Drone racing has quickly become one of the up and coming hobbies for enthusiast and adrenaline seekers where remote controlled UAV’s are raced through a course laid out by organisers. Contestants use their drones to navigate an obstacle course and test their flying skills against other competitors using first person view systems also known as FPV. FPV is essentially when the controller, usually with a built in monitor or goggles being used lets the user see everything its sees making it easier to quickly react to onrushing obstacles. It offers the pilots the most realistic experience and helps them progress their skills much more quickly. The FPV technology has been around in the RC world for a few years now and was has used with Remote control planes in recent times.
Many outsiders believe the drones racing hobby will fade out and is merely a flash in the pan. Having been involved in many of the events myself I strongly disagree with this view. In fact I predict the sport (yes I am calling it a sport) is only at the early stages and will explode in the coming years when people become more familiar with the technology and more clubs promote the events in local areas and online. If you are completely new or even just thinking about getting into it, I would advise to give it a go but with one warning. It is completely addictive. If racing through obstacle courses, fighting off others, trying to keep your UAV in the air is not enough to get you pulse racing then watching a HD replay of the event certainly will.
Of course like any racing event the driver is only as good as the vehicle he or she is driving. While I don’t recommend a complete newcomer to go out and buy a the top of the range racing drone, I would suggest you get a decent UAV as you will enjoy more due to better handling, sturdiness and battery life.
What Makes a Good Racing Drone?
While there a host of factors that will determine the elite, there are three key points in what makes a good racing drone. I call them – SCD (Speed, Controller, Durability)
As with all races speed it important and although the fastest drones will not always win the race, you will need a drone that shift when needed. The average RC drone will travel on average 30-35 mph but those that are built for speed will exceed 50 mile per hour and sometimes more. It is usually not that difficult to increase speed capability and the basics do not require you to be a mechanical genius. As with formulae one racing cars weight matters. Reducing the weight by removing unnecessary extras will encourage your drone to go faster. And like every other mechanical device the power will make a difference. Upgrading to higher voltage batteries can give you the edge in a race. The standard battery common in most UAV’s 11.1 volt but changing to a 14.8 volt battery will give it a boost.
As mentioned earlier First Person View systems are the recommended standard in drone racing. There are many different types to choose from with varied functions and capabilities. Having an effective FPV in your arsenal is essential. The camera being used to record footage must be able to process the video at a frame rate fast enough so that you can react quickly or you will end up crashing and burning. It also must be able to change direction and have a wide view angle so that when you changing direction you have a good view of your surroundings. Your drones will tilt when flying, anywhere between 5 and 75 degrees and your camera needs to be able to respond accordingly with the camera positioning. You do not want to turn a corner and the camera still be pointing in the direction you were previously flying!
Let’s get one thing straight, when you start your drone racing career you will crash more often that you would like. And even when you become more skilled in the art of flying through barns you will still have those incidents where your object avoidance skills cannot compete with gravity. Ok so now that we get the fact that it is inevitable that accidents will happen it advisable to choose a UAV that can take a hit or two and has plenty of spare parts available.
Of course all of the above suggestions are useless if you cannot fly effectively so check out how to fly a drone. Like every other hobby you get better at it by practicing. Obviously your first flying experience should not be in a race. Learn to crawl before you can walk and all that. So once your FPV drone is built get out there in some wide open space and try some moves. Mini or micro drones have become more advanced recently and are being used by newbies to enter the world on racing.
If you are thinking about buying your first drone and are not really ready for racing yet then you can read our best drone reviews. Alternatively if you are looking to take your photography to the next level please read our guide the best drones for GoPro cameras.