A lot of the hype and buzz surrounding drones comes mostly from their commercial applications. From a hobby enthusiast’s toy, to an affordable means of taking high-quality aerial footage, to a machine able to carry out industrial tasks by enterprise pilots, one could say the consumer drone has made huge strides in its technological evolution. Yet, one of the best parts about drones is that they’re now smaller, smarter, and more capable for less money. That means they’re even better at what they were in the first place.
Not ten years ago, drone racing might not have been two words you’d ever seen clumped together in a sentence. The government wasn’t out in the middle of a desert racing multi-million dollar military grade drones. Or if they were, we weren’t hearing about it. But in 2014 it was recognized as an amateur sport in Australia, spurring a surge in the sport and incentivizing manufacturers to engineer drones aimed at not only professional drone racers, but to novices in the field. What was recently a sport specific to the skilled and weathered enthusiast is now something that’s more wide-reaching – you can now buy racing drones that are ready-to-fly right out of the box. You don’t need to be an expert in sUAV technology; you just need to buy a racing drone for beginners.
In this short list, we’ve listed racing drones of diverse calibers, from drones that appeal specifically to the expert, to those meant for beginners, and to those lending themselves to both ends of the spectrum.
perhaps one of the best values as a racing drone on the market, the Eachin Racer 250 FPV offers a whole lot for under $300. First, as the name suggests, you’ll get a drone that has a video transmission system. It is ready-to-fly right out of the box, comes with a transmitter with its own LCD screen that streams flight data and sports a multi-channel transmission system with a decent range. The FPV is livestreamed in high-definition with very little latency. All things considered, this drone comes as complete as many professionals would strive to build for themselves. The small carbon fiber frame is relatively crash resistant, lightweight, and agile. You’ll need a smart phone or tablet that supports the Eachin application (for FPV downlink purposes), but other than that, this drone will serve as an incredible introduction into drone racing (although not something you’ll throw in the ring and bet on).
this is another all-inclusive racing drone that becomes even more impressive when taking its price into consideration. Fit with an HD camera that livestreams with little latency (although not the prettiest picture in the world), an adjustable camera angle (this is big as racers prefer to fly at odd angles), and a vibration dampening plate that serves as a gimbal for the camera, the Arris X-Speed 250B is designed for resilience. Did we also mention that it’s ready-to-fly right out of the box? Aside from that, the durable carbon/glass chassis is agile, nimble, and somewhat crash resistant. If you’re looking for a rig that’s RTF (comes with a transmitter too – but FPV livestreams to a tablet or smartphone) and that won’t break the bank, all things considered, this is a spectacular drone.
FlexRC Owl Storm Bind-n-Fly
perhaps one of the best reviewed quadcopters on the market, the Owl Storm is impressive not only for capability, but also for stamina. It comes equipped with propeller guards, a 2mm carbon fiber frame, and it weighs under 250 grams (yeah, it’s small). Equipped with a brushless motor and a FPV transmission system, you’re not going to have to do any additional assembly to this quadcopter before it’s up in the air and livestreaming the first-person-view. The camera still checks out in lowlight and the drone can fly for over 15 minutes at full charge. While this might not be a machine you’d take to a competition, it’s certainly a racing drone that’ll put you in the eyes of the cockpit and give you a taste of the thrill and intensity of the sport.
this drone is not at the same caliber as the drones already listed, it’s more of a step between the beginner’s racing drone and the professional one. It’s a Walkera machine, so it delivers on its promises, and it’s another RTF quadcopter that isn’t going to require any assembly on the user’s behalf. Equipped with a DEVO 7 Transmitter, if you purchase the FPV version you’ll get a drone carrying an HD camera that livestreams FPV to a smartphone or tablet, an incredible transmitter, two batteries, and a VR headset that pairs directly with the Runner 250 (also developed by Walkera). It’s a bit more expensive than the drones we’ve mentioned, and many professionals find that with the right amount of research, they can build a better drone for the price, but you’re paying for the Walkera reliable intelligence, engineering, and the fact that you’re cutting out all the time you would have spent building the thing.
while priced below the abovementioned drones, this is a machine that’ll appeal to dedicated enthusiasts. It’s not RTF and it requires propellers, motors, a video system (including camera) and a transmitter. However, for those of you who know what you’re doing and want to start from the ground up, go read some reviews; this frame is gold for the price. Aside from the carbon fiber chassis, you’re getting a 2.5D CNC-ed G10 main board, integrated power distribution boards for ESCs and FPV systems, a couple of integrated LED lights (helping especially with orientation if you will not have headless mode), and the drone’s own legs (landing gear). It’s a perfect base chassis to use as a platform for a series of different motors and contains the boards needed to distribute power to all the electronic video and flight systems. Do note: it supports 32mm board cameras (if you’re looking for a bigger camera).
This is a drone that while it doesn’t take a massive amount of assembly, does require additional parts and assembly knowledge. It’s sort of a hybrid between the maxed-out professional racing drone and the introductory RTF racing drone. For under $300, this machine livestreams FPV, has a camera that’s adjustable up to 15 degrees in pitch, and comes with an all-inclusive unibody. You’ll need a battery (11.5v 1500mAh is most often recommended), a transmitter, something to livestream FPV to (most likely a pair of VR goggles, because you already have a smartphone or tablet), and a battery charger. With all that, you’re good to go. If you’re looking for a starting point in the more knowledgeable end of drone racing, this could be a great place to start. The assembly is not too confusing and all it need is a few add-ons.
You’ll notice (and all the experts know this) that every pilot who wins a drone race has heavily modified his aircraft. That’s because knowing the ins and outs of your machine is the name of the game. The GB190 is no beginner racer drone, but it’s not as difficult or taxing to assemble as some other models. For under $200, you’re getting a competitive machine with serious hardware that is ready for enhancement. It comes with its own transmitter (5.6 GHz – 5.9 GHz) but doesn’t include a battery. The most often recommended battery is a 16.8 V 1800 mAh, which shouldn’t be too brutal on your wallet. Again, this is another one of those drones that can be used either by professionals, or by a newcomer who wants to learn what it takes to assemble his own racing drone (there are easy tutorials online). It’s capable of hitting speeds up to 50mph, and the FPV system is sturdy and low-latency. Definitely worth a look for under $200 (especially since it comes with a camera).
Team BlackSheep is making a name for itself by producing quality, durable, and just flat out really impressive drones (especially racing drones). If you’re digging around the drone racing community, you’ll see the company mentioned a lot. The Vendetta is a drone that meets the company’s standard of engineering. The custom made carbon fiber chassis is agile, durable, and competitive. There are four Cobra CM2204 motors onboard (which means this drone is very, very, fast), and TBS engineered the Vendetta to be adaptable to the pilot’s needs. Meaning, the pilot can still customize the machine beyond its original form. It comes with its own FPV system, camera, transmitter, and TBS has taken the time to pre-calibrate the machine (it can be re-calibrated, of course). Although this is the most expensive machine on this list, it’s here for good reason; make no mistake, this is a competitive racing drone that comes ready-to-fly right out of the box. We know that “competitive” and “RTF” don’t usually go hand in hand, but that’s what makes this drone what it is. You might want to do a little research before racing, but the Vendetta is a drone you can learn to fly on, and then customize and use competitively once you’ve gained experience.
Unlike the Walkera Runner 250, the F210 leans toward the professional side of the drone spectrum. It comes pre-calibrated with a 120 degree Super Vision camera lens (camera is adjustable with vibration absorption mount) and an integrated FPV system. It sports a built-in transmitter (5.8 GHz) and has a mainboard primed and ready for flying. The only thing you need for the drone is a transmitter, and Walkera has built a machine that is widely versatile. This drone isn’t one that you’ll want to tinker with too much, as Walkera has built it specifically to be RTF and engineered the technology to allow for flexibility (players can personalize their own settings, but you don’t want to reengineer this model). If you’re looking for an upper end racing drone that won’t need any assembly, the Walkera F210 certainly meets the criteria.
Xcite RC 15003950 FPV F210
Definitely a professional machine, the Xcite RC FPV F210 is going to require some serious upkeep, but will also be substantially rewarding. It is claimed to be fairly easy to assemble and use, but pilots review otherwise. However, for under $500 you’re getting a racing drone that comes with a Sony night vision, high-definition camera built into the FPV transmission system. It sports a 5.8 GHz receiver and has a chassis built with both carbon fiber and aluminum. You’ll need a transmitter, battery, and battery charger before this bad boy is up and running; the most recommended battery is a 14.8V 1300mAh LiPo battery, which grants anywhere between 8-12 minutes of flight time with all systems go.
Immersion RC Vortex 250 Pro
One of the most esteemed RTF racing drones in the marketplace, Immersion RC has engineered a drone very similar to what you could think of as the iPhone of the racing drone market. It’s 250-sized, RTF right out of the box, comes with an F3 FC processor (sort of the name of the game right now – if that’s jargon to you), an FPV system, a multitude of different receivers, a GoPro mount, and more (it also comes with a lost model alarm that’s apparently strikingly loud). You’ll need an additional battery and transmitter for this drone, but that’s it. Everything comes ready, pre-calibrated, and designed to be a competitor. Like the Vendetta, Immersion RC allotted room for expansion and if a pilot so desires, he can improve upon the current build. If you’re looking to start with a complex, yet not over complex, professional grade racing drone, the Vortex 250 could be the fantastic machine for your grand entrance into the community.
with a name like Gemini, you’re counting on an impressive machine. Team BlackSheep doesn’t disappoint. Although this is the predecessor of the Vendetta, it’s still a RTF, high-quality racing drone (oh, it’s also a hexacopter). The motors are all forward tilting; it comes with a built in camera/FPV system, a CORE PNP25 with integrated sensors, and a carbon fiber chassis for a healthy blend of durability and agility. It can hit somewhere between 30-60mph (depending on how it‘s loaded) and the FPV is surprisingly resilient even at longer distances. It’s Team BlackSheep and in the drone racing world, that means superiority. Also, the Gemini experienced a hefty price drop recently, so it holds its value even better (although these drones do require a bit of upkeep)
this is the predecessor of the 250, around $180 less than the 250, and still a fantastic starting drone. It’s RTF (that’s the whole thesis of Immersion’s engineering), sports an integrated FPV system, and is built with a carbon fiber frame. It won’t have the same power as the 250, and it’ll be considerably slower, but with some motor upgrades you can have the same machine (this means you can learn on this drone, and still improve upon it). To call it a drone ready to be a competitor might be a bit of a stretch as it does, at this point, remain outdated, but to call it a professional machine to learn on is absolutely accurate (not to mention that you won’t have to assemble it). You’ll still need a battery and a transmitter (5.8 GHz) for the Vortex 285, but like the 250 it comes pre-calibrated, all systems integrated, and ready to fly once the external items have been purchased.
this drone doesn’t fit in the classification of a racing drone, but it’s regarded as a great drone to learn to pilot on (even for drone racing). It comes equipped with a camera that can livestream FPV, a 5.8 GHz frequency transmitter, two batteries, and all systems calibrated. Due to its speed and agility, pilots attest that when using this drone with all systems live and wearing FPV goggles, it simulates the same experience as a racing drone (just considerably slower, as the H501S lingers around 30mph and serious racing drones can fly faster than 60mph). Aside from that, Hubsan is simply a renowned, credited, and leading manufacturer in lower-grade drones, and if you’re looking for something a bit cheaper, RTF, and a medium between a low-caliber drone and an introductory level racing drone, this is your machine.
As you can see from this list, racing drones are quite versatile, with everything from body kits that take hours to assemble and require a plethora of other parts and the skills to assemble, to machines that come ready-to-fly right out of the box, and everything in between. There’s no shortage of complexity in the racing drone market. You, as a pilot, need to decide where you want to start (building your own, buying one that’s RTF, meeting somewhere between those two?), assess what you are looking for, and then make a decision based on that knowledge. We hope we’ve narrowed down the choices for you or pointed you in the right direction.