Did you just discover the sport of Drone Racing? Did you meet someone at the park and wanted more information which lead you here? Looking to get into the hobby? Want to know where to spend the extra money and where to resist? Start off with a Tiny Whoop. It really is one of the best ways to get into the hobby. It’s light weight, very forgiving, and most importantly to new fliers… Cheap! You can do it at night, indoors, anywhere but windy environments.
This is what I believe a good spot to start. I will list out my suggestions and why. This hobby is a lot like computers and as time goes by there will always be something newer and better available. I will try to keep this updated with the best for “newbies”. The focus of this will really be simplicity. I am not trying to go the complicated best route for the new pilot.
I am also not trying to save money on these suggestions. There is always going to be a cheaper way to do what you want, but I feel this is where it’s worth it to spend the money.
Radio & Receiver
FrSky Taranis Q X7 – I have yet to try the Q X7 but have heard from a friend that it’s a great alternative to the Taranis and at a price point of around $110 it’s perfect! While the X9D is still supposed to be the better radio, it’s nearly double the price and the features I don’t think make it worth the extra price anymore. The only thing the Q X7 lacks is the sliders, but honestly I have rarely used them (but I have).
For a receiver I would go with the FrSky XSR, it supports SBUS and is very small. If you are going to do a small build ,3″ or Less, you may want to consider the XM / XM+. Those do not have telemetry. My personal experience is the XM does not have great range, but the XM+ should be close to the XSR.
Any 4″ frame (Sorry sponsors). I know everyone wants to start with a “250” class frame, but they are heavier and typically don’t handle as well. I progressed my skills more with the QR Rage 180 than any other quad out there. Since they are smaller they are also typically lighter and have less mass. Less mass equates to less damage during crashes, and you will be doing a lot of that.
This is probably the hardest one for me to decide on. The flight controller market is so crowded there’s always a new one coming up. So I am going to break this down by two things.
Processor: You want a flight controller with a F3, F4 or F7 processor. I don’t think there are any F7’s out yet, but I know they are right around the corner.
Gyro: Avoid the MPU-6500. This was common on flight controllers before but is being phased out it seems.
So for a 4″ or 3″ build I love having the SirinFPV flight controller. It’s a single board that incorporates an OSD, VTX, and FC all in one.
Alright let’s do “Motors” a little different. Let’s get down to basics (in layman’s terms too!)
Motors have two numbers, it common looks like XXXX/YYYY. The XXXX means the stator size. So it’s usually like 1806, 2204, etc. The first two numbers are the size across in mm, while the second number is the height.
The YYYY is the rpm per volt. So if it’s a 1000kv motor a 3S (12.5v) battery will spin it around 12,500 rpm, while a 4S (16.8v) will spin at roughly 16,800rpm. Now of course those are under optimal conditions.
My General rule of thumb ( for 3S/4S)
3″ Props ~ 3100-4000kv
4″ Props ~ 2600-3100kv
5″ Props ~ 2300kv
6″ Props ~ 2000kv
Now you can go above that, I use 5″ Triple props on 2600kv as my main setup. It isn’t very efficient, and the motors come down very hot. It’s a risk I am willing to accept and I have blown ESC’s / Motors doing this.
So for this build I would suggest something in the 1306/1407 range. You can go big like a 2205 to give you more power but it will directly affect the handling of the quad. Personally I like Tornado, Emax and DYS in the 1306 / 1407 size range.
Power Distribution Board
RealACC/Maktek PDB-XPW – This is a great board to pair with the SirinFPV Flight Controller. It will provide current to the FC and it also has 5v and 12v out.
DALprop T4045BN – When you start flying quadcopters you will notice you go through a lot of propellers. Starting with a durable propeller is key. DAL props are known for being very durable and can survive a crash. They do sometimes get bent and you’ll have to bend them back but it’s generally pretty easy to do.
DYS XSD 20A – The DYS XSD 20A’s are a BLHeli_S ESC that supports DShoot600 from the start. It’s also one of the cheapest ESC’s out htere. Personally I stay away from 4-in-1 ESC’s due to if one breaks, you are buying a full new board.
Above this was everything you need to get the quad flying. Now we will go into what you need to fly via First Person Video. Everyone that races is using FPV to fly their drone.
Fatshark Dominators V3 or HD V2 – I know a lot of people that have jumped into this hobby and got some cheaper Fatshark Goggles or another brand. Nearly everyone I know ended up with the Dominator’s in the end. Why waste the time and money of getting the cheaper ones and then selling them (for a loss) and buying the Dominators. I would also skip over the monitors. I’ve seen very few at actual races, they just are not “immersive” enough.
Cheap Route: 5-7″ Monitor Goggles (various brands)
La Forge Diversity – I love these things. They are top quality units and reception is huge. I no longer have to carry around my Diversity Receiver! Highly recommended, but pricey at $100.
FX799T 5.8Ghz 40 Channel 200mW Race Transmitter – This is a great simple video transmitter. It’s push button to change the channel so you don’t have to worry about the dip switch positions. It also has a built in microphone (which isn’t great to be honest) that allows you to listen to how the motors are doing while you fly.
Cheap Option: TS5823 40 channel version.
Sony Super HAD CCD HS1177 – The Sony, HS1177, is the go to standard, but it requires you make a few changes to to work at it’s optimal level. If you get the HS1177 you definitely want to enable D-WDR. I actually use these settings. Also I get the IR Block version.
Foxeer 5.8GHz Stubby RHCP – These can be used for both your goggles and your quad if you want. These are not super durable, but at only $9.99 they are pretty good.
Extras: GPS, Bluetooth, etc
For a racing drone… none of these are needed. The bluetooth dongle is helpful for tuning but now days I don’t feel it is needed as much. GPS, you really don’t want GPS on a racing quad.
2/16/2017 – Complete re-do almost. Updated for 2017 basically.
6/1/2016 – Gave a little bit more info on the motor size and kv rating. Added link to Naze32
5/27/2016 – Replaced Dodo FC with Lux, added La Forge
4/27/2016 – Added a few more cheaper options for items.
4/22/2016 – Removed the LittleBee 20’s from the list as the XM20’s have proven to be rock solid.