Looking to get into drone racing? My name is Tyler, and I am an editor over on Propwashed.com. We are a multicopter enthusiast site that shares reviews, guides, and resources to a fast-growing community of drone racers!
While drone racing is starting to get more mainstream attention, there is a large degree of ambiguity in how to get into the hobby. While you can go to Amazon and purchase a great camera drone to take stunning video of your family, buying a high-performance racing drone isn’t as straightforward.
In this article, we are going to cover the different ways you can purchase a racing drone. Drone racing is still in its infancy, so you may be surprised to learn that there are multiple ways to put together your first racing drone. Like the early PC days, many racing pilots cut their teeth in the hobby by building their first drone completely from individual parts. As the market has matured, there are now a ton of different ways to put together your first drone racer!
Ways to buy
There are three main ways to purchase a racing drone: pre-built, building a kit or individually buying all the components. We are going to cover each and provide buying options in the next sections.
For most readers, we recommend reviewing the pre-built options in detail. The market is rapidly changing, but some of the entry level pre-built drones provide a great platform to grow on.
Pre-built (ready to fly) racing drone
Pre-built, or Ready To Fly (RTF), quadcopters are the easiest way to get into the hobby. You buy a drone that only needs one or two additional parts and a battery charge before you are tearing through the air.
Surprisingly, you can often get some hefty savings on RTF drones. Over the past year, the price barrier has dropped substantially as clones and more competition has entered the market.
The major downside to buying pre-built is putting off learning about each part of your quadcopter. It is the nature of drone racing that you will need to fix your quadcopter after a crash. Crashes will happen often – especially while you are learning to fly! Purchasing a pre-built drone as your first quadcopter may put you at a disadvantage when troubleshooting repairs, as you will have less familiarity with the internal components.
Standard mini quad racing drones
The below options are your standard racing drones. These usually range from 180-250mm in size, measured across the diagonal of the frame. These are high-performance quadcopters that can reach amazing heights, crazy speeds, and perform all sorts of maneuvers.
1. Eachine Wizard X220
Price: Around $130-200 depending on options (Banggood.com)
The Eachine Wizard is the current budget champion when it comes to entry level racing drones. For under $200, you can get a full kit that can have you airborne in no time at all. The Eachine Wizard comes pre-equipped with everything you need to fly first person view (FPV) and practice towards local racing.
This is a great platform designed at new pilots wanting to dip their feet into the racing and freestyle scene. However, to get the most out of this quad, you will want to upgrade the video system and make some inexpensive quality of life upgrades.
Bottom line: Great for new pilots looking to get into drone racing. Right now, probably the most cost-effective platform on the market.
You can read our full review of the Eachine Wizard X220 over on Propwashed.com!
2. TBS Vendetta
Price: $500 (Amazon.com)
Team Black Sheep has been a mainstay in the RC aircraft world for years. They pioneered a ton of early FPV tech and flying styles, and are still a force to be reckoned with.
The Vendetta is a prebuilt quad on the more performance end of the spectrum – with a price to match. However, TBS has continued to update the platform, allow for swappable components, and provides a ton of documentation on this racer. If buying from a reputable brand is important to you, Team Black Sheep is a solid choice.
On the other hand, this is a steep price to pay for your first racing drone. While this might be great for pilots experienced with flying FPV, this may be too much drone for entry level pilots.
Bottom line: A name brand performance quad for experienced drone pilots.
3. Eachine Diatone Crusader GT2
Price: $260 (Banggood.com)
Another quad on the higher end of the spectrum with fantastic equipment, the Diatone Crusader is a great buy. This speedy miniquad is currently one of the top reviewed RTF quads on the market. Out of the box, you have a quad that will be competitive in local circuits and give you great power for flying freestyle.
However, its low-profile frame may be difficult to repair and modify for new pilots. These X shaped frames usually stack the components in the center, meaning repairs may require pulling apart multiple sections. Similarly, this quad is fast out the box! Those that don’t have a ton of experience should lower the rates before their first flight.
Bottom line: A speedy big brother to the Wizard that is race competitive in its stock build.
Indoor micro quad racing drones (Tiny Whoop style)
The below options are smaller racing drones that can be flown indoors. These usually range from 60–90mm in size, measured across the diagonal of the frame. These speedy micro quads can buzz around your house while still maintaining excellent performance and the ability to use FPV. Great for the indoor bar circuit!
1. Eachine QX90
Price: $50 (Banggood.com)
The QX90 fits into the “microquad” or “Tiny Whoop” category of racing quads. These small quads are faster and more customizable upgrades to the entry level Hubsan X4. Furthermore, the QX90 comes equipped with a camera that can be used for FPV flying right out of the box.
The QX90 excels at indoor flying rather than out at the field due to its small size. While you can fly the QX90 outside, it will struggle with wind and lacks the power to pull off maneuvers that its larger brethren can perform with ease. On the other hand, if your area has an active microquad racing community, this is a great entry level platform for indoor racing!
Bottom line: An affordable FPV quadcopter that can be flown indoors for pilots wanting to test the drone racing waters.
You can read our full review of the Eachine QX90 over on Propwashed.com!
2. Blade Inductrix FPV
Price: $100 (Amazon)
The microquad that started a revolution! A community of pilots modded the standard version of the Inductrix to add FPV, and the original “Tiny Whoop” was born. Named for its protective ducts, the Inductrix is a nimble quadcopter that can be modded and upgraded to perform some amazing stunts.
Similarly, in cold regions, these modded micro quadcopters let enthusiasts get their FPV fix at home without having to brave the weather! Local race groups have transformed local pubs and community centers into racing meetups, and for the most part, the Inductrix is the standard entry. Additionally, you will find a ton of helpful resources online if you ever run into any issues.
Bottom line: A tried and tested platform that started a micro quadcopter FPV revolution!
Drone Racer Kit
Buying your drone as a pre-packaged kit is a cheap way to get flying while also learning how to build your own drone.
Since you are buying several parts from a single vendor, they will generally pass some of the savings on to you – a big one being shipping all the parts in one order versus waiting on multiple vendors. What you need to look out for are kits that include sub par or untested parts. This can take a bit of research to look at all the main components, but most vendors are upfront about what is in their kit.
You also get the experience of putting together your own quadcopter and knowing upfront that the pieces all work together. This helps with getting the “under the hood” knowledge that will be invaluable later when you have your first bad crash and need to make repairs. Crashing in drone racing is common, as are rebuilding and repairs. Having some build knowledge under your belt will help keep you in the air longer and make troubleshooting easier down the line.
The amount of kits available from retailers has decreased as cheaper RTF platforms have been released this past year, but they still can be a great option for hobbyists interested in building from scratch.
Dubai 210 kit
Price: $150 (Gearbest.com)
The Dubai 210 has been the go-to kit on the market for the past year or so. Featuring a classic frame style, solid components, and an affordable price, the Dubai 210 is a great way to build a drone from the ground up.
Part of the enjoyment for many drone racers is the amount of customization you can perform while building. If you love tinkering with electronics and building things, the Dubai 210 kit may be a perfect way for you to get into drone racing while also scratching that creative itch.
Bottom line: A solid kit for the hobbyist who values building a drone as much as flying one.
Building your drone from parts you individually selected is the best way to ensure you get exactly the quadcopter you want. Realistically, it is the only way to stay on top of technology and get the very best that the market has to offer. If you truly want to compete in racing, this is likely the way you will end up purchasing parts to remain competitive at top levels.
Unfortunately, this is probably the most expensive route to take too. Even if you find some killer deals for all the parts you need to buy, it’s likely that shipping costs from multiple vendors alone will kill any savings you managed to find.
Our recommendation for new pilots? Do your research and use parts to upgrade bits of your quadcopter at a time. For example, we have swapped out parts on our Eachine Wizard listed above to get more out of an inexpensive beginner quad. Furthermore, this will get you used to changing out components and learning the ins and outs of your racer!
Now that we have covered your drone racing buying options, let’s talk about some other considerations before you push that buy button. Unlike well-known quadcopters like the DJI Phantom, most racing drones require a few extra miscellaneous items to stay airborne. Let’s talk about a few of the ‘gotchas’ many first-time pilots may not be aware of:
You may need to buy some new tools
We mentioned repairs are a common part of life for a drone racer, right? While most toolboxes will have the basics, many new hobbyists may not yet have a soldering iron or multimeter. This may add to the overall price tag for those without a stocked toolkit at home. Similarly, using these tools may take a little practice.
Luckily, learning how to use this equipment can help with other electronics hobbies, and maybe even help with home repairs. Learning how to solder and use a multimeter can help you salvage other electronics, and potentially save you a ton of money in the long run!
We compiled a tool list over at Propwashed that can help get you started.
Batteries not included… and most of the time neither is a transmitter!
For the most part, you will have to buy your own batteries to get airborne. Luckily, LiPo batteries aren’t that expensive compared to many of the batteries found in some of the more advanced drones found on this site. For example, our current favorite battery only costs $24. That said, factor batteries into your final cost!
Similarly, while some RTF quadcopters come with a transmitter, most will not. This means you will need to invest in a transmitter to get in the air. However, your transmitter can be bound to multiple drones and be used for a long time.
Learning to fly can be tough…
…but a lot of fun! Racing drones can flip, barrel roll, and soar through the sky in almost any direction. Their durable nature allows you to fly at fast speeds and weave through obstacles. Putting on goggles and flying from the perspective of your drone is the closest thing we’ve experienced to truly free flight.
For example, here is an edit that we created showcasing what a racing drone is capable of:
However, getting there will take a lot of practice and many crashes. Worry not, as we have developed a training guide that can help teach you how to fly! A perfect pairing with Propwashed.com’s micro-quadcopter training guide!
Again, thanks to Today Best Drone for allowing us the opportunity to share more about racing drone buying options with you! Want to learn more about drone racing? Feel free to head on over to Propwashed.com, where we post reviews, guides, and community resources weekly!
You can also check out the guest post on drone apps written by Today Best Drone on Propwashed!