The Beginner's Guide to FPV Racing

FPV racing is an exciting new sport that combines high-tech drones and high-speed racing.

In this guide, we'll cover the following topics:

  1. Getting Started
  2. To Build or Buy
  3. Parts
  4. Cost
  5. Equipment - RTF
  6. Equipment - DIY
  7. Classes
  8. Groups
  9. Teams
  10. Events
  11. Race Types
  12. Safety
  13. Insurance
  14. Resources

This guide is a work in progress and will be updated regularly. If there is anything you think should be added, please email [email protected]


GETTING STARTED - The First Thing You Should Do

If you're new to flying quadcopters, the first thing you should do is buy a Hubsan X4:

Hubsan X4

Yes, I know... it looks like a toy, right? Don't be fooled by the appearance or low price. The Hubsan X4 is an impressive quadcopter that will allow you to practice a range of flight manoeuvres before you move onto a bigger quad. This is very important for a number of reasons:

  1. Flying a quadcopter isn't as easy as great pilots like Charpu and Metalldanny make it look.
  2. You will crash a lot whilst you are learning to fly.
  3. Crashing a full-size quadcopter can be dangerous and expensive.

So please, take our advice and the advice of every seasoned quadcopter pilot who answers this question on a forum: Start with a micro quad. You will have fun and learn how to fly in a safe and inexpensive way. Most of us started with a micro quad like the Hubsan X4. And those who didn't probably wish they had.


TO BUILD OR BUY - That is the Question

Okay, so you're ready to move on to a full-size racing quadcopter. You have two options:

  1. Buy a ready-to-fly (RTF) or almost-ready-to-fly (ARF) quadcopter.
  2. Buy parts such as a frame, motors, props etc. and build it yourself.

We can't really say which of these options is better for you. If you like building things, the second option is great. For many of us, building the quad is half the fun. The other main advantage of building your own quad is that you'll have the knowledge and skills to fix it when you crash.

But if you really can't wait to get in the air, there are now some decent RTF racing quads on the market. You might pay a little more than if you had built it yourself, but at least you'll know it flies.

In the next section we'll look at what parts make up an FPV racing quadcopter.


PARTS - What's in a Quad

An FPV racing quadcopter is made up of the following parts:

  • Frame
  • 4 motors
  • 4 ESCs
  • 4 props
  • Flight controller
  • Lithium-polymer (LiPo) battery
  • Video transmitter (vTx) and receiver (vRx)
  • Radio transmitter (Tx) and receiver (Rx)
  • Antennas
  • Battery straps
  • FPV goggles or monitor
  • Board camera for FPV
  • HD camera for recording (optional)

You'll want to buy a lot of spare props. It also doesn't hurt to have spare batteries, motors and ESCs if you want to avoid waiting around for replacement parts after a crash.

To build and maintain a quadcopter you'll also need some tools, such as:

  • LiPo charger
  • Soldering iron

The parts you choose will depend mostly on your budget. To see what parts we recommend, check out the Equipment section later in this guide.


COST - Your Bank Balance is Going to Suffer

An FPV racing quad can cost anywhere between $200 and $900, depending on a variety of factors. This does not include the cost of FPV goggles, which will set you back another $300 to $400 or so.

Keep in mind that you will need to replace parts, especially props, on a regular basis. FPV racing is not a cheap hobby, and many of us are on the verge of selling a kidney.


EQUIPMENT - RTF (Ready-to-Fly)

EQUIPMENT - DIY

Frames

Flight Controller

  • Naze32 Acro
  • OpenPilot CC3D

Motors

  • Cobra - High quality and high price
  • SunnySky - Lower quality and lower price

Props

  • HQProp - High quality and high price
  • Gemfan - Lower quality and lower price

ESCs

  • KISS - High quality and high price
  • HobbyKing Blue Series - Lower quality and lower price

LiPo

  • Turnigy Nano-tech

Goggles


CLASSES - Keep it Simple

In the early days of FPV racing, most groups were using frame size as the primary classification criteria, which gave birth to the famous "250" size quadcopter such as the Blackout Mini-H Quad.

However, as the sport has evolved, we have learned that frame size is not such a critical factor in competition. We have also learned to keep classes simple:

Spec Class (Beginner)

Pilots must use a quadcopter with 3S LiPo and 5" diameter props.

Open Class (Advanced)

Anything goes! (Event organizers may choose to implement a maximum weight restriction for safety reasons.)


GROUPS - Find People to Race With

Check out the list of Drone User Groups. These groups host regular meetups and some, such as the Detroit Drone User Group, are heavily involved in the sport of FPV racing.

You can also find racing buddies by using the search function on our Pilots page.


TEAMS - Who You Reppin'

The concept of teams in FPV racing is similar to that in Formula One car racing. Pilots are identified as team members based on the equipment they use. For example, Metalldanny is Team Blackout because he uses a Blackout Mini H-Quad frame.

Pilots can be a member of more than one team. Find a list of FPV racing teams on our Teams page.


EVENTS - Show Off Those Skills

Check out the list of upcoming FPV racing events on our Events page.

We will be publishing another guide shortly to help with organizing events.


RACE TYPES - Variety is the Spice of Life

Rotorcross

Two or more multicopters race through a course, and are ranked in the order they cross the finish line.

Drag Race

A race between two or more multicopters over a short distance, usually 100m, as a test of acceleration and top speed.

Time Trial

A test of a multicopter's speed through a course, in which the finishing time is recorded.


SAFETY - If You Hurt Somebody, We'll Be Mad

Safety is very important. If you seriously hurt somebody with a multicopter, you will also hurt the hobby. And we will be mad. So please read these safety tips and keep them in mind.

General

  • Do not buy an FPV racing quad as your first multicopter. Practice with a micro quad first.
  • Always switch on your video receiver and check that the channel is not being used before you switch on the transmitter.
  • Do not race in a public place without taking steps to ensure that people will not accidentally walk out onto the course during a race.
  • Never fly near or above people or animals. If the multicopter fails, it becomes a falling brick.
  • Never fly whilst you are intoxicated.

Events

  • Do not turn on your video transmitter until you have checked that nobody else is using the channel.
  • Do not fly in a public place where people might inadvertently walk out onto the course.

LiPo Cells

  • Be very careful with LiPo cells.
  • Do not charge them inside the house and do not leave them unattended whilst charging.
  • Always check for signs of damage after a crash. Be aware that a damaged cell can spontaneously ignite in a spectacular fashion.
  • Never use a damaged LiPo cell. Dispose of it safely and properly.

Props

  • Props can cause very serious injuries. Even very small props hurt.
  • Disengage the battery immediately after picking up the multicopter.
  • Do not try to catch a multicopter in mid-air.


RESOURCES

If you know of any other great resources, please let us know.

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Disclaimer

The information in this guide is provided for entertainment purposes and its accuracy should not be relied upon. We take no responsibility for any loss, injury, bankruptcy or divorce that may result from its use.

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