Drone Racing: What You Need to Get Started

Posted by
Korey Smith
May 1, 2016
Buying Guides

Drone racing is not a simple sport like baseball, but it’s not too complicated once you know what you need to buy. In this article, I’m going to go over all of the things that you need to get before going for your first flight. If you have more questions about this subject, leave them in the comment section and we will answer them as soon as we can.Pricing and Links Part NamesPricing & LinksIs It RecommendedFrSky Taranis X9D Plus$205RecommendedFrSky D4R-II$25RecommendedFrSky XSR$30AlternativeDominator HD V2 Goggles$520RecommendedDominator V3 Goggles$350AlternativeFatShark Goggle Diopters$20needed for some peopleRace Band Receiver$30RecommendedSpiroNET Antenna Set$40Recommended1300mAh 4s 60c Battery$30RecommendedUSB Charger & Cell Checker$8Recommended80W 8Amp LiPO Charger$50Recommended2x300W Multi Charger$380Alternative

A Good Racing Drone

Obviously the first thing that you’re going to need is a racing drone, but there are two ways of getting one. The first and easiest way is to buy one that comes pre-built with almost everything you need. The other option is to build a racing drone. If you’ve never built a drone before, I highly recommend getting one that is pre-built. That way, you can start flying within a few days instead of a few weeks.

After getting more flight experience, reading more info online and watching more flight videos by the top drone pilots, you’ll start to learn what it is that you really want to build. When that time comes, build whatever you want, but for now click here to see the best pre-built racing drones available.

A controller That Will Last

Lots of people overlook the controller when getting started, but it’s just as important as the drone itself. Before we go any further, let me make one thing clear. A controller can also be called a radio, or transmitter, but a “video transmitter” is a completely different piece of hardware. We use two kinds of communication systems on racing drones. The first is just a standard transmitter and receiver for controlling the drone. The second is a video transmitter and video receiver used for getting a live feed of what the drone sees. You should also know that the words “transmitter” and “receiver” are commonly shortened to “Tx” and “Rx”.

The price for a good transmitter ranges from $150 to over $1000, but most people have found that there is one transmitter that seems to beat them all for only $200. That transmitter is called the FrSky Taranis. Over the past 2 years, the Taranis has become the industry standard for drone racing, because of it’s low price, high quality and great features that beat everything else in it’s price point.

Depending on what transmitter you get, you will also need to choose a receiver to go with it. For the Taranis, there are two options that are small enough to fit inside the tight spaces of a racing drone while still providing good performance. The FrSky D4R-II is a good cheap receiver. The best receiver available is the FrSky XSR because of it’s smaller size and better responsiveness, but it’s usually out of stock do to high demand and only the best pilots will be able to tell the difference in performance. In other words, just get the D4R-II if the other receiver isn’t available.

Video Goggles

Almost all pilots now use FPV video goggles instead of traditional screens when flying racing drones, and here’s why. With goggles, there’s no sun glare, no visual distractions, you where them on your head so you don’t have to sit at a table to fly and it’s a more immersive experience. FPV goggles will be more expensive than a comparable FPV screen, but it’s worth it, so don’t wait to buy them. If you use glasses, then you may need to buy additional lenses that help your eyes focus better. If you’ve tried the correction lenses and still find that goggles just aren’t your thing, then sell them and get a screen. FPV goggles hold their value pretty well anyway.

One thing you should realize before getting an FPV screen or goggles is that the video feed resolution is 640x480, so don’t expect what you’re looking at while flying to look like an HD television (at least not yet). There are a lot of video goggles out there, but only a few are made specifically for FPV. Right now, Fat Shark is the most popular brand and they have the best selection of goggles available.

There are two goggles from Fat Shark to consider for drone racing. The Dominator HD v2 are the best FPV goggles money can buy. They have a large 50 degree field-of-view, flight recording functionality, the highest resolution (higher than standard definition but not HD) and the colors are the most accurate which can help you see better in high-contrast situations.

The Dominator HD v2 goggles are quite expensive, so if you want to save some money, get the Dominator V3 goggles. The Dominator V3 goggles are the next step down from the Dominator HD V2 (Smaller field-of-view, lower resolution, less accurate colors and different aspect ratio), but they still provide a decent picture. One thing to note about the Dominator V3 is that they have a 16x9 aspect ratio whereas the Dominator HD v2 have a 4x3 aspect ratio. This means that the Dominator V3 will actually stretch the image making everything look fatter than real life. Personally, I don’t have a problem flying with the video stretched like this, but if you do, thats another reason to upgrade to the Dominator HD v2 goggles.

Video Receiver and Antennas

FPV goggles allow you to see the video signal from your racing drone, but where is that signal coming from and how are the goggles getting it? that’s where video receivers come in. Some goggles come with video receivers built into them, but with both of the Dominator goggles you will need to buy an add-on video receiver made by Fat Shark. You will also need matching video antennas for the video receiver (located on the goggles) and video transmitter (located on the drone). There are a lot of options out there, but the ImmersionRC 5.8 GHz SpiroNET antennas are the most popular and they’re extremely durable.

Lots Of Batteries

Even if you buy a pre-built drone like the Vortex 250 Pro or Vendetta, racing drones like these don’t come with batteries. I won’t go into all the specifics on how to pick a good LIPO Battery in this article, but just know that the most common battery for a racing drone is 14.8v 1300mah 60C. A battery with specifications like this will give you the best power-to-weight ratio for the drones we recommend and the higher C rating means that it will handle higher currents and last longer than a battery with a lower C rating.

Get at least two or three batteries to start with, since flight time on a racing drone is very limited and you’ll need as much practice as you can get. You can buy even more batteries in the future, but if you have more than just two or three, you’ll need to look into Parallel charging so you don’t spend 10 hours trying to charge all of them. One thing you should buy (no matter what battery you get) is a voltage checker. LIPO batteries do not like being over discharged and can even break if discharged too much. It doesn’t really matter what kind of LIPO checker you get, but the HobbyKing LIPO to USB voltage checker is nice because it can also turn your battery into a Phone charger!

A Good Charger

Don’t buy a $15 charger. You will regret it! LIPO batteries are not like AA batteries. They should be charged and handled with care and never overcharged. With a good charger and a little common sense, LIPO batteries are not a huge fire hazard, but using a cheap low quality charger can be extremely dangerous. Get a good charger (nothing cheaper than $30), read the manual and everything will be fine.

If you plan on charging more than one battery at a time, buy a parallel charger and watch our video about parallel charging. For parallel charging, you’ll need a charger that can output at least 8 amps. That should be enough to charge up to 6 of the batteries we recommended in about an hour. If you plan on charging even more than 6 batteries at once, or charging at a faster rate, higher amp output is always better. The EV-Peak C4 is a good starter charger, but you can always go crazy and get something like the EV-Peak SD1.

Korey Smith

Korey Smith, independent film maker, RC model enthusiast and co-owner of MyFirstDrone

No items found.
No items found.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form