This is a simple guide of what to purchase if you’re looking to build a racing drone.
We’ve been getting quite a few people asking how much it costs, what to buy, etc, so we’ve come up with this list of components that will make for a cheap-but-good drone for a beginner — good enough to stick with all the way up to competitive racing. You don’t have to stick to the order that we have set out below, and by all means buy everything at once if you want. However, the way it’s set out is for someone with no experience in radio-controlled (RC) vehicles or FPV (first-person-view) whatsoever.
Before we continue, I cannot emphasize how important it is to find a good group of local pilots in your area. They should be able to answer any and all questions you have, without you getting bogged down with bad advice online. You will also be able to tag along on flights, and they will be able to help you set off on your first flight safely. Many pilots use Facebook groups as a way to keep it all together, so start searching there!
Stage 1: Time to Get Yourself a Transmitter
This doodad is used to control the racing drone remotely. As a bonus, most transmitters can also hook up to a computer, acting as a game controller. This means you can use it with a drone simulator on your computer, giving you a real feel of the transmitter and how the sticks move. There are many transmitter options from many different brands: Spectrum, FrSky, FlySky, just to name a few. Your choice here is very Apple vs. Microsoft but they all do the same thing in the end. Here is the transmitter I would recommend, with some reason as to why:
- Cheap yet full-featured.
- Huge choice of receivers.
- Open-source firmware, OpenTX. Constantly receiving updates, new features, etc.
- When plugged into your computer, acts as a game controller for drone simulators.
- Telemetry (2-way radio: your drone can send information back such as voltage, video channel, and more).
- Plenty of spares available and very upgradable (choice of gimbal upgrades, speaker mods, etc).
- Great community support. FrSky radios are used by many pilots all over the world.
- Module bay if you want to experiment with long-range, use other receivers, etc.
- Comes in many different colors! 🙂
It’s a great choice for the price. There’s very little reason to move away from it once you have it, as it has basically every feature and control you could ever need — and not even just for drones! This will work perfectly for cars, planes, wings, boats, robots, etc. Really anything you can think of, you’re probably covered here.
Stage 2: Try out a Simulator
After you’ve got your transmitter, the next step is to get yourself on a simulator. This will give you a good idea of what things are like, along with some practise, before you go ahead and buy your drone. There are a number of simulators available: some free, and some you pay for. The best two that I have used are FPVEvent and VelociDrone. Sadly, both of these are not free but they are still cheaper than crashing and destroying your drone. Best of all… you don’t have to fetch your quad from a tree afterwards.
If you want to try something okay but free, look at DRL Simulator.
If you want to try something great but not so free, look at VelociDrone Simulator. There is a free trial, so you can give it a go before you buy!
Stage 3: Buying Your Racing Drone
The components I’ve listed here includes the frame that a few of us PropNuts guys use. One of us even won the SDRL final with it! The video transmitter listed is the best option, I would say, for flying in a group. There are other options out there, but I would strongly recommend what I’ve put below from the get-go.
- RealAcc X210 kit with motors, ESCs, and flight controller
- Runcam Swift 2 (w/ 2.1mm lens) FPV Camera
- Immersion RC Tramp VTX
- RealAcc Omni Antennas
- FrSky R-XSR Receiver
For actually building it, this is the part where you should definitely meet up with your local pilots. They will be able to help you out with the million questions you will have. Here’s some to get you going:
What solder should I use?
Ignore the unleaded crap, leaded solder won’t hurt you and it’ll save you from hours of stress. Get any leaded solder with rosin core.
What soldering iron should I get?
Get the TS100. It’s insanely cheap for what it is and gives the big stations a run for their money.
Do I need to use flux?
Not really. Your solder already has flux in it!
Should I soft mount my motors/ESCs/FC/camera/hypetrain?
Joking, but not really. Don’t bother.
Again, if you are out with your local pilots, you will be able to get answers instantly. There are many answers to these questions so make sure to do some of your own research, too!
Stage 4: FPV
Once you’ve managed to build the quad and figured out how to fly it in a nice stable hover with line-of-sight (LOS), it’s time for FPV! You have a couple of options here. Some are cheap and bulky, and some are slightly more expensive but in a much slimmer form factor. Some are also ridiculously expensive that offer 5% more features for 300% of the cost (avoid these).
I’d recommend starting out with the cheapest option: the Eachine EV800 Box Goggles. Again (sorry to keep drilling this in), meet up with your local pilots and have a go of what they have already. You may find you have a preference after trying out what they have.
The Fatshark Dominator HD3s are what I would call the best goggles out there. They are expensive but offer a compact solution that you can fit easily into your bag, with features such as DVR and swappable receiver modules. A cheaper compact solution is the Aomway Commander Goggles which are worth a look. These goggles are 16:9 ration rather than 4:3, so you may find you will have to swap out your camera for best results.
Hopefully this gives you a good idea about what you should get — at least enough to give you an entry into the hobby! If you have any questions, feel free to comment below or hit up our Facebook page.