2. But, it uses a single mechanically stabilized axis and captures 4K 60 FPS video, yielding superior image quality to rivals. Yet, it’s also ludicrously fast, pushing a top speed of 87 mph (140 kph) and a 0-60 acceleration of two seconds. With this combo, though, you get the new V2 Goggles and the refined flight controller. And both use DJI’s high-end OcuSync 3 connectivity for clear HD transmission up to 6.2 mi (10 km) away. Other features include Emergency Brake & Hover and obstacle sensing.
Overall, DJI’s FPV is an excellent release that solves several headaches with this type of aircraft. Namely, it brings class-leading flight times, superior video transmission technology, and gradual difficulty levels to a complete RTF system. And it’s an excellent option for pilots looking to experience this world without battling the normal challenges.
Arris X-Speed 250B
The X-Speed 250B by ARRIS skips the fancy design. And, instead, focuses heavily on execution.
ARRIS has designed the 250B around the Raptor 390 tower, which offers an integrated F3 flight controller and ESCs to reduce interface and prevent damages. But, the 250B is a ready-to-fly drone that’s pre-assembled, tuned, and tested for performance from the get-go. Gone are any unnecessary handsome looks.
Instead, this quad delivers the utmost speed, thurst, and agility. Thankfully, it uses a robust carbon fiber construction with 4mm thick arms and 2300KV brushless motors that are tough enough to take the heaviest collisions. It also ships with the AT9 controller and pairs with Fat Shark’s FPV goggles using the 5.8 GHz band for video transmission. Otherwise, it features an HD camera with an adjustable tilt, adding versatility. And ARRIS also includes a set of 3 blade high-efficiency propellers with better balancing and power than traditional propellers.
Overall, the X-Speed 250B is an excellent choice for more seasoned pilots looking for a mid-level option ready to showcase their skills.
The X220 V2 by ARRIS is their higher-end model and an alternative X-Speed 250B.
ARRIS has designed the X220 around the Raptor S tower, which offers the updated F4 integrated flight controller, ESCs, and better heat dissipation. But like the 250B, it’s also a ready-to-fly drone that’s pre-assembled, tested, and tuned for performance.
But, it brings a slightly more handsome design, with matching colored accents. And it does so with matching speed, thurst, and power, given it has a broadly similar setup. It too also features a pure carbon fiber chassis with 4mm thick arms and 2300 KV brushless motors ready to survive heavy collisions. It ships with the AT9S controller, offering more precision, battery warning, and greater range over the standard AT9. But, this model too pairs with optional Fat Shark FPV goggles using 5.8 GHz for video transmission. And it also uses a higher-end tilting camera with a WDR and a built-in microphone, and OSD.
Overall, while broadly similar to the 250B, the X220 takes the range a step further. And it brings some notable updates to make it an even better option for seasoned pilots.
Walkera F210 3D
The F210 range by Walkera offers a strong feature set for the price. And it’s arguably the most popular RTF model on the market. But, it’s surely a significant evolution over their previous models.
The F210 3D, in particular, receives a more advanced F3 flight system and integrated HD night vision. So now you can adjust the flight dynamics directly, adjusting its controls to your preferences. But, by default, it’s wildly agile and responsive given its tuned receiver, making it well suited for more technical courses.
The F210 also uses an improved carbon-fiber body design and KV2500 brushless motors, giving it excellent impact resistance and durability. It ships with the DEVO 7 controller and support for their Goggle 2 FPV system or higher. There it uses the 5.8 GHz band for real-time transmission. Both accessories are responsive and deliver a tactile flying experience. But, surprisingly, they’ve updated the transmitter, which now offers an outstanding working range of 800m (0.5 mi). Otherwise, it also has a 1MP camera with a 120º FOV that tilts, adding versatility and an infrared mode for flying at night.
Overall, Walkera’s F210 is widely fast and now more durable than ever. Yet, it’s simple to modify and ready to fly from the get-go, so no need for soldering. As such, it’s a straightforward and budget-friendly solution to experience the thrills of FPV racing.
Racing Drones Buyers Guide
Type of Racing Drones
You have several options. Let’s cover these now.
Ready-to-fly (RTF) options are assembled at the factory and come ready to fly. No additional installation or modifications are needed. Instead, merely install the batteries, and you’re ready to fly. But, know long-term, these models are difficult to upgrade without compatibility issues. Even so, they’re the ideal option for newcomers.
Bind-and-fly (BNF) options come pre-assembled but don’t include a controller. Instead, you’ll purchase and bind the flight controller of choice. Doing so gives you more flexibility to use a specific controller of your choosing.
Kit options come with all of the necessary components but require assembly. Most will include the frame, motor, wires, transmitter, receiver, and often a controller. But, not always. And you will have to set up the drone manually. Sadly, this process can take anywhere from a full day to several days, depending on your technical skills with wiring and soldering. And it’s quite a challenge at first. So be prepared.
Durability and Frame Construction
Drone racing is fast-paced, and the reality is that you’ll crash at some point. It’s the inevitable fate of all pilots in this sport. So you have two options, pilot carefully and slowly, or invest in replacement parts. But, long-term, you’ll eventually want to maximize the drone’s ability and race competitively. And that’s when finding a device with replaceable components is key. With replacement parts, you can repair it on-site and return to the competition. Otherwise, it’s unlikely you’ll race competitively.
On this note, it’s vital to opt for models with a carbon fiber frame. The frame is the foundation and backbone of the entire drone. And it’s what keeps all of the individual parts together. Thankfully, carbon fiber is rigid and highly durable. And it’s unlikely to warp or bend during a crash. As such, it’s essential that you look for devices using a carbon fiber frame so that you can save that costly replacement. And opt for a frame thickness of 4mm.
Although it’s rare to find these devices with fancy cameras ready to record 4K video, a proper FPV oriented camera is crucial. The camera must have a suitable field of view (FOV) and reliable video transmission over its range. As the last thing you want is to lose connection to the video transmitter mid-air.
Most pilots also use CCD cameras, not CMOS, as they capture the entire image at once rather than scanning from top to bottom. And, generally, CCD sensors have fast sensor readouts and less latency. Many pilots also opt for TVL cameras, as they have far less input lag and better dynamic range. So, these are things to consider.
Field Monitor or FPV Goggles
You have two options to view the real-time feed. You can either use dedicated FPV goggles or an LCD field monitor on the controller. There are benefits to both. Field monitors are cheaper than most FPV goggles. But, they don’t deliver an immersive experience, and the image quality isn’t as good.
FPV goggles, however, are more expensive and require some working knowledge to set up. But, they’re fully immersive and distraction-free. Most pilots agree they also make it easier to pilot the aircraft. So a good FPV headset becomes a go-to for many in this space. Even so, if you’re a beginner, using a field monitor is best. Then when you’re ready, you can always get a budget-friendly headset like the Eachine EV800D.
Transmitters and Receivers
The drones transmitter is what sends visual feedback to the receiver, which relays that information to the field monitor or headset. These are essential components, as they dictate a large portion of the communication to the drone. So ensure both devices are on the same operational frequency, be it 2.4 GHz, 5.8 GHz, or somewhere in-between.
The flight controller is how you’ll control the drone during flight. And the controller you choose directly affects how you’ll fly. Namely, it’ll change flight characteristics like maneuverability, sensitivity, and general stability. And it’s important to do some research on the options available for the model you’re considering beforehand. And look into their comfort, range, and functionality.
The motors are the source of their power and speed. So don’t overlook this component. And it’s essential to opt for brushless motors, as they’re more reliable and durable than brushed ones.
The electronic speed controller dictates the performance of the motors, and it’s an equally important area. The main consideration here is to ensure they have matching amperage rates as the motors. Otherwise, they will cause issues during the installation process.
Propellers are one of the most commonly damaged items in this sport. So you may want to consider getting propeller guards if you’re a beginner. Otherwise, keep a set of extra propellers before every flight.
Most pilots use lithium-ion batteries, as they have great capacities, better discharge rates, and they’re light. But ensure you get a battery with the correct voltage and cell count for your build, as both affect its performance.
Last Updated on September 22, 2023 by Photography PX Published July 26, 2021