Indoor FPV racing is quickly becoming a big part of the RC hobby…and for good reason. These multi-rotors offer a lot of the same excitement as outdoor FPV quads, but with much less overhead. The models are generally smaller and less expensive. Crashes rarely result in any damage. Plus, you can set up a racing course in a meeting room, at an indoor basketball court, or even your house. The weather is never an issue either.
As Indoor FPV has blossomed, new products have been released. I recently gathered five indoor racers and compared their features. Each quad was given several shakedown flights at my house. I then set up a racecourse at a local community center to see how each multi-rotor performed in a racing environment.
Race Course Details
Before getting to the models, I'll tell you a little about how I set up the race course. You can improvise your own race gates using pool noodles, PVC, or other common household items. I used a new commercial option, the RISE House Racer Race Gate System ($40). This set uses plastic tubing and molded joiners to create different types of gates. There are also foamboard arrows that can be placed on the floor to point the way to the next gate.
The gates are easy to assemble. You simply slide the parts together. Some of the taller gates are quite flexible, but that's what you want in order to avoid damage during the inevitable crashes. The small area of the baseplates makes the gates easy to knock over. You can remedy this by adding short tubes to increase the footprint of the bases. I didn't have extra tubes for this. So I placed 1-pound weights on each base and achieved a similar result. The gates absorbed light hits in stride, but keeled over if center-punched by one of the larger quads. It's a good balance of utility and durability.
The gates are adequately sized even for the largest model that I flew. It is a little difficult to see the 10mm-diameter tubing at a distance through FPV goggles or a monitor. However, it shows up nicely once the quad gets within 10-12 feet of the gate. Long-range gate visibility is not an issue after you've become familiar with the layout of a track.
I was surprised to find that I could disassemble the gates and fit them back into the original box. I was even able to fit in a few extra gates. So storage is not an issue. The only trick is securing the coiled up tubing with stout zip ties.
Aerix Drones Black Talon 2.0
I've previously reviewed the original version of the Black Talon. Overall, I thought it was a solid performer with useful features. I especially liked that it had an option to record video to an onboard memory card. Most indoor FPV systems require you to record downlinked video at a low resolution.
The new iteration of the Black Talon retains the onboard recording feature, but has numerous other differences. The most notable change is that that FPV video signal is now carried on a Wi-Fi link. A mount atop the gamepad-like transmitter (which previously held a small LCD monitor) holds your smart phone. You can view the real-time video on your phone using Aerix's Black Talon app.
I was a little concerned that the Wi-Fi video would have too much latency for reasonable FPV flying. However, the system actually works pretty well. There is only a slight hint of video lag and I never experienced any signal blackouts. I noticed that the video stream is slightly choppy. It is still fluid enough that I didn't feel like it impacted my ability to fly the Black Talon around the course. But it definitely provides a different feel than more-traditional FPV video systems.
The good news in all of this is that the Black Talon 2.0 costs considerably less than its predecessor. You now get a complete FPV ship for just under $100. For an extra $20, you can add a headset that will convert your phone into FPV goggles. It makes flying the Black Talon a more immersive experience.
I can't detect any differences in flight behavior between the new and old version of the Black Talon. It is relatively easy to fly and doesn't have any hang-ups. This racer is not a speed demon, but it sure gets around my living room in a hurry. I'm generally not a fan of controllers that are styled after gamepads. Even so, I can't deny that the Black Talon's transmitter works well. I didn't even bother to modify this one as I did before.
My only persistent gripe about the Black Talon series has to do with the included USB charger. It has been updated, but the geometry is still awkward. I have to use a USB extension cable to mate it with my laptop. Aerix offers a dual charger that may be more user-friendly, but I've never tested it. I ended up fabricating an adapter that allows me to use my hobby-quality LiPo chargers on the Black Talon battery.
Aerix Drones Vidius HD
Indoor racers are supposed to be small, but this is crazy. The Vidius HD ($75) is among the smallest quads I've ever tested and it's certainly the tiniest FPV-capable ship I've flown. With a diameter of less than 2 inches, the Vidius HD easily fits in the palm of your hand. How they managed to get all of the necessary viscera into such a small footprint is a mystery to me.
The advantage of a smaller multi-rotor is that it opens up more possibilities for flying locations. Your average living room provides plenty of elbow room for the Vidius HD. Smaller rooms are certainly an option once you get the hang of flying it.
Like the Black Talon, the Vidius HD uses Wi-Fi video and achieves similar results. It's not as seamless as non-Wi-Fi systems, but it works well enough to be enjoyable. This is especially true with the Vidius HD since it flies at slower speeds. Once again, an extra $20 will add goggles that make it a completely different kind of experience. I highly recommend the upgrade.
I've been trying to overcome my prejudices of oddly-sized radio systems. The transmitter included with the Vidius HD is one of the smallest I've seen. Rather than modify it to suit my preferences, I used it as-is. I was able to get comfortable with it after a few minutes. I still think that a larger case and graspable sticks (rather than thumb pads) offer more precise control, but this works well enough.
If you want a super-fast and maneuverable indoor racer, keep looking. This quad isn't for you. The Vidius HD has gentle flight characteristics and is very easy to fly. The quad's docile nature will be welcomed by rookies just learning the basics of multi-rotor flying and/or those getting their first glimpse of an FPV perspective. It still feels like the Vidius HD is flying fast when you're wearing the goggles, but it's really a pussycat.
This quad does not have a replaceable battery. So you have to recharge between every flight--a process that takes about 45 minutes.
Blade Inductrix FPV
The Inductrix FPV is another indoor quad that I've already given a complete review. This model (and the myriad aftermarket "Tiny Whoop" variants) is the multi-rotor that kicked-off the whole indoor FPV craze…and it's not hard to understand why. It is small enough to fly just about anywhere, but it's not too small to work on. You can easily swap out batteries (which are cheap: $5-$6 each) to keep flying indefinitely. The most significant factor for indoor flight is that the propellers are completely shrouded. Bumping into something rarely causes a crash. The more likely scenario is that the Inductrix will bounce off and keep flying without skipping a beat. It is the essence of carefree, no-holds-barred FPV flying.
The Inductrix FPV was originally available in two versions: a Ready-to-Fly (RTF - $200) model that includes a basic transmitter and a small LCD monitor, or a Bind-N-Fly (BNF - $100) version that is compatible with Spektrum transmitters and most 5.8GHz FPV goggles/monitors. I no longer see the BNF version listed on Blade's website, but it appears that numerous vendors still have them in stock.
Lately, the Inductrix FPV is the quad that I reach for when a RC noob wants some flight time. With the controls set to low-rates, the Inductrix is relatively docile and easy to manage. More importantly, it's nearly bulletproof. Mine has been severely abused by myself and others, but it just keeps on ticking.
On high rates, this little quad can actually get moving surprisingly fast. It will give you a thrill as you maneuver through race gates (or under chairs, around blind corners, etc.). The only thing I don't like about the flight performance when using the included transmitter is that yaw control is too aggressive for me. That responsiveness can be tweaked if you use one of the compatible Spektrum computer radios.
In a nutshell, the Inductrix FPV is a good combination of fly-anywhere size, sporty performance, and toughness. It's hard to imagine it being pushed off the top of the indoor FPV mountain anytime soon.
Blade Inductrix 200 FPV - BNF
The Inductrix 200 FPV ($250) is a larger brother of the Inductrix FPV, and the only quad of this group that shares many traits with outdoor FPV racers. With a 200mm diameter, it's actually a little larger than the latest generation of outdoor ships. The similarities are most evident when you look at the power system. This Inductrix 200 has brushless motors and a 3-cell LiPo battery. Most other indoor racers use brushed motors and a single-cell LiPo. The relative power difference is obvious in both flight performance and sound. This ship is loud!
BNF is the only option with the Inductrix 200. I paired it to my Spektrum DX8 transmitter per the settings outlined in the quad's manual. To view the video stream, I used Spektrum Focal V2 goggles ($400). I really like how these goggles fit my face. These are the first goggles I've owned that have a broad face mask from the factory. In the past, I've had to modify my goggles to get a comfy fit.
Given the size and power of the Inductrix 200, it is actually quite comfortable to fly outdoors or indoors. I've done both with no problems. You just need a sizeable space when flying indoors. A racquetball court or half basketball court is probably the minimum space you would need to get any sort of momentum going. You can forget flying this beast in your living room.
Like the smaller Inductrix, the 200 has fully-shrouded propellers. This one actually has a cage-like structure around each prop. All of the protective plastic probably contributes to the quad's whine when the props are spinning. However, I wouldn't want anything less beefy when flying a brushless quad indoors.
Overall, the Inductrix 200 flies well and is fun to toss around. I think it's something of a niche item though. You can look at it as a very powerful indoor quad or a moderately powerful outdoor quad, or both.
RISE Vusion House Racer
RISE is new to the indoor multi-rotor scene. They've gone all out with the House Racer ($180). It's the most complete package of the bunch. You get the quad with a battery and charger, a full-size transmitter (yay!) and an LCD monitor. You can place the monitor in a mount on top of the transmitter or in the included headgear.
The name "House Racer" is a little bit of a misnomer, unless you have a very large house. Like the Inductrix 200, the House Racer is better suited to a larger indoor space. It's fine to practice hovering in a moderately-sized room. You'll just want to find a sizeable floorplan for anything that resembles racing.
In its bare form, the House Racer isn't much larger than the Black Talon. Once you install the protective bumpers, however, the quad's footprint increases dramatically. The upper set of bumpers is optional, but I recommend them. They saved me more than once when I cut a corner a little too closely.
I was really surprised by how powerful the House Racer is. It has exceptional performance for a single-cell/brushed motor set-up. It was much more spirited than I expected and better than any similarly-sized quad that I can recall. Even when I was flying in the large community center, I had to hold back. I was flying as fast as I dared and the House Racer still had untapped speed. Likewise, I've found the House Racer to be fun to fly on calm days outdoors.
I like the included transmitter. It is simple, comfortable, and works well. The monitor and goggles are also nice units. Everything meshes and works together well. There's definitely something to be said for having all the equipment you need in one box from one manufacturer.
While more and more indoor FPV racers are becoming available, the RC industry still hasn't honed in on size and equipment standards. These examples clearly illustrate how much variation exists among different models that qualify as indoor racers. None of the quads included here is really a fair competitor for any of the others. Given the relative newness of the class, such variety is to be expected and welcomed. I think that 2017 will begin to bring some uniformity to indoor FPV as racers sort out what works and what doesn't. I am interested to see how things unfold.
Terry is a freelance writer living in Lubbock, Texas. Visit his website at TerryDunn.org and follow him on Twitter and Facebook. You can also hear Terry talk about RC hobbies as one of the hosts of the RC Roundtable podcast.