You may have seen it in the news, drone racing is becoming a thing. You may be thinking about taking your Phantom or new Spark to the park and scooting around with your friends doing the same, which would be fun, but that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about small, tough, agile, high-speed machines with FPV cameras and goggles on highly technical closed tracks.
With speeds in the neighborhood of 100 mph, technical courses that look like something out of a 90’s video game and cash prizes on televised races, what’s not to love?!? Compared to high-end camera drones, it is fairly affordable to get started, and we’re here to help with a list of the best racing drones.
What do you need to race?
Before we dive into the exciting drones that you could be speeding off with, please be sure to understand what it takes to fly. These are very high speed machines, they are more agile in the air than most of us can be ready for the first time out and they offer little to no flight assistance. If nothing else, please take some time to learn on a trainer before going full racing drone. If you would like to know more, please take a peek at these resources:
Also, for the beginners:
Best racing drones
Walkera F210 3D
As far as an out-of-the-box solution goes in the racing world, the Walkera F210 3D is one of the best drones you’ll find today. It packs both normal and night vision cameras, a sturdy build, simple customizations and a lot of thoughtful longevity features. Not saying it won’t break if you crash it, but they’ve done what they can to protect core components and make the rest easy to replace.
Best of all, you can tweak the flight characteristics directly, adjusting the flight controller to your specifications. The F210 3D is lightweight, we hear it is extremely agile, particularly in those demanding corners of technical courses, and is fast enough to keep up.
We can’t guarantee you’ll win races with the Walkera F210 3D, but if any ready to fly drone purchase was going to get you there, this may be it.
Check out the Walkera F210 3D for $426 on Amazon today.
Arris X-Speed 250B
A simple design with advanced electronics makes the Arris X-Speed 250B an appealing package. That, and the fact that you pretty much just have to charge the batteries and you’re ready to fly out of the box. Equipped with some assistive flight modes, for the learning flier or lazy flying days, this could be a great package for a new racing pilot.
Check out the light-weight, ready to fly Arris X-Speed 250B for $299 on Amazon today.
Walkera Runner 250 Pro
This may be the latest iteration of an older drone design, but it has been one of the iconic fliers on the scene. Focusing more on power than agility, you should find the Walkera Runner 250 Pro to beat out the newer and much lighter Walkera F210 3D in a straight line, but likely fall behind in a technical race.
You might call the Runner 250 Pro a drag racing drone, with tons of power, but weighing in at 1 lb before adding your battery and peripherals, it’s a bit of a beast on the scene.
Check out the Walkera 250 Pro for $226 on Amazon today.
Some assembly required
I was going to avoid any of the build-your-own drones, but I have to call attention to a worthy unit. Mostly because the best racing drones are not ready to fly packages, sorry, if you are serious about flying, you’ll need to get your hands dirty building something.
RISE Vusion 250
A relatively new player on the drone scene, the RISE Vusion 250 is a modular drone that makes repairs as easy as can be. This machine requires some assembly just to get off the ground, but once you understand how your drone works, it’ll be much easier to reassemble after a crash, and update when you figure out your flying style. A plastic machine with a flight speed of about 40 mph, we think the beginner kit with FPV goggles and more is an ideal solution for a hobby pilot.
Check out the RISE Vusion 250 kit for $350, including remote, FPV goggles and more.
ImmersionRC Vortex 250 Pro
Putting you to work before you can take off, the ImmersionRC Vortex 250 Pro. Not unlike some of the others in this section of the list, this is a drone that comes fairly bare-bones. You will need to add battery, camera, radio and even a controller. I did say that build-your-own was more of an experienced pilot thing, right?
If you’ve got the tools already, the Vortex 250 Pro has carbon fiber arms, a GoPro mount and more. The flight controller and remote/FPV connectivity offers great customization through on-screen controls (if you have a screen, that is,) focus on the best connectivity and lag free input as possible, while being considerate to other pilots by not flooding the radio waves.
There is even an Arm processor powered LED light grid on the back, RGB controls allow custom uses such as turn signals, brake lights or just fun light shows.
Check out the bare-bones ImmersionRC Vortex 250 Pro for $499 with case on Amazon today. Sold out, we’ll remove this drone from the list if it is not back soon.
Please be careful with this drone, it exceeds the legal speed limits set by the FAA. In fact, it exceeds the 100 mph limit by more than the average camera drone can fly – clocked in at up to 128 mph.
Stigg 195 is one of the oddest looking quadcopters in the segment. We admit the logic of their skewed propeller arm setup, cutting wind drag, but this is not exactly a unit you can grab off the shelf. We’ll not talk about it anymore today, if you are looking to customize and build your own racer, this is a quick option.
You won’t find the Stigg 195 on Amazon just yet, but the frame starts at $135, then you build up from there from Catalyst Machineworks. If you do not want to do the work yourself, check out the Oregon based Militia Brothers, a team we met recently that builds custom racers of all shapes and sizes, including the Stigg.
Honorable mention: Eachine Falcon 250 Pro
Look, if you are seeking a challenge, the Eachine Falcon 250 Pro is one of the toughest drones to fly. Powerful, edgy, light and fast, this drone has all the earmarks of a super-drone, at least in the ‘supercar’ sense of things. Just like most early supercars, a level of operator finesse is required to master the machine, but once perfected, look out other racers, this’ll be tough to beat.
Mostly it is the tilted propeller design that makes the Falcon 250 tough to fly, this drone defaults to a forward moving state – apparently hovering in place is not in the cards for this racer, it wants to move!
Priced at $198 on Amazon, the Eachine Falcon 250 Pro is ready to fly out of the box.
Unexpected consideration: DJI Mavic Pro
Update: DJI hass announced the new Mavic Pro Platinum. Shooting into the sky with the same basic frame, the new propellers and internals, including software bump, make for much quieter flight and greater flight time over the original unit. Stay tuned for more coverage of the new Platinum drone.
Hear me out. I know that the Mavic Pro is capable of maybe half of the top speed of most top racing drones, it is much larger and less responsive in the air as well, but it has a trick up its sleeve, the DJI Goggles. Almost every racer I’ve spoken to has crashed at least once due to connectivity issues between drone and FPV goggles. Since the DJI Goggles use different technologies to connect, there is less likelihood of crossed video streams, less likelihood of lag and the resulting death and destruction of your drone. OK, you’re still not going to keep up in the biog leagues, but if you and some friends are headed to the local park to boot around a makeshift track, the Mavic Pro with DJI Goggles make for a very attractive setup to fly.
How fast can you go? Atlas Pro
Let me be clear, the Atlas Pro is not a drone you’ll easily purchase for home use, nor is it small and agile like a typical racing machine, however, it has a top speed of 140KM/hr, that’s almost 90 mph. I know there are drones that can near double that these days, but this machine can also fly for almost an hour on a charge. I’m not trying to sell you on this drone, I’m just trying to help you consider that some big drones out there have some serious power. If you only have a drag race in mind, a drone like the Atlas Pro might just be a winner.
Check out our interview with the Atlas Pro from InterDrone.
We’re going to stop there for now, we will regularly update this article as we both learn more about racing drones and as new units hit the market. For now, please do hit the comments below to recommend your favorite racing drone, controller and headset.
Are you excited for more drone racing, or will you stick to the camera drones we usually prefer around here?