Back in December, we put together an overview of ready-to-fly quad-rotors. I intended to follow that article with a similar piece that focused on racing quads. It quickly became apparent, however, that racing quads are a very different kind of beast and would require an altered form of presentation. What I provide here is a beginner's buyers guide for aspiring quad racers. I’ll cover the components that you’ll need, some of the different equipment options, and a few recommended retailers for you to get started.
Before We Get Start
It should be noted that racing quads are not for beginners. They are small, fast, and maneuverable. Those traits are what make racing quads fun, but they also exaggerate the difficult aspects of learning to fly multi-rotors. I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that racing quads are rather expensive as well. You can easily spend $1000 for all of the equipment that you’ll need to get started.
I’ve preached my suggested route for beginners several times, so I won’t repeat it here. I’m just starting to explore racing quads myself, so I’m hardly qualified to make any skill-level recommendations. However, I can say that I would personally feel uneasy about trying racing quads if I didn’t already have significant experience flying slower quads outdoors (without GPS aids) and with First Person View (FPV) gear.
Most modern racing quads are in the 250mm class, although it isn’t uncommon to find models ranging from 230-270mm. This measurement denotes the distance between the propeller shaft of a front rotor and the propeller shaft of the rear motor on the opposite side. At less than 10”, a 250mm racing quad is rather small compared to a DJI Phantom 2 or Blade 350 QX. In fact, they are only slightly larger than many of the beginner-oriented mini-quads. The difference is that racing quads pack a lot more relative power into a very small footprint.
In general, racing quads are offered as kits that must be assembled. Some vendors offer only specific components such as frames or motors. Other shops provide everything you’ll need in one box. In a few instances you will find stores that offer pre-built and flight tested racing quads. Keep in mind that quad racing is a contact sport, so crashes and repairs are inevitable. This spawns two schools of thought regarding pre-built racers. On one hand, the education and familiarity provided by building your quad will be useful assets when the time comes to fix it. On the other hand, going pre-built removes the variables posed by rookie set-up blunders. Choose your poison.
Before shopping for a racing quad, I suggest that you seek out other quad flyers in your area. See what equipment they are using and what works for them. Having access to someone with first-hand experience is one of the best ways to sort through the overwhelming array of options. Locals can also help you clear any hurdles you may experience during the build and set up of your racer.