What Are Racing Drones?
Drones are an exciting new area of technology that is available for recreational users as well as businesses for commercial use. Most people think about the gorgeous aerial footage that drones can capture. This is especially true of drones that include quality 4k cameras. The image can be genuinely breathtaking because they are images people would otherwise not be able to see.
A new and quickly growing sport specifically for drones is racing! If you are an experienced drone flyer, you may not think you need to know anything more about drones when you decide to start racing. However, it is important to realize that racing drones are typically a little different than the drone the average drone enthusiast will be purchasing.
Drones meant for racing are typically small quadcopters that are created for first person view (FPV) racing. Drone racing is becoming increasingly popular. Groups of friends often get together to create casual races while many cities and towns have begun putting together more formal racing events as well.
Some events even include drone flyers world wide! The idea is to compete with other drones that are well designed and test the skills of the drone pilot. Many of the drones used in racing are modified from the factory state to improve their performance.
Racing drones are very different from most recreational drones, which are designed to carry things and typically include bulky cameras meant for taking videos and pictures in flight. These drones must have slower speeds than racing drones in order to capture these images without simply capturing blurs as it speeds through the air.
As previously mentioned, racing drones are typically FPV. This means they have a small camera included in them that gives a first person perspective to the pilot. The pilot often wears a set of special goggles that allow them to view the exact same thing the drone is in a true first person experience. This is very similar to virtual reality but it is real life!
Types of Drone Races
Within the world of drone racing, there are several different types of events. Most of these events will require a drone that can fly for five minutes without losing power. There are different levels of competition and a variety of types of competitions when it comes to drone racing. The type of racing you are interested in will determine what kind of drone you should get. Here we will look at a few of the most common forms of racing with your drone.
Every drone racing league has a unique set of rules and will likely be geared toward a specific type of drone. The rules will determine which type of drones can be used for the league or even specific races within the league. They will also determine what the guidelines will be for passing other drones, interfering with other drones, and other such regulations that need to be in place in order for the race to be fair and enjoyable for all participants.
Some racing leagues will be extremely formal while others will be more laid back and relaxed. While there are several options when it comes to leagues you can join to participate in drone racing, there are a few well known venues you can consider:
Mini Quad League
The Mini Quad League is a social media (facebook) based league. They have ongoing discussions regarding drones and races as well as meetups for discussion and race days. Every event has a set of specs the drone must fit in order for it to participate in the race. The people that participate in this particular group are very knowledgable and friendly. It is a great area to start if you are new to drone racing but the popularity of it may be overwhelming for newbies as well.
This is not the only social media based group and you are sure to find one near where you live or the nearest big city. Most mini drone leagues use drones that are just five inches in diameter--they can fit in the palm of your hand easily! Some groups may be specifically geared toward people new to racing, at an intermediate level, or for experienced and expert drone flyers. Most groups welcome all members even if they are not yet ready to participate at a certain level and each group can offer unique insights into the world of racing with a drone.
Aerial Grand Prix
The Aerial Grand Prix is a world wide league with events in many major cities. They utilize both indoor tracks and outdoor tracks as well. They typically offer drone classes for professional mini drones, mini drones, and an open class as well.
FPV Racing Television
FPV Racing TV is a social network based league, FPV Racing divides participants into different teams and even offers world wide events. This is one of the most exciting and thrilling racing venues and is very popular among spectators.
Aerial Action Sports
This league is a little different than others because it focuses on stung and combat drones. The events are usually about three hours long. The stunts are fun for the racers to learn and very pleasing for the crowds to watch.
The energy and atmosphere of these events are a great experience and will help get just about anyone excited about the world of drone racing. Many people who do not think they are interested in drones will change their minds after seeing one of these events because the aerial tricks these drones perform are so fascinating.
Local Meetup Groups
Local groups will vary based on how popular drone racing is in your area. Some may be very specific while others may accept drones of all sizes and levels. These events are typically pretty laid back and a great way to meet other drone enthusiasts to learn more about drones and make new friends.
Meetup groups are meant to be fun and not as serious as other drone racing events. Most novice drone users will like these groups much better than serious racing events because the atmosphere is generally more pleasant and upbeat.
If you are interested in finding a local meetup ground, checkout social media and meetup sites, we are sure you will find something that interests you!
Types of Drone Racing Tracks
The two options for racing venues are indoors and outdoors. Indoor events are typically preferred because weather is not a factor. When events are held outside they are often larger, but weather can hinder the drones’ performance or even cause the event to be canceled or rescheduled in some cases.
Within drone racing events, there are different styles of races. Drag racing consists of at least two drones racing at one time to see which drone is capable of accelerating the most in the shortest distance. These distances are predetermined, typically one hundred meters or one hundred yards. The distance for any particular event will be given ahead of time so people can prepare accordingly.
Another type of race is called Rotorcross. This type of race is typically considered the most exciting for spectators. The drone racers start at the same time and fly their drones as fast as they can to a finish line that is marked. Since this is a very fast paced race and the track may involve turns or obstacles, crashes are fairly common. While drone builders may cringe at the thought, the crowd loves to see the crashes!
Time trials are another version of racing. Each drone competes individually on a predetermined course. The drone that completes the course in the shortest amount of time and with the fewest faults wins. Faults may be encountered by bumping into things, losing or gaining to much altitude, or other guidelines that will be determined by the individual event administrator.
Now that you understand a little bit about the world of drone racing, you may be curious about racing drones that are available. We have put together a list of a few well known and well reviewed racing drones that are a great place to start if you are looking to buy a drone specifically for racing purposes.
Beginner Racing Drones
X4 H107D by Hubsan
This drone is low in price, small in size, yet also easy to fly. These features combined make it excellent for people new to drone racing or even new to drone flying in general. It is an FPV drone that can fly for up to seven minutes on one charge. It only takes thirty minutes to charge so it can be entered in multiple races depending on the race schedule or you can take multiple batteries along to the event.
It has a very sleek appearance with its overall white shell and contrasting props. It also has two LED lights that some people feel resemble eyes, making it fun to fly and watch.
Because of its small size and lightweight, this drone does best racing indoors. The flight can be greatly impacted by windy weather conditions. The transmission between this drone and the controller are superior for the price point of the drone.
There is no lagging time when the drone remains in range. Prop guards are available to help increase the sturdiness of the drone and it typically handles crashes well. Just be sure to keep some extra props on hand!
Check out our review of the Hubsan X4 H107C
The Helix Racing Drone by Air Hogs
This is another good choice for novice drone racers. It has an inexpensive price point and is very easy to fly. It offers a specially designed frame that holds up to crashes well and even has one touch stunt options, which makes flying even more exciting for people who would otherwise not be able to complete such advanced maneuvers. This drone does require batteries for the controller that are not included in the package. We recommend investing in a few good sets of rechargeable batteries. This is an excellent beginner racing drone for young users.
Blade Nano QX
The Blade Nano Drone is an excellent and budget friendly quad that may fit your needs as a new racing drone enthusiast. The drone is small in size but still offers several features that make it a great little starter drone while you are building your flying skills. This drone even comes with racing goggles for FPV racing, which are typically required to be purchased separately when it comes to racing drones.
The goggles do require some adjustment to get used to and most new users will want to take the time to learn to fly the Blade without the goggles before transitioning to wearing the goggles during flight. This drone has special features that make it easier to fly without crashing as well as safely take off and land. It is great for indoor flight but also holds up well outdoors in mild weather conditions.
Intermediate Racing Drones
The 250 Pro by Vortex
This drone has a mid-range price point and is a great option for people ready to step up their drone flying and racing game. It comes with a convenient case that securely zips to keep everything safe during travel to and from racing events. It does not come with a camera but does include a mount that fits several lines of go pro cameras. Batteries and controllers for this drone are also available separately and allow a little more customization. It has a failsafe mode that can be programed and easy to use in app flight controls.
Vortex Racing Quadcopter by ImersionRc
The vortex has a unique design that folds down. It makes the parts easy to get to, adjust, clean, and replace. The battery and receiver for this drone are sold separately, just like many racing drones. It has LED lights on the tail for easy visibility during flight in all conditions and includes a good quality camera as well.
It is compatible with several different receivers so the user can further customize the experience as well. It is ready to fly directly out of the box once you add the desired battery and transmitter. Just select all your settings and you are ready to start racing!
Expert Level Racing Drones
Walkera Runner 250
This is a serious drone for serious flyers but still maintains a reasonable price point for its market. It has an FPV camera that is integrated into the system and can fly up to twentyfive miles per hour with ease. The frame is made out of carbon fiber, one of the best and most durable materials for drones. It can endure a fair amount of impact with little to no damage and several parts are easily replaceable to help prolong the life of the racing drone.
The Walkera is ready to fly out of the package, making it great for people who do not have the time or patience to assemble or customize a drone before flight. It comes with a battery and quality controller. The drone has LED lights for visibility in low light conditions. Many options come with cameras as well. The type of camera and specific features you choose will significantly impact the price for this drone, but no matter which version you select you will have an excellent racing drone.
Storm Racing Drone
Perhaps our favorite of the drones we have included, this drone is an excellent contender when it comes to advance level racing flights. It is a genuinely high performance drone that is ready to fly but also a great model for modification once the pilot decides to venture into the world of drone modification. All the parts to this drone are easily to pop in and out without any soldering.
The full package of this drone includes a transmitter but no goggles, which can be purchased on their own if desired. The range of this drone is up to three hundred meters and the camera has an image view of one hundred ten degrees.
Ready to Fly Drones
These are the most sought after type of drone by people who are new to racing. They are easy to come by and require little to no work. They typically include everything needed to fly in the box with the drone, but read the included parts carefully in case you need to make additional purchases to use your new drone.
RTF drones are a good choice because there is little room for malfunction due to design and they may even have warranties that will cover damages or manufacturing defects. Please note that racing drones typically do not have the same kinds of warranties that other drones come with because racing is dangerous and they are highly prone to receiving damage during flight that is out of the manufacturer's control.
If you have ever attended a drone race, you may have noticed drone that are not like the drones you have seen for sale online or in stores. That is because people who are serious about drone racing know that in order to have the best and fastest drone, it needs to be a custom drone. Well designed, customized drones are typically the drones you will see winning major drone racing events. Most competitive drone racers are constantly changing their drones to make improvements in durability and speed based on which events they are entering.
Modifying drones that are sold is the most common form of having a custom drone. However, it is also possible to build a drone from the ground up. You can purchase individual parts and components and put them together to make a truly one of a kind racing drone. The wiring is often the tricky part to this and not everyone has the patience to learn the necessary skills to build a completely custom drone for racing.
People who are new to racing are typically best off purchasing an inexpensive racing drone. It may be tempting to go out and by the best drone you can afford, but there will be a learning curve and it likely is not worth it just yet. There are plenty of reasonably priced racing drones that will suit your needs while you are learning about drone racing and improving your flying skills. Most beginners find success quickly with ready to fly drones that are easily accessible.
Do not be discouraged if you accidentally crash your new drone several times while you are learning how to fly it. Even people with a reasonable amount of experience often struggle when they transition to racing drones because they are designed to fly very quickly with very precise movements. It can take a while to learn how to control each unique drone as well, they do not all fly the same way.
Taking it to the Next Level
If you want a drone that will win the more competitive events, you can branch out once you are comfortable with ready to fly racing drone models. To start taking your racing to the next level, you will want to decide what league and racing class you want to participate in. This will have a direct impact on the drone you should purchase or build because certain drones are better for certain events.
Once you have decided on your league and class, you can start picking out your drone and racing gear. If you will be customizing or building a drone you can expect this to be a very time consuming process and the expense can quickly grow if you are not careful as well. Once you have your drone designed, you can start testing it! When you are happy with the results you can enter it in a race. Keep in mind that the best racers are always changing their drones by modifying them with new components to improve flight and you will likely want to do this as well.
The parts you want to consider for a custom drone include the following:
Motor with a good response time and lift power
Software for controlling flight
Hardware for flight control
You will also want to keep the weight of the drone as light as possible while steel keeping the device stable and balanced. Each individual part of the drone should be taken into consideration when it comes to weight. These parts include props, mounts, motors, the frame, battery, landing gear, and harnesses that are used.
Replacing the parts of your drone is something else to think about. Custom drones can be altered easily and ready to fly models typically have easy to find replacement parts as well. You can expect to need to replace props fairly often and racing drones do tend to crash more than the pilot may initially expect. It just comes with the territory! While the top drone pilots may not crash often, they will all admit to crashing time and time again while they were learning about racing their drones and adjusting to new drones or changes they have made to a custom drone.
Always bring spare parts to your race so you can get your drone back in the air quickly!
The Expense of Drone Racing
This is something that can vary widely based on where you live and what kind of drone you decide to purchase. It is possible to get started with racing drones with just a couple hundred dollars easily. However, people who get serious about drone racing and want to win will likely end up spending considerably more. If you really want to get serious in a league you can expect to spend a couple thousand dollars on parts and modifications to your selected drone.
Factors to Consider When Selecting a Drone for Racing
The most obvious feature you want to consider with a racing drone is speed. Modern racing drones can fly over seventy five miles per hour with no difficulty at all. Another important consideration is the power behind the drone’s lift. Having strong motors and well designed propellers will make the drone’s flight more precise and give a competitive edge.
The material the drone or drone parts are made out of is als very important. Carbon fiber is usually a good way to go but there are other options available that work well also. Typically smaller drones will be more durable than larger drones. The force of the mini drone’s props hitting something typically causes the props to break rather than the impact harming the frame of the drone. While it may sound like it is a bad thing, this is actually a good thing for a drone to do. Propellers are easy to replace!
How easily the drone can be controlled is a big part of a racing drone, just like the speed of the drone. The drone should respond quickly without any lagging, have stable flight, and smooth movements in flight. These features improve greatly with quality drones and drone parts, making their higher price point well worth it for competitive drone racers.
First Person View Goggles
Have you been to a drone race and wondered what those odd people are wearing on their faces? The strange devices covering the drone pilots’ eyes are usually what is called FPV goggles. These goggles give the pilot a first person view of what the drone is seeing for an exhilarating experience and for better flight control of the drone. This is how drone races can go along different tracks without the user having to keep up with the drone. The pilot can stay stationary because he is seeing exactly what the drone sees in real time.
As you can see, it is not difficult to get started with a racing drone, although there is a fair amount of information to consider before you jump in. The decision to use a ready to fly drone or create a custom drone is up to the individual and there are many resources available to assist no matter what you decide to go with. It is likely a good idea to start out with a ready to fly model and graduate to one that you can customize. Eventually you can create your very own custom racing drone for some serious competition no matter what kind of racing you decide you want to focus on. The budget you have may also determine what kind of racing drone you want to start out with. Don’t spend thousands of dollars on a top of the line precision racing drone if you are new to flying drones. You will inevitably end up crashing the drone several times while you are learning.
The world of racing drones is fun and exciting. It is a great way to expand your knowledge of drones, meet new and interesting people, and possibly even see new places should you start competing on a serious level.
If you liked this article, check out our article on quadcopter motors