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How should beginners start FPV drone racing: Build DIY or buy ready-to-fly quads?

World Drone Prix Dubai gathered the attention of both drone pilots/racers and general public due to the attractive prize amounting 1million USD in total. I was lucky to be able to participate as a freestyler to experience vibrant and exciting atmosphere of drone racing community.

As I am often asked by my friends how and where to start FPV drone racing, I suppose there are many people thinking about how to start drone racing, yet quite uncertain on where and how to start. So I decided to write a series of articles on how to start drone racing especially for beginners.

Basically there are two ways you can start FPV drone racing.

  1. Build drones using parts you buy at RC shops (DIY).
  2. Buy almost-ready-to-fly racing drones (ARF).

Landscape of DIY racing drones

Here I will talk about the landscape of racing drones to get you familiar with them so that you can have some ideas on how to start drone racing.

One of fun parts of DIY FPV drones is that you can choose frames of your taste. There are many frames with different shapes and sizes.

Image titleFPV racing drones varies in sizes and shapes

Let me introduce some frames which are popular among drone racing communities and widely available in the market.

ImpulseRC Alien

With some top drone pilots like Chad Nowak (the champion of Drone Nationals in 2015) and Mr.Steele (very popular with aggressive acrobatic style) using ImpulseRC Alien frames, they have become one of the most popular frames in the market.

One of the reasons top drone racers choose ImpulseRC Alien is the stability of manoeuvring which comes from nearly-perfect X shape. Since flight controllers are programmed for X shape quad-copter, non-X shape frames need some adjustments. Yet ImpulseRC Alien’s X shape needs only minimal adjustment. Their frames are available for 4 to 6 inch props.

Image titleImpulseRC Alien 5’

Lumenier QAV

Lumenier also have top pilots like Charpu and Skitzo as its sponsored pilots. Lumenier frame size varies from 180mm to 540mm. For FPV racing, around 250mm will be more suitable.

Charpu was recently awarded at The New York City Drone Film Festival for his FPV freetyle video shot with Lumenier QAV210 CHARPU edition.

Image titleLumenier QAV series 250mm with extended arms (left) 210mm(mid) 180mm(right)

ShenDrones

Established by Andy Shen, this brand has gained popularity with its distinct shaped drones. A flagship model is Krieger, a well-designed and light weight drone. Krieger comes with either 200mm (5 inch props) or 225mm (6 inch props) sizes. Another popular models are Tweaker (180mm size for 4 inch props) and Shrieker (132mm size for 3 inch props).

Image titleShenDrones Krieger (right in the photo)


Image titleShenDrones Tweaker

AstroX

A recently-established Korean brand. Frames are available in 230mm and 210mm sizes. World Drone Prix freestyle champion Minchan Kim used a AstroX frames for the event to proove the quads’ capability. AstroX quads are going to be available in Korea, Singapore and US very soon, and other places later this year.

Image titleAstroX 230mm

These are only a small part of DIY frames. There are many other frames coming up these days. I will keep you posted after more research is done.

When you choose frames, you need to choose other necessary parts as well: motors, speed controllers (ESC), flight controllers, FPV cameras, video transmitters, radio receivers, radio controller, goggle or monitor, propellers, and batteries.

Some of you might think it is too hard for you to build a quad by yourself since you don’t know how all these parts come together. (if you are interested in building drones DIY here is a good article to start = http://en.catalyst.red/articles/fpvdrone)

Here comes another option: Buy almost-ready-to-fly racing drones.

Buy professional ARF racing drones

While there are many ARF racing drones in the market, I would recommend two good quality ARF racing drones available in the market (as of March 2016).

ImmersionRC Vortex

Well-designed ARF racing drones come in 285mm and 250mm sizes. 285mm-sized Vortex features a very light weight body which makes the quad fly quite fast. Since its successor 250mm-sized Vortex Pro has came in the market, the 285mm-sized Vortex is now discounted.

Image titleImmersionRC Vortex 285mm

On the other hand, the 250mm-sized Vortex Pro released recently features more powerful motors with faster flight controller processing speed. Many teams used Vortex Pro at World Drone Prix Dubai, which tells that this quad meets professional requirements.

Image titleVortex Pro found at World Drone Prix Dubai (Metall Danny's Vortex Pro)

Team BlackSheep Vendetta

Well-known FPV quad brand new ARF racing drone. Clean-and-neatly design with no wires that are visible on Vendetta.

Other than the design, a big defference from Vortex is its speed controller capacity that can go with as high as 6 cell batteries. Yet if you are a beginner, do not try batteries higher than 4 cells as these are too powerful for beginners. Keep practicing with 3 cell batteries.

Image titleTBS Vendetta at World Drone Prix Dubai

Once you get these ARF racing drones, you just need batteries, goggles/monitor, controller and RC receiver to start drone racing. I will touch upon how to fly ARF drones in another article.

In conlusion, I would definitely recommend ARF quads to those who want to start drone racing immediately. Especially for beginners, it is really hard to build a quad successfully by yourself as you often end up in a situation where your quad won’t fly at all due to bad soldering, wiring or some other problems.

Yet at the same time it is recommeded to build drones by yourself to gain knowledge of drone engineering, which will help you when you have to repair drones after some crashes.

Here are links you can find and buy quads mentioned above.

ImpulseRC Alien

http://impulserc.com/

http://rpisg.com/ (Singapore)

Lumenier QAV

http://www.lumenier.com/

http://www.dronematters.com/ (Singapore)

Shen Drones

http://www.shendrones.com/

http://www.dronematters.com/ (Singapore)

https://www.65drones.com/collections/shendrones# (Singapore)

AstroX

http://www.skyhobbies.com.sg/ (Singapore)

ImmersionRC Vortex
http://www.dronematters.com/ (Singapore)

Team BlackSheep Vendetta

http://www.dronematters.com/ (Singapore)

Recommended propellers

HQ-props

http://www.skyhobbies.com.sg/ (Singapore)

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