Does the name racing bring chills and thrills to your body? Racing is one of the most dangerous yet thrilling events that attract fans from across the world. It doesn’t matter that it’s a race where athletes compete or drivers sit on their bikes or in their cars to finish on the top; we enjoy every bit of all the races. Now the race enthusiasts have another type of race to experience, in the form of drone racing. Also called FPV drone racing, this is the form of racing where drones are used in the race piloted by people while they are wearing VR goggles. FPV expands as First Person View.
We have advanced to a level in drone racing that just two weeks before writing this article, an autonomous drone beat a professional drone racing pilot. This comes after drone pilots need to have split-second reflexes and an incredible amount of hand coordination to fly the drone at fast speeds in the air through all sorts of obstacles.
This article will talk in detail about drone racing, the technology behind the race, racing kits, and the type of drone racing, including the major race leagues and competitions. Also, find a short summary of the best 6 FPV racing drones that you can buy.
What is Drone Racing?
The terms FPV drone racing and drone racing are used interchangeably as FPV is added to give the race its signature character. Added to the difficulty pilots might have to face while wearing the whole goggles setup, they have to plan out everything and ensure immaculate maneuverability.
Cutting corners, changing directions on the opposite side, and so much more. The stakes are also high because one wrong turn or one collision means they won’t make it to the finish line. If they do, their drone won’t be in the first position.
Did you know that a 16-year teenager won the 2019 FAI (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale) drone racing championship from South Korea? Yes, drone racing can be done by teenagers, too, as there is no danger attached to the race. The pilots have to sit comfortably in their chairs and fly the drone from their position. They need good skill, presence of mind, and the ability to control the drone at fast speeds.
The pilots get live feed streamed into their goggles, which helps them fly the drone within the set path. Drone racing is unlike the other forms of racing that have a straighter course. Here the racecourse is complex and convoluted.
Most of all, drone racing is an affordable sport, especially compared to other forms of racing. The most expensive thing in this is the drone itself, and the rest of the cost is spent on the setup. As a racer, the person has to spend money on buying and modifying their drone according to the requirements and race.
What Do You Need to Participate in the Race
Participating in a drone race is easier said than done. If you are not doing any physical work or running continuous laps, you still have to build remarkable coordination between your hands, eyes, and mind.
Drone racing involves the same type of quick decision-making skills as it is required in any other form of race. The stakes are equally high in FPV drone racing. To participate in a drone race, you need first to understand the basics, starting with everyone involved in the race.
Then you need to know the equipment (discussed ahead), the race rules, etc. The manner in which drone racing has exploded in the last few years demands regular updates to the regulations part. Here’s what you need to know about FPV drone racing.
Pilot and the Crew:
A pilot is self-explanatory, but why do you need to crew? Well, pilots cannot race alone. In every form of race, there are multiple people involved that help the person in competing and winning the race.
The crew includes spotters, judges, and starters. Among them, the spotters and judges are exclusively available to each drone pilot. Spotters feed information to the pilot, which is not available to the person via the goggles.
This means that a spotter will help the pilot understand the surroundings, give info about other drones, etc. Every pilot in FPV drone racing is assessed by an individual judge.
There can be other judges according to the racing rules. The individual judge keeps a check on the pilot’s racing and monitors whether he has crossed through all the obstacles or not. The starter of the drone race is the safety supervisor.
The scoring system in the race is meant to provide a detailed account of every drone’s performance and ultimately select the winners. Different races and tournaments have different scoring systems. So, it is best that you find out how the drone performances are assessed and how they are scored before joining the race.
If you want to participate in a drone race, the first thing is that you need a drone and a good one. There are a few things that you need to participate in a drone race.
Do not go for just any drone. Race-specific drones are built for the purpose, and they have a reinforced body, motors, transmission systems, etc. So, before buying a drone, research for the best types of racing drones, invest in the one you think will perform in every situation.
Professional racers need at least two drones in a race of the same configuration. Ideally, racers buy the drone frame instead of a pre-assembled kit, as it gives them the freedom to design the drone-like they want.
Also, soldering the drone parts onto the frame is cost-effective than buying kits because eventually, you will have to add some elements separately.
Pilots use goggles to see the view of the drone. There is a camera attached to the drone, which transmits live feed to the pilot’s goggles. Great goggles cost about $300 to $400 goggles, and most of the pilots choose FatShark goggles for racing.
But there is a huge market meant for FPV drone racing with goggles; you can choose any of them according to your budget and requirements.
You cannot expect to see better results in FPV drone racing without the best radio transmitter and receiver. This is the part that will relay your commands to the drone and send you the live streaming footage. A radio transmitter (TX) lets you control the drone, and the radio receiver (RX) is connected to the flight controller (FC).
Transmitters or the part that lets you control the drone has different channels. But for racing, buy the one with 6 channels, at least, and a frequency of 2.4 GHz.
Drone batteries, especially the ones used in FPV drone racing, are one of the most important components. A race drone battery lasts for a few minutes. You cannot afford to have a battery that dies before the race finishes. So, choose the batteries wisely and according to the requirements of your drone.
Technology Used in Drone Racing
Every form of the race has a unique set of elements that combine to create a bigger component essential to the race. Car races have innovative engines and other essentials of car maintenance, improvement, etc., that help in bringing the next best thing into the world of racing.
The same principle applies to FPV drone racing, wherein the innovators and creatives use different technologies to build a better racing machine and bring more utility to the pilots.
As every part of a racing drone is important, so are the FPV cameras. These small yet powerful devices are the drone pilot’s viewing window into the race.
Cameras are mounted on the drone, and they send a real-time video to the screen or the pilot’s goggles via a transmitter. It is the same FPV technology used in military drones with which the personnel can fly for thousands of miles.
There are two types of FPV cameras, CCD and CMOS. The CCD sensors offer incredible picture quality, but they will also punch a big hole in your pocket. CMOS sensors might have relatively low image quality, but they are also cost-effective.
FPV cameras also need good transmitters to send the video feed to the pilot. Higher resolution videos will require higher transmission bandwidth as compared to other lower qualities of video.
For drone racing, the ideal transmitter is the one that has a resolution above 600 TVL.
FPV Camera Latency:
Another important aspect of FPV drone racing is the camera’s latency. Latency is the lack or gap in image processing. Lower latency means better image processing and vice versa.
In drone racing, the quality and efficiency of the image received is crucial to the racers. For instance, a 100ms delay in image reception to a drone flying at 50 miles per hour means there will be a 2-meter gap between the drone’s actual position and the one received at the screen.
Major Drone Races and Tournaments
MultiGP has a global presence, and it also works as a governing body for managing radio-controlled drone racing. There are 14,000 members at the time of writing the article, with 544 chapters operating globally.
Chapters or MultiGP chapters comprise groups of pilots organized in a defined region. Together, these pilots organize and run drone racing events with an aim of skill improvements and progressing the sport further.
MultiGP has events all around the year; you can find the upcoming events here. There are also local races happening across the globe. Make sure to participate in these races to upgrade your FPV drone racing skills.
Drone Racing League or DRL is another global and professional competitive drone racing meant for elite pilots, managed and operated by a company also named DRL. The drone pilots have to complete the race flying at 90 MPH through complex courses.
DRL is one of the most awaited events in FPV drone racing because they plan out and organize the races. The fusion of digital and the real world creates an immersive racing experience for the pilots and the viewers.
The pilots coming here fly the DRL-certified drones, Racer2, Racer3, RacerX, and Racer4. Racer4 is the latest drone introduced in the 4th season. The races are held in a seasonal format.
FAI is a governing body present across the globe. Along with setting the rules and regulations for drone operations, they also organize FPV drone racing events.
Besides one main yearly event, FAI also oversees a series of regional drone racing events in various countries, including Russia, Serbia, Britain, Italy, Spain, etc. Their global presence and authority make them one of the most reputed drone racing events in the world.
The Edition 2021 of the FAI drone racing event comes with a new format where Masters and Challenger classes of pilots will participate, culminating with the World Drone Racing Championship.
How to Choose the Right Racing Drone?
Racing a drone through complex courses and obstacles is an exciting moment to witness. But you may not enjoy it as much as a person who is flying with a racing drone. When buying a racing drone, you need to take care of a few things and make sure to buy a drone only after taking these things into consideration.
There are two choices you face in racing drones;
- Should I buy?
- Or should I build?
Buying is better if you are a beginner and want to start your drone racing journey. Buying a drone will also save you the money and time required to collect different parts and assemble them.
So, as a beginner, when learning is your priority, buy a racing drone (see recommendations below). Moreover, buying an FPV racing drone with goggles will help you learn what goes into making a racing drone.
This way, when you are ready to build one, you will understand how every part is used and which one must be bought. Moreover, as a beginner learning to race a drone, you might crash it a few times.
So, it is better to buy a ready-to-fly drone and start learning first before you can handle the big guns.
Aspects of a Racing Drone:
Coming to building a drone, this stage comes later when you understand the dynamics of a racing drone. Plus, building a drone takes time, sometimes even weeks. So, it is an uphill task, which also requires expertise in handling different types of components.
Building a drone gives you better results as you are able to use the best technology available in FPV racing drone to build your machine. You can customize it according to the requirements and even give it custom paintwork to enhance the aesthetics.
Lest we forget, building a drone requires money. So, be prepared to spend some of it you have saved to build a custom drone for racing.
In both cases, look at these aspects to buy or build the best drone for racing.
- Added Components
- Top Speed
- Ability to handle or maneuverability
- Piloting modes (go for FPV)
- Flight controller
- Power Distribution Board
- Receiver and Transmitter
- Battery capacity
Best FPV Racing Drone You Must Know About
For participating in a drone racing event, you need to have the right type of drone, which is built for the purpose. Racing drones, in general, have a stronger frame and body to reduce the damage caused while crashing. Here are the top 6 recommendations to buy an FPV racing drone.
DJI FPV Drone
DJI FPV is the machine of dreams for drone races. This bad boy comes with immaculate cinematic first-person vision with ultra-low latency and three control modes. You will get two types of remote transmitters (one-hand and two-hand) along with the DJI goggles. So, you can call it an FPI racing drone kit.
The transmission power of the camera is great (provided by the OcuSync technology), but the quality could have been better. Apart from this, you get a longer battery life than most of the drones in this category. Also, it is priced on the higher side, which can become a decisive factor in not buying it initially.
Walkera F210 3D
Walkera F210 3D is known in the industry for its efficient high response time. The rapid acceleration brings more speed and agility to the quadcopter, which is highly beneficial in FPV drone racing.
You will also find 700 TVL transmission capacity in this drone, making it one of the best in terms of transmission speed and low latency drones. Specifically for racing, the Walkera F210 3D gives the pilot efficient flight control capabilities, which is important for better movement control in a race.
It has a modular design, which means that you can easily change the damaged or broken parts.
Emax Hawk 5
If you are looking for a budget FPV racing drone, this is the one. The Emax Hawk 5 is billed as the next-gen of racing drones. The micro cam and OSD has low latency and is added with sensors to transmit a clear and vibrant image to the pilot.
It features brushless motors powered by an all-in-one magnum power system. The AVAN flow propellers are meant to provide better control and flight experience without losing on speed and performance.
Arris X-Speed 250B
The Arris X-Speed 250B weighs almost half a kg, which is not the standard for FPV racing drones, but it has a few other things in the bucket which will persuade not to look at the weight. Starting with the maximum speed of 50 MPH and a signal range of 1.5 km at an operational frequency of 2.4 GHz, you can fly the drone from a safe distance.
The camera recording features 700 TVL HD transmission quality, and it also has a modular design with up to 9 minutes of battery, which is good. The remote controller is also pilot-friendly, and you can even customize it according to your requirements.
Fat Shark 101
The FatShark 101 is another one of the amazing FPV racing drones with goggles on our list. This drone is one of the best training systems that you can get at such a low price. The drone is small, which means that it is easier to fly and handle. Plus, it has a solid remote to help you control the drone even during the most overwhelming scenarios.
The remote also has different modes, including a beginner mode to help get started with training. Other modes include Acro mode (intermediate and advanced). The additional modes make for a perfect training module that helps you move to the next level of drone flying without buying another drone.
Makerfire Micro FPV
The last FPV racing drone on our list is also one of the smallest racing drones meant to help you train and win some local-level races. It only weighs 22 grams; yes, that small. You will get in-built propeller guards, which protect the drone from getting any damage.
For a drone this size, it features an amazing camera with 520 TVL transmission capacity. The downside is that you won’t get a controller in the box and have to buy one additionally. Performance-wise, it is a fast drone that is also super easy to control and a fun machine to fly around.
FPV drone racing is quickly gaining in terms of popularity. Even though there aren’t a lot of sponsorships or campaigns running in this field as compared to other sports, we can see things changing in the near future.
There are several events happening across the globe, and some have high sponsorships and prize amounts. These are the events you would want to compete at and win big eventually.
But for that to happen, make sure that you understand the rules and systems associated with drone racing. Know the drone parts and technologies that are used in racing and which are the best FPV racing drones with goggles that you can buy.
Build your skills, understand the game, and learn to become a pro at drone flying so that you can easily participate in a drone race and win.