- Emax Hawk 5
- Walkera F210 3D
- DJI FPV
As with almost all modes of transport, some people want drones to go fast. The ultimate expression of this are racing drones, designed to fly around courses as fast as possible. Generally, these courses are highly technical, meaning that top speed is less of a factor compared to manoeuvrability, acceleration, and of course great piloting skills. While many professional and amateur racers will prefer to build their racing drone from scratch, there is a decent market for pre-built options.
When buying drones, especially racing drones, it’s important to be aware of what’s included in the package. Many drones are sold as RTF or Ready To Fly, however, plenty are also sold in other configurations, such as without a controller or without a controller and batteries. This isn’t so much of an issue if you’ve already got the equipment to hand but may catch out some newcomers. If you think you’ve found a great deal double check that it’s got everything you need included. You may also want to consider buying some spare parts, even the best racers will crash every so often, and at high speeds, parts can break.
You should also be aware of the legislation that covers the area in which you fly your drone. Most racing is done wearing FPV or First Person View goggles, that transmit a live camera feed to a headset. This grants great visibility and awareness but means you can’t legally observe the flight area for other people. This means that in most countries, flying a drone while wearing FPV goggles requires you to have a spotter.
While most drones provide traditional resolutions for their cameras, either in megapixels or in standard resolutions, racing drones often do things a little differently. Camera resolutions are often reported in TVL or TV Lines. This is an older way of listing the horizontal resolution for analogue cameras and monitors. This means you’d need a 1920 TVL camera to achieve a full HD video feed. Most racing drones use much lower resolutions to minimise weight and cost. It’s also important to check the resolution of any FPV headset you get as the resolution of those can also be surprisingly low.
- Futuristic design
- Carbon fibre frame
- Adjustable flight controller
- Top speed: 50mph – 22m/s
- Weight: 370g
- Flight time: up to 9 minutes
The Walkera F210 3D is available in a range of configurations, including an RTF option with or without an FPV headset. While not everyone will like the aesthetics, the Reaper Drone esc look will appeal to some. The carbon fibre frame keeps weight down and protects the core components of the drone from the inevitable crash landings.
More vulnerable parts are protected where possible, such as the motor covers. The modular design simplifies the replacement process for those parts that do break. It also means that the drone is somewhat customisable. The 3D in the name refers to the drone’s ability to flip to inverted flying at the touch of a button mid-flight, though it should be noted that this reduces the battery life.
- Includes a free second battery
- Modular design
- Can fly upside down
- The camera is not particularly high resolution
- Night flight lights add to weight
- 4K60 camera
- 3 flight modes
- 2-mile range
- Top speed: 86mph – 39m/s
- Weight: 795g
- Flight time: 20 minutes
The DJI FPV drone is a fairly unique offering. It comes at quite a high price but includes a host of reliable high-quality features you won’t see on other racing drones. For example, it includes a 4K60 camera, it can stream in 810p120 to the FPV goggles, and it has obstacle avoidance sensors. All of these are great options for general drone flying but add cost, weight, and complexity to the drone.
Despite the extra weight, it’s able to achieve a very respectable top speed of 86mph and can fly for a total of 20 minutes at a range of up to 10km. Unfortunately, if and when you do crash it, you may have to return it to DJI for repairs. While you can replace things like the propellers easily, the rest is more difficult. The use of a digital camera rather than the traditional analogue camera improves both range and image quality. One helpful feature is the emergency brake in which the drone will attempt to right itself, stop, and hover in place as soon as it can. This is a one-button feature intended to be used if you’ve lost control but have not yet crashed.
- Digital camera
- Emergency brake system
- 810p120 live stream 150-degree FOV
- It’s loud
- Extra features have added weight and cost
- Can’t do more than minor repairs yourself
- Fastest production drone
- Carbon fibre frame
- Modular design
- Top speed: 100mph – 45m/s
- Weight: 544g
- Flight time: Up to 15 minutes
The UVify Draco is the fastest production racing drone on the market in 2021, with a top speed of 100mph. Weight and strength are provided by a carbon fibre frame. A modular design allows you to swap out parts if you want to make improvements over time. The large battery allows for up to 15 minutes of flight time, and can then be changed quickly thanks to the rapid-change battery pack design.
RGB LEDs are dotted around the drone allowing you to personalise your flying machine, and keep it easily visible. The 720p30 camera is certainly better than most racing drones but is one of the few obvious upgrades we can think of. There are two downsides to high speed, heat and controllability. The battery is cooled with some cleverly placed air vents to keep it as cool as possible. Control is a little harder to resolve though, while the drone is fast, it’s also very twitchy, meaning it’s not very beginner-friendly. It’s also expensive and doesn’t come with an FPV headset. You can, however, save some money if you already have compatible controllers and video receivers.
- RGB LEDs
- Quick swap battery pack
- 720p30 live camera
- No automatic camera adjustments
- 600TVL camera
- High speed
- Carbon fibre body
- Top speed: 100mph – 45m/s
- Weight: 270g + battery
- Flight time: 5 minutes
The Emax Hawk 5 is another high-speed drone capable of hitting 100mph. Unfortunately, you can only buy the drone frame, without a battery, remote control, or FPV headset. The max speed and flight time you can reach will depend somewhat on the size and position of battery that you get.
One interesting features of this drone is that you can choose where to put the battery, there is no space in the frame itself, so it needs to be strapped on the top or bottom. This affects aerodynamics but also allows you to adjust the weight balance to your preference.
- Configurable battery position
- Battery not included
- Controller not included
- Headset not included
- Reinforced unibody structure
- Injection moulded composite plastic
- 650TVL camera
- Top speed: 75mph – 33m/s
- Weight: 548g
- Flight time: Up to 11 minutes
The Team BlackSheep Oblivion is a small drone made out of plastic rather than the normal carbon fibre. This material choice allows for a more aerodynamic structure and allows for the series of braces that help to significantly increase the strength of the drone. As it comes out of the box, the drone is very light and has a lot of power, making it highly manoeuvrable, if you choose to strap a GoPro or other camera to it, this will change a bit.
Flight time can be as long as 11 minutes, but under racing conditions is likely nearer 4 minutes, a problem faced by many racing drones, as high speed and constant acceleration is taxing on the battery. The design of the drone is modular allowing for the complete replacement of the flight electronics stack. The included 650TVL FPV camera is not going to win any awards for quality footage but should be enough to see with.
- Modular design
- Parts are replaceable
- Comes with GoPro mounts
- Ready to fly bundle doesn’t include a FPV headset
- Weak FPV camera
Those were our selection of the best racing drones in 2021. Each is capable of high-speed flight and can hold their own in a race. Your preference may depend purely on performance, looks, or configurability, but there should be something in this list that appeals to most drone racers. Have you flown a drone on this list, or have something else you’d recommend? Let us know down below.
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