Wanna buy a racing drone? Read this first!
In this post, we take a detailed look at some of the key feature to consider before buying a racing drone. Intended for first-time drone pilots, the post focuses on the basics of racing drone and will also introduce you to various types of quadcopter racing models available on the market.
What is an FPV racing drone?
First things first - what are you actually getting when purchasing a racing drone? FPV racing drones are designed, built and bought with one very specific purpose - they will compete (and, hopefully, win) in FPV (first person view) drone races. In that, they are completely different from the commercial camera drones like the Phantom 4, Mavic, Inspire, etc. Camera drones are designed to fly slow and low and take the best possible air footage that the onboard technology allows. Racing drones, on the other hand, are made to fly as quickly as possible and their onboard cameras are used to merely show the pilot where the quadcopter is going.
DIY or Ready-to-Fly?
The second important thing to know before buying your first racing drone is that, unlike with camera drones, most professional pilots prefer to build their quadcopters, entirely or partially. In fact, practically all race winning drones are DIY and racers are constantly tweaking their drones to get better aerodynamics, speed, stability and overall performance.
If you decide to go with a DIY drone, you will also have several options to choose from, depending on how much you actually want to do yourself.
ARF quadcopters, or Almost Ready To Fly, come (as the name suggests) almost completely assembled and there is just a bit of extra assembly work to complete. Check out the JJPRO ARF quadcopter to see what getting this type of drone involves.
PNP quadcopters, or Plug-and-Play, come with everything but a transmitter, receiver battery and charger letting you choose these components based on your own needs, preferences and technical knowledge. The Walark Micro FPV Racing Drone is a good example of these types of models.
With that said, as a first time pilot, it's entirely up to you how much effort you want to put into this. Building your own quadcopter will come with a learning curve. With a ready-to-fly drone, you can be up in the air in no time and you won't have to get into all the technical nitty-gritty.
Here are a few models for your consideration:
What camera to go with?
As mentioned earlier, racing drones do not need a top-notch camera. With that said, you need to be able to see clearly where your drone is going - so what matters a lot with an FPV camera is the quality of the image that gets relayed back. It is typically recommended to go with the camera that is from 700 to 800 TVL in resolution.
Transmitter and receiver connection
One of the key things to check before getting your racing quadcopter - and especially if you are mix and matching parts - is that your transmitter and receiver are on the same frequency. Exactly what frequency that will be depends on your country and how powerful of a connection you require - 5.8Ghz is currently the most widespread option.
Monitor or goggles?
You can also choose how you want to see where your quadcopter is going: an LCD monitor or goggles. Most racing drones will come with an LCD monitor by default, it's a cheaper alternative to goggles but you will get a good quality picture.
As for goggles, they provide a more immersive experience by canceling out all the distractions - they are typically the choice of professional racers. If you want to have the freedom, of choosing your own monitor, go with one of the DIY models mentioned above.
Unlike with expensive photo drones like DJI's Phantom 4 where you will do your best to make sure your quadcopter doesn't crash, with racing drones the story is quite different. You are going to crash a lot. This is just part and parcel of the racing game. So, look for a drone with a tough durable frame - carbon fibre is the best - and don't be afraid to crash.
Get ready for take-off
All in all, don't spend too much time going over details and the theory. As a first time pilot, your priority is getting airborne. Once you are up in the air, you will get a better idea of what is working for you and what is not. You may want to start off with a lower budget model and tweak it as you fly with extra features and gimmicks.
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