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 is Drone Rush?
Thank you for joining us here at Drone Rush, we are a group of passionate technologists, eager to fly every drone we can get our hands on. Our enthusiasm for drones began as a hobby, and rapidly grew to seeking out the best camera drones on the market. Learning that there are many forms and functions of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAS,) we strive to learn them all.
We invite you on this drone journey, we ask you to trust us as a source to find the best drones on the market today. We also want to help you get the most from the experience, watch for tools, tips and tricks for your drone flights.
Learn more about our drone philosophy by clicking the button below.
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:
- Buying a racing drone? Things to know before you fly
- Know the law – do you need to register your racing drone with the FAA?
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 $349 on Amazon today.
Emax Hawk 5
We have to admit, the Emax Hawk, and smaller BabyHawk have been on our radar, but didn’t make our list. That is, until we attended the IDRA races at AUVSI Xponential in Denver, the winning racer was flying a Hawk. Pilot skill aside, that’s enough credibility for our list. Hawk 5 is a bit of a larger racing quad, but it’s super fast. Maneuverability is key to keeping speed through a tight course, and the Hawk performed beautifully at the race.
Check out the Emax Hawk 5 for $226 as a Bind-and-Fly configuration – meaning you need your own controller.
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.
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 $330 on Amazon today.
If you are looking for a solid modular system of a racing drone, from a company that is dabbling with drone AI to help makes its machines smarter, Uvify may have an answer for you. There is the Warp 9 to consider, it’s got serious smarts, but most of us will look at the Draco.
Walkera Furious 215
A newer machine from Walkera, this 215mm frame size racer is geared up for the win. Walkera includes a long list of features with this little racing machine. A well equipped camera will keep you enjoying up to 9 minutes of flight from this ready-to-fly package. It weighs 375g without a battery and you can get it in kits with various controllers, or no controller at all.
Check out the Walkera Furious 215 for $269 with a simple controller, up to $662 with high-end controller.
Unexpected consideration: DJI Mavic Pro
We’re going to revisit this entire recommendation soon, we still love the Mavic Pro combined with the DJI Goggles, particularly the Goggles Racing Edition, but DJI has a new drone that goes a little faster. Stick around for our coverage of the new DJI Mavic Air, it’s smaller than the Mavic Pro, faster and has an updated camera.
Update: DJI has 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.
Update: DJI has announced the new Goggles Racing Edition. Reduced latency and accompanying Ocusync camera and transmitter. If you wanted to use the DJI Goggles for racing, this is your chance.
To be fair, you’re not going to keep up in the big leagues while flying the Mavic Pro, but if you and some friends are headed to the local park to boot around a makeshift track, this drone with DJI Goggles make for a very attractive setup to fly.
It’s a toy?
For the beginner race pilot out there, Uvify has a great little quadcopter coming to market that can satisfy both your casual flying and your racing desires. Get started with the OOri in beginer mode to learn the ropes, then gradually bump up to full tilt to go over 50 MPH. This is a fun, resilient and surprisingly stable drone to sink your racing teeth into.
Fat Shark 101
We all have to start somewhere, and Fat Shark is determined to help us all get into racing. I was impressed with the simplicity of the build for the Fat Shark 101 race trainer, almost as impressed by its speed and how complete of a racing package you get for the money. Scoot along and learn all the basics of racing using this cool looking, easy flying drone.
The Fat Shark 101 is $247 today.
Build your own racing drone
Truth is, most racers prefer to build their machine from the ground up. Scratch building your racing drone ensures you get the form factor of your desire, and has the added benefit of helping you understand each of the components so you can change out parts appropriately. Building from scratch can be fun, or it can be a nightmare, it really depends on what parts you try to jam together.
Understanding the bits and pieces is key to the task. Experience will help you get the hang of things, but you might want to start with some education on the matter. We have become huge fans of the folks over at Flite Test – they focus on RC airplanes, to be fair, but they have some quadcopter education as well. More important, they sell most all of the parts you’d need to build a racing drone.
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?