Drone Racing – 6 Things you should do when getting started

Getting into Drone Racing has never been easier

Has the colourful, dynamic, tense live tv racing magic of DCL captured your imagination and made you really want to give Drone Racing a go in 2018? Well you are in luck, Britain is the leading country in developing drone racing talent with a large handful of the best, highest achieving drone racers in the world. The sport may be in it’s baby stages but the pool of talent, mixed with the sheer amount of competitive racing that happens all over the country, we see the community week on week pushing each other to go faster and get more technical. This concoction really does nurture the best drone racing pilots in the world BUT where do you start?

Before we start, I just want to say there aren’t any affiliation links, i’m not getting paid to advertise any particular products, this is genuinely my advice.

This isn’t a definitive guide but it is how I would start over if I had the chance!! If you don’t fancy reading the rest of this article (it would be a terrible decision, it’s a treat), the TL:DR version is –

  1. Try a tiny ducted drone
  2. Download and Practice with a PC Drone Racing Simulator
  3. Come watch a Drone Racing event (check iFPV.co.uk, the national drone racing calendar)
  4. Talk to a FPV Racing Specialist shop to discuss your starter drone package to suit your budget and needs.
  5. Practice with your local FPV Racing Club
  6. Enter your first racing event

1. Getting your Tiny Drone on

Flying a little palm sized multirotor is a great way to get to know how the drone works in the most simplistic way. Personally, this is how I got hooked into racing drones, flying around a tiny Hubsan Nano Q4 around the office, under desks, out of windows and around colleagues. There are a lot of baby drones on the market and I recommend grabbing a complete package like the Airhoggs DR1 Racer or even the Eachine E013 FPV Package – These come with the drone, FPV goggles and a controller, all for for under £100, absolutely PERFECT for a young beginner.

Stick to flying these in indoors only, as these drones tend to be very light, if it’s very windy outside they will get blown away uncontrollably in the heavy wind. These drones won’t scratch the walls or furnishings as they have a ducted propeller design, protecting everything from the spinning propellers.

2. Simulator Training

Getting a Simulator for your PC is superb practice in the winter but also, so necessary in learning the basics of racing, you’ll find that the main difference in flying a micro drone to a racing drone is the control mode called ACRO. ACRO is where you are FULLY in control of the drone, it will continue to pitch over and slam you into the floor if you aren’t careful. There are some great sim’s out there, mainly – Velocidrone, Rotor Rush, Lift Off or The DRL Simulator and they not only teach you the very basics but give you real life tracks to help hone

your skills without having to fix your drone after a heavy high speed crash and multiplayer, so you can measure your progress against the rest of the community. The simulators will work with a basic xbox or playstation controller but for the best results then I recommend getting an RC transmitter like the FrSky Taranis X9D+ (one of the most popular drone racing transmitters on the market) or the cheaper less feature full QX7 to get a feel for what it would be like to actually fly with the control system you’d use in real life.

Simulators do present some great rewards for playing them. Rotor Rush are looking to e-sports, with some great teams already competing at LAN event’s like Insomnia. DRL are running their TryOuts via their sim, of which, the top of the Leaderboard get drafted into DRL itself. I’m sure there will continually be a plethora of benefits for getting yourself racing on the PC – don’t miss out.

3.  Come Watch an Event

If you are still hooked by this time, then come on down and watch a British Qualifying Event where the best in the Country are racing for a place in the exclusive British Championships. It will give you an idea of amazing people that come from every walk of life to race each other and the community you are getting involved in!

4.  It’s time to buy your Racing Drone

At this stage you must be banking lap upon lap on the simulator, getting some nice times on the multiplayer leaderboards, and not flying straight into the floor. You’re ready to buy your first racing drone. Going to a specialist Drone Racing Shop like Quadcopters.co.uk, makeitbuildit, AcroDrones will make this very easy for you.

They will be able to provide all of the gear you need – goggles, transmitters, batteries and charging. For full race spec drone, goggles, transmitter and batteries be prepared to spend up to £1,000.

5.  Time to fly..

I can’t express this enough, but please take your first flight at a Drone Racing Club. This will make sure you are flying safely, under experienced supervision and you can learn the rules you need to follow when flying outside of the club. These rules are vast and ever changing but as a rule of thumb:-

  • Fly under 400ft / 120m
  • Don’t fly within 150m of built up area’s or crowds
  • Don’t fly within 50m of people, properties, animals
  • Have to have Personal Insurance (BMFA Membership)
  • You will need a friend with you whilst flying FPV to keep your drone in line of sight
  • No flying near aircraft, airports or airfields (unless at a club that has SPECIFIC authorisation)

There are plenty of Clubs around the UK running regular racing sessions for you to try out your new kit. Before going to a club for your first race, you will need to make sure you have your own flying insurance. Personally there is nothing more extensive than BMFA membership for all of your recreation flying insurance needs, £34 a year for Seniors and £17 for Juniors (under 18’s).

I know just rocking up to an established club for your first real flight will seem very intimidating and scary but I can assure you, let them know it’s your first time and they will make sure you have a great day. You don’t have to hit every gate, a lot of sessions are just for fun and racing groups are grouped by ability so you shouldn’t ever be put in with fast regulars, they will always accommodate you and make you feel comfortable.

Can’t find a Club?

Drone Racing Clubs are the lifeblood of the sport, without them we wouldn’t have progressed as much as we have in the 3 years since 2015. It’s great to see clubs form in all parts of the country but they can be difficult to find. If you are a Drone Racing Club or have a Drone Racing Division, I want to hear from you, please contact me, adam@bfpvra.org, with your name, contact details, club and area.

The BFPVRA are looking to drastically improve their club directory in 2018, to make it easier for new and existing members find a safe, friendly, regular place to fly.

But here is a small list of clubs from across the country:-

This list isn’t exhaustive so please visit the BFPVRA Club Map for a full club listing and contact details for representatives at all of the drone racing clubs in the UK.

So, what event’s can you enter?

There is a full list of events at the UK’s official event calendar on the iFPV.co.uk website.

Make sure to sign up to the Monthly BFPVRA Newsletter to make sure you don’t miss any event this year. 2018 is the first year where we will have three championship trophies.

The British Championship

The British Championships is a highly competitive season long challenge of which at the end of the season the top 60 pilots in the country are invited to the Championship Race. To qualify you have to win points at qualifying events that are run all season around the whole country. The British Championships will be held on the 22nd of September 2018 at BMFA Buckminster.

The FPV National Open

The FPV Open, is the National BMFA Competition. It is open to EVERYONE to sign up to have a shot at the trophy. The competition is on the August Bank Holiday at RAF Barkston Heath. It is the first time ever that both the National Open and the British Championship are being held in the same year.

The UK League Champion

The UK League Champion. The UK League has always been for community bragging rights. And in 2018 it is not different!! It’s a long season and to be on top really means you’ve performed your best all season long. Can you be the first ever British Drone Racing Pilot to get the Triple Crown?

I can’t wait to see who will join Luke Bannister’s name on the British Championships Trophy in 2018. Do you think you can do it?

I can’t wait to see the old and new faces back on the Race Track in 2018.

If you have any questions about getting into Drone Racing then please do email me on adam@bfpvra.org.

Until Next Time – Adam Mackrory