The ability to fly is something humans have wanted for years. While we still haven’t found a way to match the aerial skills of birds, there is one sport that allows its athletes to get a glimpse of this flying experience.
The sport of drone racing involves strapping on a headset, and experiencing the view of a drone flying, flipping and gliding at speeds in excess of 100mph. Putting you in the driver’s seat with a controller and, hopefully lightning-fast reflexes, drone racing is certainly a unique experience.
But how do you get started, and more importantly, where can you buy these FPV (first-person-view) drones? We spoke to Evan Turner, a three-time world champion drone racer, to find out what he thinks are the best beginner racing drones.
If you want to do as the drone racers do, the number one choice is to build your own racing drone. This does require buying all of your own parts and putting them together, which for some who are new to all of this, might be a bit daunting.
“A typical racing drone in its current state is built from the ground up. You buy the parts, and you assemble them all together. That obviously requires some knowledge or skill but there is plenty of educational content out there to do that,” says Turner.
He runs a website known as Five33 which sells parts to make racing drones, but there are also plenty of other websites where you can buy these parts like YourFPV. Lots of guides can also be found to show you what you need and how to set it up.
DJI FPV: The beginner drone
DJI is a name that will likely be familiar to both drone fanatics and those new to the sport. It makes most of the best-reviewed consumer and photography drones, and for those interested in drone racing, one FPV choice too.
Known creatively as the ‘DJI FPV’, this is a solid choice for anyone looking to get started in FPV drone flying, offering a well-built, easy-to-use device.
“The DJI FPV drone is a good way to get into FPV and at least understand the basics, but I would also say that you’re not going to use the DJI FPV as a long-term drone because it’s very basic,” says Turner.
“It’s very geared towards your early entry-level hobbyists and you outgrow it very quickly. If that’s something that interests you and you’re just looking to cruise around, the autonomous features and easy to learn controls will make it a really good choice.”
iFlight: The best for pre-builds
If you like the idea of having something pre-built like DJI’s FPV, but want something better tuned to racing, a drone from iFlight could suit your needs more.
“They have a lot of really great ready-to-fly drones in this space for FPV drones. Very nice website and it is accessible for anyone. They use a lot of parts that we use in drone racing or the higher tier hobbyists, but they make it very easy for you to build the drone yourself,’ says Turner.
Emax: Cheap and portable
Both the drones from iFlight and DJI are on the larger side. If you want something that is both smaller and more affordable, the drones from Emax could be better suited to your needs.
“They make these ready-to-fly drones that are notorious for being very small and safe around people. The propellers are guarded and they are ready-to-fly drones that are micro-sized. They’re inexpensive and a very good starting point because of their price. You’re not going to damage anything or hurt someone when you crash and even if you do, it will be a lot less costly,” says Turner.
ORQA: The one to look out for
Right now, the brand ORQA doesn’t actually sell any drone parts or ready-made drones. Instead, this Europe-based brand focuses on making quality headsets, controllers and add-ons for FPV drones.
While they don’t currently sell drones for you to buy, Turner sees ORQA as a brand anyone interested in drone racing should have their eye on.
“They have an incredible team making great products. From my experience watching them grow, they are going to be making some really great drones soon that are available to a lot of customers in in the in Europe and so forth,” says Turner.