RACING DRONES: All You Need to Know in 2020AnhK
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Before discussing all there is to know about racing drones, it’s important to define what drones are. Drones can be defined as flying robots that are remotely controlled. Drones can also fly autonomously using software-controlled flight plans that work alongside GPS and onboard sensors.
Drones have many names ranging from UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and ROAs (remotely operated aircrafts) to RPAs (remotely piloted aircrafts), UAs (unmanned aircrafts) and UAS (Unmanned aircraft system) defining drones which don’t have a flight crew.
If you are not familiar with drone basics, check these posts before continue reading:
- 1. Types of drones
- 2. What racing drone’s features and designs are different from other types of drones?
- 3. Modes and functions that current racing drones have in the market today
- 4. What’s included in a racing drone kit
- 5. Tips when using, cleaning, and controlling racing drones
- 6. Where can I find racing drone parts if my drone is broken?
- 7. Can you customize a racing drone for a better look, to improve speed or quality?
- 8. Racing drones buying tips
- 9. Top 5 best racing drones for beginners
- 10. Some racing drones league in USA that beginners can join
1. Types of drones
Drones can be categorized in many ways: For instance, they can be characterized by the number of rotors they have, technology, application, etc.
Drones by the number of rotors
- Octocopters: Eight rotors
- Hexacopters: Six rotors
- Quadcopters: Four rotors
- Tricopters: Three rotors
Drones by technology
- AI-powered self-flying drones.
Drones by application
The most common classification of drones is by their application. There are drones today designed for a wide variety of applications. The most common drones by application include, but aren’t limited to:
- Photography and videography drones
- Racing drones Inspection drones
- Transport and delivery drones
- Underwater drones.
Our focus here is on racing drones i.e. drones whose main application or purpose is racing.
2. What racing drone’s features and designs are different from other types of drones?
Since racing drones are built for racing, they tend to be lighter, sturdier, swifter, and faster than other types of drones. They may be limited in regards to flying duration and range; however, they are quicker than most, if not all, types of drones on sale today. Here are the main features and design differences between racing drones and other drones.
Separately controlled motors
Since racing drones are designed to offer maximum agility with easier control of roll, pitch, yawn, and incline, they have motors that are individually controlled. Every motor on a racing drone is controlled on an individual channel. Motors in other types of drones work in unison.
For drones solely built for racing to optimize on speed, they need a perfect thrust-to-weight ratio. A perfect ratio ensures the drones get off the ground as fast as possible. It also ensures successful manoeuvers at high speeds.
To be able to maintain high speeds, a racing drone’s motors must match the drone’s weight perfectly. The optimal thrust-to-weight is approximately 2:1. A drone weighing 400g needs 0.8kg of thrust produced by all motors. While this rule of thumb applies in most cases, there are obvious differences from one drone to another.
Lightweight designs are a common prerequisite when designing “anything” that needs to go fast. Drones aren’t an exception.
Racing drone designers focus on installing the lightest racing drone parts to maximize speed. The fastest racing drones have some things in common i.e., they tend to have the lightest frames, motors, and batteries.
Virtual reality experience
Virtual reality is an important feature in racing drones. While normal drone users watch their drones from the ground and enjoy footage and pictures when the drone is back on the ground, racing drone users have a VR experience. They have an experience similar to that of a pilot in a simulator. The only difference is they have a VR headset or screen.
Racing drones are equipped with high-tech cameras that send live feedback to a pilot’s VR headset or screen, allowing them to views matching those they would get if they were on board their drone. The VR experience is critical for making split-second decisions during racing.
3. Modes and functions that current racing drones have in the market today
There are many flight modes in many different types/models of racing drones. What’s more, different drone manufacturers have different names for different modes. You are bound to see terms like acro, manual, selflevel, etc. when looking at drone modes today. As a guiding principle, focus more on what you want your drone to do. With that in mind, here are the main drone modes and functions today:
Most racing drones come with a manual/acro/acrobatic mode. This mode is less intrusive. It allows a drone user unmatched maneuverability. This may be a great feature for an advanced drone user. However, beginners need more stability than manual control that requires constant flying.
The same modes can be referred to as angle and horizon modes. Drones with this mode have gyroscopic sensors that get rid of external disturbances without interfering with a pilot’s inputs.
Drones specifically meant for racing also have attitude modes that allow users to program tilt limits. These modes give unmatched freedom while offering some degree of automatic control in extreme tilts.
These modes highlight how a drone’s flight controller assists the pilot when flying the drone. Flight controllers are computer chips that control drone motors.
In self-level, the flight controller takes over when the pilot takes their hands off the controls. Self-level modes try to keep the drone level. The modes utilize instruments like the accelerometer and gyroscope.
Angle and horizon modes are examples of self-level modes. In angle mode, the drone remains level without input. The mode also limits pitch and role to a particular angle.
In horizon mode, the drone will remain level without input but can pitch and role, allowing flips.
Important: The type of mode can vary depending on the type of racing drone you are buying. The importance of understanding what you want from a drone first can’t, therefore, be overlooked. In a nutshell, you want modes that support racing in every way if you are buying a racing drone.
4. What’s included in a racing drone kit
The components of a racing drone kit usually vary depending on the type of kit.
DIY kits: As the name suggests, these kits come with everything you need. If you are a serious drone racer, you are bound to crash your drone. DIY kits make it possible to fix your drone yourself. The kits include racing drone parts like frames, motors, connecting parts, transmitters, controllers, batteries, etc. That makes it easy to assemble and/customize your drone.
RTF kits: RTF or Ready to Fly drone kits don’t need any assembly or technical effort. If you have an RTF drone kit, you can fly a drone as it is. You may be required to do a few things like charge the batteries and bind the transmitter. However, that’s about it.
BNF kits: BNF or Bind-N-Fly kits require a transmitter that matches the BNF model receiver in question.
PNP kits: Plug and fly, or PNP kits require some work. You need to solder your receiver to have a functional drone. PNP kits require some experience when selecting the correct receiver option.
Racing drones come with specific components in kits. As a beginner, RTF kits are the best for obvious reasons. The drone will come ready to fly alongside components like VR kits that you need to race. DIY kits include individual racing drone parts that may be customized to enhance your drone racing experience. However, you must do the assembly work.
5. Tips when using, cleaning, and controlling racing drones
Using a drone legally in America
Before you fly a drone outdoors in the U.S., make sure it is registered with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) if the drone is above 0.55lbs.
The FAA is the body tasked with governing outdoor flight in the U.S. It is legal to fly your drone indoors without registering with the FAA. The FAA also has visibility requirements. Since racing drones are flown using goggles or via screens, you are bound to take your eyes off your drone.
There are rules on such occurrences. Racing drones are also required by the FAA to have a top speed of 100mph. The importance of comprehending all FAA guidelines on racing drones and drones in general can’t, therefore, be overlooked.
For more details about drones rules and regulation, read this.
Rules on racing drones for money
There are other considerations to make. For instance, winning money from racing drones may be considered as being paid to fly. While the FAA doesn’t have specific rules on drone racing it’s important to get treat drone racing as a commercial operation and acquire a drone pilot license (Part 107) from the FAA.
Tips for controlling racing drones
Before you become a pro drone racer, you’ll need to understand the basics. When it comes to racing drones, it’s mostly about control before you can utilize the speed. So, how do you control your racing drone effectively?
Practice using a simulator
Before you invest your money in the best racing drones for beginners, consider practicing how to control a drone on a simulator.
The best racing drone can cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. Before spending anything, learn how to fly with a simulator. There are many good drone simulators available online that will give you an accurate feel of how it feels to fly a real racing drone.
Decide between DIY and RTF drones
Once you have practiced how to control a drone in a simulator, you can think of getting your drone. Pro drone racers know drone racing systems inside out. They have the experience to custom-build drones, and repair or replace parts in-between flights. Such racers can get DIY racing drones, which offer them more control. A pro drone racer can custom build a drone to work to their exert preferences.
However, RTF or ready-to-fly drones are the best racing drones for beginners. The best drones in this category will have a decent amount of control provided you master the specific modes in question which you can do during practice.
Learn the basics of orientation
While a simulator can familiarize you with the controls, you need to master multirotor flight proficiency as well as movements like turning left/right, and flying through obstacles and tight spaces. You also need to master flying patterns to gain full control of your racing drone. Once you master this, you will be able to master sharp turns with ease.
Customize your settings and controls
Standard camera views don’t work for pro drone racing pilots. In fact, most of them tilt their cameras upwards (approximately 30 degrees). This is necessary since a drone flying at high speeds will tend to tilt forward as the propellers hurtle through the air. Tilting the drone’s camera offers perfect positioning. Camera settings aside, different drone pilots have their own personal preferences in regards to transmitter sensitivity, motor controls, etc. You shouldn’t be afraid to customize all settings and controls to match your racing preference or strategies.
Practice some more
Practice doesn’t end when racing anything, including drones. To perfect control when racing drones, make it a habit to fly through obstacles. You can use anything from buildings to trees, flags, and hoops to recreate typical racing experiences in practice.
Tips for cleaning racing drones
Drone maintenance is an important exercise if you want to extend the longevity of your drone. In general, you need to clean your drone at least once a month. Checks and maintenance are important after every race. However, the level of cleaning (basic to thorough) will depend on you.
1. Drone motor cleaning tips: The most important components to consider are the motors. When cleaning drone motors, use a bristle brush to remove dirt. You should use water sparingly or avoid it completely to prevent rusting.
2. Drone frame cleaning tips: The drone frame should be cleaned using a dry brush. An air compressor can be used for hard to reach areas.
3. Tips for removing stubborn dirt on drones: When removing stubborn dirt, use isopropyl alcohol alongside a paper towel or soft brush. Isopropyl alcohol is non-conductive, and it reduces corrosion risks with electrical components.
Regular checks and cleaning will ensure your drone performs optimally at all times. It will also increase longevity, saving you unnecessary expenses linked to poor maintenance and cleaning.
6. Where can I find racing drone parts if my drone is broken?
If you are getting a drone for racing, you need to consider where you will get replacement parts. These parts range from frames and motors to props and electronic speed controls (ESCs). Damage is inevitable, whether you are a beginner or a pro. Your drone is bound to fly out of range or hit an obstacle at some point.
This can happen when you or another person is flying the drone. Since drone accidents are inevitable, you need to have replacement parts when the inevitable happens. This is particularly important during a racing class or league.
Props are a common casualty. Drone racers are supposed to have backup props, a few ESCs, and replacement motors. It’s also prudent to have additional pre-charged batteries when participating in a racing event. A general rule is to have two of each major part, including the frame to ensure you get back to racing after one or more disastrous bumps. Having two RTF units as a spare or for different courses is advisable.
to know where you can find racing drone parts if you break yours? Well, Amazon has a section for racing drone parts where you can find just about any part of the most popular racing drones on sale today. You can also find drone parts at Hobbyking and Helipal.
7. Can you customize a racing drone for a better look, to improve speed or quality?
Absolutely! Racing drone performance can be improved by upgrading the propellers to boost lift power. You can also upgrade the motors to boost lift power and reliability or upgrade the ESC to improve motor response time and maneuverability. The flight control software and hardware can also be customized for better performance.
One of the most effective ways of improving the speed of a racing drone is to reduce the weight. Installing a lighter frame, motors and motor mounts, props, harnesses, landing gear and/or props can reduce the weight significantly.
You can make other modifications such as customizing your drone to perform stunts, take high-quality videos, look better, “fight” other drones, etc. There are no restrictions on how creative you can get when customizing drones. It all depends on the competition at hand as well as personal preferences. Popular modifications include stunt mods, combat mods, and target shooting mods.
8. Racing drones buying tips
Now that you understand the basics of racing drones, it’s time to look at the factors to consider when buying.
Since drones vary in many aspects, there are very many variables to consider when deciding which drone to buy. Here is a quick guide on the most important tips/factors to consider when buying racing drones.
1. Speed and power
Racing boils down to speed and power. You need the fastest and most powerful drone to increase your chances of winning a drone race. While skill is important, it may not count if you have a slow drone with mediocre motors. As a result, pay close attention to speed and power specs.
Your drone should be able to reach the FAA’s 100mph top speed within seconds; otherwise, you won’t stand a chance in any serious drone league. Focus on the weight and motors to assess speed and power.
Speed and power aside, the drone you choose should be extremely agile. Drone races aren’t just about flying in a straight line. You’ll be required to avoid obstacles, spin in the air, and do many other tricks to win. Look out for features like gyroscopic sensors and accelerometers as well as specific maneuverability specs just to be sure you are buying an agile racing drone.
3. Battery/flight time
While racing drones have a specific timeline that makes it easier to estimate the battery time you need to race, you also need to test your drone and perform optimally during the race. You should get a drone with a long battery life.
Alternatively, you can get quick charging batteries or extra batteries just in case. Batteries that drain quickly can compromise your ability to make certain moves during a race.
Crashes are inevitable in drone racing. Your drone is bound to hit obstacles, other drones, or fall to the ground. Investing in a durable drone and parts is important if you don’t want to buy a new drone after every race. The best racing drones for beginners are made using durable materials like carbon fiber and sold with part warranties as a testament to the drone’s quality.
5. High-quality accessories
You need a good camera and VR kit to stand a chance in competitive drone races. A racing drone camera with a good FOV and video transmission range is critical.
It’s also better to go for FPV drones if you want to immerse yourself in the racing experience completely. FPV or first-person-view drones allow you to see what your drone is “seeing” in real-time via a monitor or specialized goggles.
9. Top 5 best racing drones for beginners
The best racing drones for beginners are RTF (Ready-to-Fly) drones, which don’t require complex assembly before flying. They also have notable features from impressive fly time and high-quality cameras to unmatched controllability, durability, and range. Here are the top/best drones in the market today for beginners.
- ARRIS C250 V2 250mm RC Quadcopter FPV Racing Drone RTF w/Flycolor 4-in-1 S-Tower + Radiolink AT9 + 4S Battery + HD Camera
- Walkera F210 3D Edition 2.4GHz Racing Drone
- Bolt Drone FPV Racing Drone Carbon Fiber with First Person View Goggles
- ARRIS X-Speed 250B V3 250 FPV Racing Drone Camera Drone
- ImmersionRC Vortex 285 Race Quad Kit, 5.8GHz, 350mW
10. Some racing drones league in USA that beginners can join
Once you become a seasoned drone racer, you’ll need some competition. MultiGP is arguably the most accessible league for drone racing with chapters globally. MultiGP has 16,000+ members and 500+ chapters worldwide. The organization sanctions and governs many drone racing events globally. Beginners into drone racing can get a lot of value by joining MultiGP.
Besides being the only drone racing league that hosts many tournaments, casual events, and free-fly gatherings, MultiGP has the most successful grass root and professional drone racing activities in the history of drone racing. MultiGP was established in 2015. The league is headquartered in Palm Bay, Florida. It is the most accessible drone racing organization from anyone wishing to compete.
If you’re thinking of going pro, you can set your sight on the DRL. The Drone Racing League operates internationally and allows custom-built drone racing via three-dimensional courses. The DRL is comparable to the NASCAR, MotoGP or Formula 1 of drone racing. The DRL was also founded in 2015.