RTF Racing Drone Buyers Guide
Racing drones are also known as racing quadcopters, racing quads, and simply…racers.
While Buying a first Drone is a daunting task, racing drones take even more consideration. This guide should make it a bit easier to narrow down what you are looking for.
What I will Cover:
I will cover how to decipher the features of RTF Racing Drones on the market as well as some hot products in the category.
Racing drones are not the same as Camera Drones, or Aerial Photography drones used to take pictures and videos. Although they can carry cameras, FPV drones are polar opposites of Aerial Photography Drones.
I will not cover advanced modification, building or the different leagues in this guide.
FPV Racing Drones have exploded in popularity since late 2014, particularly recently. Leagues are popping up all over, Clubs are starting and people on a massive scale are flocking to the RC Flight Hobby, particularly with Quadcopters. What makes it popular? The thrill, the competitive nature, and pushing the boundaries of technology! FPV racing is an incredible experience, it really brings out a sense of accomplishment just flying them.
But what are FPV Racing Drones/Quadcopters? A Quadcopter or drone is a radio controlled multirotor flying device that utilizes thrust and torque from motors to guide itself. FPV Technology is First person view, or a camera and video transmitter array, transmitting an analog signal to a monitor or goggles in real time for the operator or a spectator to see. Combine these in a competitive environment and you have FPV Racing, A high speed, high risk sport that is incredibly satisfying.
Features to look for:
- Auto Level– The tendency of a quadcopter to return to a level (not a hover) when controls are released. Useful for the beginner or in an emergency. But usually detrimental while racing
- Altitude Hold– The Tendency of a quadcopter to hold its Altitude without throttle input, usually, throttle stick is sprung on quadcopters with this feature. Useful for the beginner. Not so much for anyone else.
- Acro Mode– The mode most pilots use, Gyro stabilization off and NO autolevel. Use with caution.
- FPV– 5.8Ghz FPV is a standard for racing drones, so avoid latency laden WIFI FPV or 2.4GHz video links. Low latency and range are key to any FPV racing drone. 5.8GHZ provides good quality image with low latency as well as decent range depending on power but don’t expect to go spying with it, it can’t penetrate objects very well at all. Other things to avoid are Single Channel FPV setups, 32 channels on a vtx is the standard and 40 is ideal, but single and 8ch vtx’s do exist. Also be aware of blue screen. Most purpose built FPV gear doesn’t do this but on modified gear, the screen often goes Blue instead of a fade to static on weak signal. Which is a recipe for disaster.
- Speed/Power– Quadcopters with a 10:1 power to weight ratio are not unheard of in racing, speeds reach north of 120kmh+ (75mph+) but FPV racing is rarely in a straight line. They are tests of the pilot’s skill rather than their drone’s power. Sort of like a Drag race vs a circuit.
- Maneuverability– Like above this is the true test of any racing drone. Anyone can make a quadcopter a rocket, but FPV racing is about combining agility, finesse and acceleration rather than flat speed. This is up to the flight controller, the transmitter, and the pilot, and as such, it is mostly personal
- Expandability– Can you modify, or upgrade the drone, if you can’t, it probably isn’t the right option. There are some exceptions.
- Size: Most Racing drones are under 300mm, most popular and common being 250mm although micro and mini (80mm-200mm) racing is becoming more popular. I recommend to stick with 250 class(230-270mm) for balanced handling. Any bigger gets sluggish and too much smaller gets twitchy.
- GPS– This is more often found on “crossover” drones in between 250 FPV racers, and 350 Camera drones. Not needed but for just soaring around, it’s a welcome feature.
- Flight time– this is last for a reason. Racing Drones are not meant for long flights, they are meant for hard acceleration and maneuvering which are the enemies of flight time. It is rare to get more than 5 minutes of flight time out of a racing drone. Most races last under 2 minutes. Even with advanced Li-Po battery technology and the most efficient and powerful brushless motors
Drones to consider:
Floureon Racer 250:
A balanced performing and decent priced quadcopter, the Floureon racer comes with everything you need, it is completely hobby grade, and ready to race out of the box (although you may want to tune it some if you are more advanced). This one is equipped with a Naze 32 Flight controller and powerful 20A ESC’s
Eachine Racer 250:
While these two may look the same or “rebranded” there are several key differences. The Eachine is a bit milder with its 12A escs (same motors) and a less flexible (and less expensive) CC3D flight control board than the Naze 32. It is also slightly more expensive than the Floureon.
Walkera Runner 250:
The Walkera Runner 250 racing drone was born a racer from a family of great products. While far more expensive than both of the above, the Walkera Runner sports a GPS, and a far bigger battery. Being an early FPV Racer it is not nearly as agile, but if you don’t plan on league racing, this is always a good option
Keep in mind this is far from all racing drones on the market, just the best of the RTF FPV Racers, there are plenty more on the market, but it is more than likely that they are not as easy to get ready to go as these. Also remember that the best pilots, tweak, tune and mod, to get the best out of their racing quadcopters. There is loads of documentation on most well-known drones out there, so I recommend taking a look at some of it before buying.
Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed this guide.
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