7 Killer Tips for Choosing a Racing Quadcopter
BY Alan Perlman6 November 2016
As with any type of multirotor, there are a ton of different racing quadcopters to choose from. And many more come out each month.
It can be tough to know what options are available, which are best for different needs, and how to make your final decision.
So I put together 7 tips to help you choose a racing quadcopter. You will learn whether or not to choose a DIY or RTF rig, how to choose a camera, and much more.
Let’s get started.
DIY or RTF?
This is the first question you should ask yourself:
“Do I want to build my own quadcopter or buy one that’s ready to fly?”
There are benefits to both routes, and each suits different people better.
First off, building your own racing drone (DIY) can be much cheaper than buying a ready-to-fly (RTF) rig. Sometimes you can pay up to half as much.
You also get to customize your specs and features based on your racing style. For this reason, many professional pilots build their own quadcopters.
The catch is that you either need to know or learn the technical side of quad building, which includes choosing the right parts so they match up correctly and using a soldering iron.
If you’re interested in seeing what it’s like to build a racing quadcopter, this video from Tested is excellent.
If you don’t want to build your own, there are plenty of high quality ready-to-fly options out there. Here are a few to check out:
You’ll typically pay more for a RTF quad, but you’ll be able to get in the air much faster and you won’t have to learn all of the technical knowledge required to build one. You will also minimize any mistakes you might make building one.
I usually suggest that new racers go this route.
However, every pilot will need to make repairs to their quad at some point, so a little technical knowledge can go a long way.
(And buy a lot of extra propellers!)
Pay Attention to Weight
There are a few types of drone races (Rotorcross, Drag Race, Time Trial). No matter which one you’re in, you will need to either have a high top speed or powerful acceleration to keep up with your competition.
Your quadcopter’s weight is a major factor in how fast you can fly.
Using the quadcopters mentioned above as examples, here are their respective weights:
- ARRIS 250 — 13.6 ounces
- TBS Vendetta — 14.4 ounces
- Vortex 285 — 14.4 ounces
From a pure weight standpoint, the ARRIS 250 wins because it’s lighter. Lighter quadcopters will get more out of their motor’s power.
So when choosing your drone, pay attention to its weight.
Choose an Adequate Camera
Your camera is a crucial component.
You need to be able to clearly see what’s in front of your drone and where you’re going. If you don’t have the budget, you don’t need to go for the most expensive cameras with the best picture.
You just need one that will relay a good enough quality image back to you.
Try to buy a camera that’s around 700TVL to 800TVL in resolution.
Make Sure Your Transmitter and Receiver Are in the Same Frequency
The transmitter relays your camera’s feed back to the receiver, which then accepts the camera’s feed and relays it to your screen/goggles of choice.
In order for these two components to talk to each other, they need to be in the same frequency.
Which frequency you choose depends on the country you live in (some have laws against certain frequencies) and how powerful you want/need the connection to be.
The more powerful your connection, the better it will be able to handle objects (like trees and building) coming in its way.
5.8Ghz is by far the most popular option right now.
No matter which you choose, make sure your transmitter and receiver are in the same frequency.
Goggles or a Monitor?
You have two main options to view your camera’s feed:
- An LCD monitor
- FPV goggles
An LCD monitor usually gets attached to the top of your controller.
It’s a cheaper alternative to goggles, but your picture is usually as good and it doesn’t provide as much of an immersive experience.
But FPV goggles provide a fully immersive experience by cutting off other distractions. They are the top choice for professional drone racers.
However, they run more expensive than monitors.
Here’s my suggestion:
If you’re just starting out or you have a low budget, go with an LCD monitor first then upgrade later. If you’re a bit more advanced or your budget is high enough, go with a pair of FPV goggles.
Pick a Racing Drone With a Durable Frame
One aspect of drone racing is true for every pilot:
You will crash.
This means you’ll be doing repairs on-site at the race track.
But it also means you should maximize your quadcopter’s durability, because some crashes are so bad that repairs simply can’t be made.
To minimize your risk, buy a RTF racing drone with a durable frame (carbon fiber is best) or buy a durable frame separately if you’re building your own rig.
It’s smart to spend a little more in this area, because it could save you money down the line on replacements.
Don’t Spend Too Much Time Contemplating
Finally, the main goal is to get out there and start racing.
Don’t spend too much time researching and contemplating which routes to take. Do some searches in Google, read some reviews, and make a decision.’
You can always change your mind later as you learn more about the sport.