Drone racing is quickly becoming one of America’s hottest hobbies, but it’s also so much more. There are multiple clubs and leagues that pit serious competitors against one another for cash and other prizes.
There is no shortage of opinions on the best way to enter the world of drone racing. Below, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of building your own racing drone as opposed to buying a pre-fabricated machine. We’ll also break down some of the things you’ll need to know and do to get started, as well as provided some tips for using first-person view (FPV) drone goggles.
We’ve also written reviews for 6 of the best racing drones available on the market today to help you compare various models quickly and easily.
Reviews of 6 Top Drones for Racing Available Today (in no particular order)
Walkera Runner 250 Racing Drone
This drone has an exceptionally long flight time in comparison to many other racing UAVs. The carbon-fiber materials from which the device is made allow you to reach speeds of up to 25mph, and we also like the fact that Walkera produces an FPV drone goggle system that’s compatible with this model.
The aesthetic design leaves a little something to be desired, but if you’re using the drone for racing that probably isn’t a big concern. Also, you shouldn’t expect to capture stunning photos or videos with the device, but again, drone racing pilots are usually more concerned with speed and maneuverability.
ARRIS X-Speed 250B Quadcopter Racer
Pilots who want to begin racing as quickly as possible will appreciate the ARRIS X-Speed 250B quadcopter because it comes pre-calibrated and tested. The electronic speed controller is top-notch, and ARRIS includes a vibration damping plate to make flying the drone safer and easier. ARRIS drones are compatible with lots of different FPV goggles, which is a huge plus
Although this may be a good option for beginners, experienced racers might not like how “standardized” this drone is. Additionally, some users have reported issues with power loss and battery life, but you can expect to receive reasonable protection thanks to the damping plate if the drone crashes.
ARRIS FPV250 Mini Racing Drone
It’s hard to find a drone that is both fast and durable, but the ARRIS FPV250 Mini is that drone. It can reach speeds of up to 20mph and it’s relatively easy to control and maneuver in tight spots. As mentioned with another ARRIS model above, there are a lot of viable and affordable FPV drone goggle options that work with this model.
This drone needs to be configured before it can be flown, and this may be troublesome for inexperienced users. Crashing this drone could prove to be costly, as the way some of the elements are positioned on the frame make them susceptible to damage.
Eachine Falcon 250 FPV Quadcopter
This drone is a dream come true for speed demons. It’s also a good option for pilots who like to toy with and customize their machines. The camera is of a considerable quality and the drone comes FPV goggle-ready straight from the factory.
There is a bit of a “toyish” feel to the handling of this model. It’s also disappointing that there is no OSD. Some of the placement decisions seem questionable to us as they require lots of disassembling to access areas that are easy to get to on most other drones.
Eachine Racer 250 FPV Quadcopter Drone
This model is easy to customize, and it’s also a solid option if you want to fly it “as-is.” The small frame and lightweight materials allow this drone to reach a top speed of 45mph, and the OSD for this unit is easy to understand and use. We also love the adjustable camera because it makes first-person flying much easier.
This isn’t an especially attractive drone, but since its purpose is to race we will let that slide. This “plug and fly” drone requires you to set up your own receiver and radio before you can go airborne. You also have to download and install Open pilot GCS, which wouldn’t be that big of a deal except for the fact that there are no clear instructions.
Vortex 285 Race Quad
The lightweight design of this racing drone allow it to zip through courses at impressive speeds. The on-screen display is top-of-the-line, making it attractive for serious pilots. This machine is also extremely customizable and works with multiple FPV goggle systems.
If this drone crashes hard or repeatedly, you might experience some problems with the PCB and LED boards. This could require the purchase and installation of new parts. A few pilots have also reported seemingly random anomalies that cause the drone to lose power or oscillate wildly.
A Great Racing Drone: To Buy or to Build?
There isn’t exactly a “rivalry” between pilots who build their own drones as opposed to buying one, but there are definitely two clear schools of thought. There are advantages and disadvantages to each option.
Pros & Cons of Building Your Own Drone
On the plus side, it could be less expensive to build your own racing drone from scratch. When you buy a drone from a manufacturer you’re paying, at least in part, for the brand name.
Although you might be eligible for some sort of warranty on the parts you buy, you don’t get any kind of product guarantee as you do with drones you buy. However, individuals who build their own drones are often more adept at doing repairs themselves. Lastly, pilots interested in a “pretty” drone may not want to build their own UAV because mass-produced versions are usually more aesthetically pleasing than DIY racing drones.
Pros & Cons of Buying a Racing Drone
Buying a drone that is racing-ready takes significantly less time than building a UAV from scratch. This makes it a good option for beginners and people who don’t consider themselves to be mechanically-inclined.
You can usually count on some form of technical and repair support from the drone’s manufacturer when you buy a drone off the shelf (or off the Internet), but you could end up paying more for the drone itself as well as for replacement parts and service. There is also a certain sense of accomplishment that one gets from building a racing drone that just doesn’t exist when all you had to do was swipe your credit card.
A Happy Medium?
Luckily, there is a reasonable middle-ground. Let’s say, for example, that you aren’t yet secure enough with your drone building skills to create a successful racer from the ground up. At the same time, you’d like to learn the intricacies of racing drones and want to familiarize yourself with the nuts and bolts of drone building. If you want to delve deeper into drone racing with time, then consider buying a manufactured drone that has customizable options. This will allow you to get your feet wet, and over time you can add or change parts, or even learn how to fix the drone yourself. Soon enough you’ll have a fully-customized drone and you might be ready to build the next one, although many drone fanatics prefer to keep buying drones and then modify them at home.
How to Get Started with Drone Racing
It’s relatively easy to break into the world of drone racing. You won’t have to spend much money and the sport is popular nationwide. Follow these 5 steps to get started:
Join the Drone Racing Community
It’s a good idea to become a part of organizations such as the US Drone Racing Association and the Academy of Model Aeronautics. You can also look for local groups or leagues in your area. Visit parks and other locations where drone pilots are often found, and look for online drone racing forums and message boards.
Attend Drone Races
Before you dive head first into drone racing investments, visit a few races to get a feel for how things work at such events. This is also an opportunity to talk to drone racing enthusiasts and experts about your desire to get started.
Buy or Build a Racing Drone
If you’re new to drone racing and want to start as fast as possible then buy one of the many affordable high-speed drones currently available.
Mechanically-inclined pilots might want to build their own UAV. Above, we discussed the pros and cons of building a machine as opposed to buying one. Either way, by definition of the sport you’ll need to acquire a racing drone of your own.
Practice, Practice, Practice
NASCAR drivers don’t simply hop into a 1000-horsepower car and hit the track. They train for years and spend countless hours each week working on their skills and machines. To become a proficient drone racer you must be willing to put in the practice time. Set up courses on your own or use simulators to hone your skills. Practice with the same drone you plane to race with because each model handles differently.
Enter (and Hopefully Complete) a Drone Race
When you feel confident about your drone and your skills as a pilot, it’s time to race. Find a race in your area (or abroad, if you’re willing to travel). Sign up well in advance of the actual event and review all of the rules to make sure you’re in compliance. You shouldn’t expect to win your very first race, but completing the race and learning from your mistakes are appropriate goals.
First Person View (FPV) Drone Goggle Tips
FPV goggles add a whole new element to the sport of drone racing. By being able to see every turn, obstacle and competing drone from your aircraft’s point-of-view you can shave valuable seconds off your race time, and it’s also a lot more fun to fly a drone using FPV goggles.
The best choice for racing right now is FatShark, but we really like Cinemizer too.
You cant go wrong with these FPV Goggles in different price classes:
Practice – a lot. You weren’t a great driver the first time you got behind the wheel, and the same theory applies to first-person flying.
Be prepared to crash. Have spare parts on hand, and realize that you’re probably going to end up spending a little time and money on repairs until you get the hang of flying a drone from a first-person point-of-view.
Be aware of your surroundings. It’s easy to get caught up in flying and forget to consider people, animals and objects in the area.
As we also recommended with drone racing in general, compete in a race using FPV drone goggles. There is no substitute for live competition to see how proficient you really are at FPV drone racing.
For more information about Drone Racing check out:
There you have it! Our goal when we created this comprehensive guide to the top racing drones was threefold:
- Provide readers with valuable details regarding how to become a drone racer.
- Allow interested individuals to make well-informed choices when it comes to buying and/or building drones for racing.
- Lend our insight and years of experience to those who need more data on specific racing drones and the use of FPV drone goggles.
We hope that we have accomplished our mission with this article. By now you should have a pretty solid understanding about the world of drone racing, and you should be able to make wise decisions when it comes to building your own drone or buying one of the best drones for racing. We’d love to hear your thoughts on any part of this article as well as comments you have on our drone reviews. We’re also available to field questions. Happy flying!
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