Drone racing was first recognized as an amateur sport in Australia at the end of 2014. This new high-concept, high-intensity sport was made a possibility by the evolution of drone technology. We don’t have to tell you that consumer drones are a big thing now, as just about everyone has heard of them in one form or another. Due to downscaled RC aircraft, the introduction of FPV live streaming cameras and the intelligent autonomy of the aircraft themselves, drone racing has become a reality. Common sense says it would have been nearly impossible to fly RC aircraft around an obstacle course, let alone against other aircraft in a competitive race without these innovations. Now pilots can wear headsets that virtually put them in the cockpit of the machine, allowing them to act like manned pilots, and giving them the racing intensity which makes the whole endeavor engaging.
Before, drone racers were elite hobby enthusiasts who could build their own aircraft, modify them, and install everything from a VPS system, flight system, FPV system, to the cameras. Now companies are using the momentum of the sport to expand the horizons for drone racing to be feasible for the public at large, so that even the inexperienced can pick up a ‘ready-to-fly’ racing drone, put on a headset, and get started. Thus we’re now seeing ‘competitive’ racing drones that are sold pre-assembled and calibrated, which can technically put the newbie into the mix of things right off the bat. If you want to be a drone racer, despite your skillset or experience, you can. If you’re curious, this list of FPV racing drones covers everything from RTF FPV racing drones, to snap-and-play FPV racing drones (basically an easy assembly), and to build-it-yourself FPV racing drones which require substantial skill and experience. Enjoy.
10 FPV Racing Drones
FlexRC Owl Storm Bind-n-Fl
To start off, this little quadcopter not only comes well-reviewed, but also requires little work in the assembly department. It sits in that middle area between building a drone from the ground up and having it assembled for you. Altogether, it weighs no more than 250 grams and the 2mm carbon fiber frame is resilient, lithe, and speedy. It comes with its own brushless motor, an FPV system, and a camera, but you’ll have to bind in a few parts before it’s going to manage in the air. By no means should this FPV racing drone be taken seriously in terms of competitions unless it has been ~ minutes of flight time, an FPV stream that is viable in lowlight and has little latency, and a taste of what the thrill of drone racing is all about.
This is one of the most talked about drones on the market right now. In the drone racing community, the buzz could give a swarm of bees some heavy duty competition. Let’s start with the facts, which if you’re wondering, have all been validated by professionals and radar systems. First, right out of the box it can fly up to 90mph. Secondly, a newly developed motherboard (with an integrated Nvidia TX 1 processor) allows for full versatility and adaptation, meaning as the technology progresses, the board is flexible enough to be built upon. Basically, think of iPhones. Despite what year your particular iPhone came out, the updates can still improve the software. The same thing is true with the teal drone. Then, it comes with an integrated 13MP camera that can shoot in 4k. Yeah, a racing drone with a 4k capable camera seems a bit much, but once you take a look at how the footage comes out you’ll understand. Oh, and perhaps the most impressive of all, this drone is ready-to-fly right out of the box. There is literally no assembly required. Plug the batteries in, charge them up, and you’re ready to not only begin your drone racing experience, but compete, if you want to. Note: these are on preorder, but the units have been tested and validated. This is exactly the type of drone we’re going to see more of in the future.
The Eachin Racer 250 FPV is a ready-to-fly racing drone under $300 that serves as an introduction to the drone racing hobby. By no means a competitive drone, this little machine is engineered to allot newcomers a taste of what ‘it could be like’ to be a drone racer. It comes fully equipped with everything needed to begin flying (no snap-and-play or any other assembly required). The transmitter has its own LCD screen that streams flight data, but you’ll need a smart phone or tablet for the FPV HD feed (expect some latency – after all, this is under $300). This is obviously not a drone you’d step into the arena with, but the Racer 250 is a perfect, ‘learn-the-craft’ machine for all novice pilots out there, and all of you getting a start on a budget. The small carbon frame and flight system, lo and behold, can take this thing up to 75mph. So while this is certainly a beginner racing drone, it is by no means a beginner drone since it flies 30mph faster than some topnotch professional machines. Despite the speed factor, its versatility, intelligence, aerial maneuverability, and a slew of other factors contribute to what professionals deem a ‘professional racing drone’. The Eachin Race 250 doesn’t actually make that cut, but it’s an amazing place to start in the hobby.
We’ll start off by saying this professional racing drone can max out at 90mph without any modifications. While it’s not ready-to-fly right out of the box, it is plug-and-play: the pieces will simply attach to the chassis without any sort of calibration, soldering, or electrical engineering on the user’s behalf. It comes equipped with its own camera and FPV system, but it can also carry a GoPro hero for some delicious 4k footage (although, for racing, you wouldn’t want to add that to the payload). The integrated camera is a 700TVL SONY camera, a model often found in racing drones of this size. To complete the Crusader GT2 you’ll need a few things: a 3-4s battery, a charger for the battery, a receiver, transmitter (controller), FPV receiver module (to live stream the first-person-view), and you’ll probably want a headset for the immersion aspect. All things considered, this is a rather simple to assemble racing drone that is competition ready at a price that beats assembling one on your own.
Engineered by Catalyst Machineworks, this drone can hit speeds up to 125mph. This is NOT a beginner machine. In fact, it is precisely the opposite in every sense of the definition. The Stig 195 begins as nothing but a chassis designed to optimize the NET thrust to weight ratio, where it succeeds to the point that the drone is now a community favorite (having won a few races already). If you don’t know what you’ll need to put this thing in air, let alone make it competition worthy, it’s probably not the drone for you. If you do, then you know you’ll need a power board, rotors, a flight system, FPV system, camera, battery, receiver and transmitter, FPV downlink module, and more. Soldering and some degree of electrical engineering are involved and as a whole it’s a drone meant for experienced enthusiasts/drone racers. But it’s the fastest machine in competition right now, and that’s why we’ve listed it.
The Arris X-Speed 250B is a beginner machine tailored toward the ‘noobs’ of drone racing and allowing them to experience the sport without having to do too much work on the assembly front, or do a plethora of research on how to build/optimize a racing drone. It comes with a camera that provides an HD FPV livestream (expect a bit of latency). Arris spent an ample amount of time developing this camera system and created an adjustable mount (so you can adjust the camera angle, which is big for this caliber of drone). It also sports a vibration dampening mount, so the ‘holder’ of the camera acts as a gimbal and helps stabilize the footage, or in this case the FPV live stream. It comes with a transmitter, but you’ll need a tablet or smartphone for the FPV downlink. We do want to note that due to the versatility of the Arris X-Speed 250B, you’re not just getting a beginner drone, but a drone that can be modified to hit faster speeds, carry a smoother camera system, and more. This drone is definitely worth considering it’s under $300.
The Black Sheep (TBS), on top of having a spectacular company name, is producing quality, competitive, and outright marvelous racing drones right now. If you start doing some research in the drone racing community, you’ll notice TBS mentioned just about everywhere (don’t get it confused with Taking Back Sunday, as that’s an emo punk rock band that has nothing to do with drone racing, and everything to do with being sad). The Gemini came out before the Vendetta (another drone by TBS) and it’s a competitive, RTF hexacopter. This means, similar to the Teal drone in pre-order, this machine is sold ready to fly, and once you feel comfortable enough will also be competition worthy. All the rotors are forward tilting to optimize NET thrust, it sports a built in camera that offers FPV in HD, a CORE PNP25 board with integrated sensors, and a carbon fiber chassis designed to be both durable and easy on the payload. Depending on the payload, the stock Gemini can hit speeds up to 55mph, and it flies for around 10 minutes per charge (pretty common flight time with these drones). Swapping out parts is made easy with this design, and pilots rave about the flight control. Again, it’s RTF, so it comes with everything you’ll need to start flying.
Often considered the step-up from the Gemini, the Vendetta is like the Phantom 4 of the drone racing world. You’ll see it everywhere, and you’ll see a bunch of racing drones trying to be just like it. If you know your tech, there are four Cobra CM2204 motors fit on their custom made, lightweight carbon chassis. It comes with its own FPV system, camera, transmitter, and TBS pre-calibrated the Vendetta before releasing it. Despite its form, similar to the Gemini, the Vendetta can be added to, optimized, and customized. That is its raison d’être. But stock, it can hit speeds around 50 mph, provides excellent control, and flies for around 15 minutes per charge. There’s a ton of parts, swappable arms, and more available for the Vendetta to be expanded upon. One thing we want to note here is that this drone is indeed RTF, but that doesn’t mean it’s a beginner drone. We called it the Phantom 4 of the drone racing world not because of its user friendliness, but because of its capabilities at the given price point. This drone is not for novice pilots, and is rather a platform for the experienced to build upon. TBS strove to engineer a pre-assembled, pre-calibrated, RTF drone targeting experienced drone racers rather than beginners and they absolutely hit their target.
Walkera has dropped a slew of units from highly optimized beginner machines, to ones like the F210, which are meant specifically for racing professionals. The Walkera F210 is equipped with a 120 degree Super Vision camera lens (wide FOV for a racing drone – and it has a vibration absorption mount/ which is adjustable). It’s also a night vision camera, so you won’t have any problems flying in the dark. Do note, you’ll need a headset with a Google4 set up, and despite the camera being HD, you’re probably not going to have the clearest feed. But there haven’t been any complaints about latency. The receiver operates at 5.8GHz and the flight board is customizable. The F210 isn’t RTF, so you’ll definitely need a few additional parts and a transmitter (Devo 7) before you can put the thing in the air. Its streamlined design can be optimized and with a simple program the entire drone can be personally customized and calibrated. The mushroom antenna allows for HD FPV transmission at distances up to 800 meters. All things considered, to have a competition worthy drone that can live stream FPV up to a half mile away, for under $400, it’s impressive. The carbon fiber frame is up to 5mm thick in some places, and Walkera has gone the extra mile to make sure the parts which usually break on racers (arms, motors, ESCs, etc.) are easily replaceable. The multiple flight modes allow for varying amounts of stabilization, and the more comfortable you become, the harder you can push the F210.
Immersion RC Vortex 250 Pro
This is one of the most well-known RTF racing drones available. It serves both the novice pilot and the experienced drone racer (although the experienced will most likely modify the Vortex). It comes with an F3 FC processor, upgraded 2204 motors, 2MB black box recorder, programmable LED lights (located on the rear), an integrated FPV system, and an included GoPro mount (for theatrics – you won’t want to race with the payload of a GoPro on a 250 mg sized drone). The carbon fiber chassis is 4mm-thick and nearly indestructible (please don’t test this out). There’s a 2mm-thick top plate and the same size for skid plates. Immersion really wanted to drive home the durability of this drone. It comes with an Immersion Fusion flight controller, which transmits at 5.8GHz and has CleanFlight pre-installed (Immersion’s application). Right out of the box it can hit speeds up to 60mph and transmit up to a half-mile in distance. The multiple flight modes allow for pilots to enjoy more flexibility as their skills develop, and different modes of flight can be selected while racing. Although a bit pricy, the Immersion RC Vortex 250 Pro is an incredible machine that can offer attributes to novice pilots and experienced racers alike.
It’s important to remember that with racing drones, research is everything. The jargon and attention to detail is different when taking into consideration professional drones (like DJI machines) and professional racing drones. While a ‘beginner’ racing drone may indeed be a machine tailored for novice pilots, that could also mean novice drone racing pilots and not novice drone pilots as there, of course, is a big difference. Also, make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into with each purchase. There are multiple drones advertised as ‘80mph RTF drone racer for $300’ and while that may look appetizing, note that the cost of a decent transmitter, extra parts (if necessary), and a headset or module (something you’ll probably want if you’re looking for the immersive experience of drone racing), you might be looking at well over $1k. As always, happy flying!