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This guide gives pilots a crash course on drone racing, including the top five ready-to-fly racing drones, what FPV drone racing is, how it works, and a glossary of important drone racing terms.
Flying an FPV (first person view) racing drone is an otherworldly experience.
Before now, only in movies and video games could most people experience a bird’s-eye view while racing through obstacles at breakneck speeds. Thanks to FPV quadcopters, hexacopters, and other multirotors, anyone with enough flying skill to maneuver a drone can have this experience.
FPV racing is growing rapidly as a competitive sport, and it’s become commercialized by organizations like the Drone Racing League, U.S. Drone Racing Association, and events like the World Drone Racing Championships. Pilots compete to make it to the top of the international rankings and to win prize money up to tens of thousands of dollars.
These quadcopters can fly up to 120 miles per hour (or faster) through hoops, around trees, over bars, and just about any object.
Race tracks are set up to challenge each pilot’s skill set. Professional tracks set up for sanctioned races can get extremely complex, requiring pilots to make acrobatic maneuvers to get around/through each obstacle. Many drone racing pilots also enjoy setting up their own courses, using DIY racecourse kits.
If you’re interested in becoming a professional drone racing pilot, you need to practice, practice, practice! An excellent way to develop your flight skills is to practice on a simulator, like the DRL Simulator or the DJI Flight Simulator.
[We asked the 2018 DRL Allianz World Champion Paul “Nurk” Nurkkala what advice he’d give to aspiring racing pilots. Check out the interview here.]
You should also plug into the drone racing community. Look for local racing events in your area and join a drone racing league. Attending events as a spectator can help you learn more about the sport and may give you an opportunity to network with or seek mentorship from an experienced racing pilot.
Here are the different leagues and championships available:
Racing drones typically come in one of three setups:
1. Ready-to-fly (RTF) – Drones made for FPV racing that requires no additional assembly.
2. Bind-and-fly (BNF) – Drones that come completely assembled, but without a controller.
2. Kits – Bundles of compatible components that require some assembly. May include the frame, motor, connecting parts, the controller, the transmitter, and/or other parts.
3. DIY racing drones -Pilots handpick all the components of their system and put them together to create a DIY, custom-built racing drone system.
If you’re interested in checking out drone racing kits, here is an example from DJI (additional parts are required with each kit/system):
For the rest of this guide, we’ll be focused on ready-to-fly and bind-and-fly models.
Note #1: All specs/features are obtained from the manufacturer or retailer.
Note #2: On this list, we’ve included models available for sale on Amazon and DJI — as Amazon and DJI Associate partners, we earn a small commission for qualifying purchases. Please know that we’ve tested many of the models on this list, and we wouldn’t recommend anything we wouldn’t fly ourselves!
This unique racing drone is tiny but powerful. The large-capacity brushless motors combined with 210mm size make the drone superbly powerful.
Within the carbon fiber frame, this mini racing drone has a clean overlook and well-protected components. Not like other mini drones, EMAX Hawk Pro has an attached mushroom antenna to provide a better signal.
This is an excellent drone to start off with on your FPV racing journey. Before purchasing, know that this quad is BNF (bind and fly), meaning that you will need to purchase a remote controller separately before it is fully RTF (ready to fly).
The Walkera F210 3D Edition is one of the most popular ready-to-fly FPV drones on the market.
This racing drone features a modern industrial modular carbon fiber frame design that’s ultra-durable and crash-resistant. Its flight control system enables stable flight and precise flight maneuvers such as flips, rolls, and race course moves. The drone can also come to a quick stop and eliminate the drift due to inertia, lowering collision risk.
It is also simple to disassemble and reassemble, which means it’s ready to fly as is, or can be customized by the pilot. The Walkera F210 is equipped with a 700TVL HD camera and a 5.8 G real-time image transmission for live FPV streaming.
The Walkera F210 3D Edition is a solid FPV racing drone at a modest price for serious racers.
This ready-to-fly FPV racing drone, ARRIS X2220 V2, is fully assembled, tuned and tested before leaving the factory. Plug the battery, then fly.
The new ARRIS 2205 brushless motor and 5045 propellers can work together to offer the highest performance. It supports GPS mode, Attitude Mode, and Manual mode. It also supports accurate position hold, return to home (with user setup), and Intelligent Orientation Control (IOC).
Plus, the ARRIS FPV mini camera is specially designed for FPV. This camera performs well in both bright and dark conditions with 1200 TVL high-quality images. The camera angle on the drone is also adjustable.
Walkera F210 Professional will get your adrenaline pumping whether racing on the track or freestyle. It’s the latest ready-to-fly racing drone quadcopter. The quad is designed around the F3 Flight Controller with rapid response speed, providing pilots a first-class flight experience.
If you are into racing and freestyle aerobatic flying, this may be for you. The airframe design is modern, simple, lightweight fuselage but with a rugged crash structure. This ready-to-fly racing drone comes with high-performance brushless motors, night vision, and a 40c 4S LiPo battery, to give you that adrenaline rush!
The DJI FPV drone has created an entry point for FPV flying. It has also shaken up the more traditional offerings from DJI by allowing those who have never flown FPV before to dive right in without needing to build a custom drone or learn specialized piloting skills. Its hybrid design makes it great for both cinematic flying or racing. With a 4K Super-Wide camera and RockSteady Stabilization, action-packed footage has never looked so good.
The optional Motion Controller redefines the flying experience by giving the pilot real-time control and feedback within a simple hand movement. The new audience mode allows others with FPV goggles to watch your flight in real-time. Other flight modes include:
New to FPV flying? Not to worry, with Emergency Brake and Hover, you can stop on a dime and hover at any moment. Other safety features include:
FPV (first person view): Using a screen, monitor, or goggles to view what your multirotor’s camera is seeing in real time.
Line of Sight (LoS): Being able to physically see your drone as you’re piloting it.
FPV racing: A rapidly growing sport in which pilots race small quadcopters around a predetermined track.
RTF (ready to fly) racing drones: Drones made for FPV racing that require no additional assembly.
DIY racing drones: A homemade do-it-yourself racing drone.
FPV camera: A special camera used for first-person-view racing, piloting, photography, or videography.
FPV goggles: A special set of goggles used to view what the multirotor’s camera is seeing in real time.
Head tracking: An FPV goggle mod that allows you to adjust your camera’s angle mid-flight by tilting your head.
Interpupillary distance: Internal goggle lens distance from the center of your pupils.
LCD monitor: A screen, usually attached to the controller, used to view what a multirotor’s camera is seeing. Usually used instead of goggles.
Transmitter: Relays the camera’s feed to the receiver.
Receiver: Accepts the camera’s feed and relays it to your screen/goggles of choice.
Frequency: The radio frequency FPV equipment runs on. Can be brand-dependent. Allows for multiple channels so pilots don’t interfere with each other.
FPV system: The entire drone rig, from the multirotor itself, to the connecting parts, to the controller and video display method.
On Screen Display (OSD): Gives you flight telemetry data (speed, altitude, battery life, etc) on your FPV display. See a full OSD guide here.
TVL (Resolution): The camera’s resolution, which helps determine video feed quality and clarity.
CCD camera type: Camera that uses a charge-coupled device (CCD) image sensor. Typically better for FPV.
CMOS camera type: Camera that uses a complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS) image sensor. Typically cheaper than CCD cameras, but not as good for FPV.
Video Latency: Lag in what your camera sees and when it transmits it to your screen/goggles. Can lead to inaccurate flight, racing maneuvers, and aerial shots.
Jello: Vibration in your video caused by the multirotor itself.