What is the best Budget Racing Drone?
Firstly, as this is my guest review, and it has a lot of reference to parts, if you feel that you know a part that is the same price, cheaper, or will only increase the overall price of the drone very slightly, please put that in the comment section, but please do not criticise me for the parts that I have put in this review.
Building racing drones has never been cheap. Most racing drones today are all 200 pounds plus. We aren’t even using the best parts out there, and this cost doesn’t include a set of FPV goggles and a drone transmitter and reciever, which would make the price all up, to around 800 pounds! No small sum, and then the repairs, when necessary, can also cost quite a bit. You can get ready to fly drones on the market for a cheap price, take for example the Eachine Wizard; it’s a ready to fly drone for 180 pounds, and all you need is a set of FPV goggles, and your up in the sky. Building is usually more expensive, but what if you want to build your first drone, not just buy it off the shelf? Can you build one as cheap as an Eachine Wizard and of equal capability? The answer is… YES!!
I have been building a drone with an all up cost of 250 pounds with a ready to fly set up. Now you may say that you can get an eachine wizard for 120 pounds almost ready to fly, BUT, when you build a drone, you learn how to fix a drone, which when your starting out is very important! Let me tell you parts break all the time. So knowing how to fix is a key skill…So, what parts have I chosen to use?
I have chosen parts that I trust in, have good reviews and a good set of specs. You could make this drone even cheaper, but I feel that this is the best you can get for the time being. Almost all of these parts are available off Banggood, and I feel that ordering all of your parts off one website keeps everything simple.
Disclaimer: prices may vary depending time and place ordered
I have chosen the Racerstar Racing Edition BR2205 2300kv brushless motors
- It only costs 22.35 pounds for all four of them
- The produce 950 grams of thrust on a 5045 bullnose biblade propeller on a 4s lipo
- They only pull around 27 amps on a 4s lipo meaning they will not puff your battery, especially when using the batteries I have chosen
- They come with Ni-Lock motor nuts, which most inexpensive motors don’t, so there is no worry as to whether the propeller is going to fly off
- 2205 2300kv motors are widely used, and at 28 grams, they are quite light for a motor that cheap
Electronic Speed Controllers
I have chosen the Racerstar RS30A Blheli_S speed controllers
- They are 30 amps, there is no chance of overloading these speed controllers with the motors used
- They are dirt cheap at only 24.84 pounds for all 4 of them
- Despite their cheap price, they have Blheli_s 16.5 firmware, and even support multishot, Dshot150, and Dshot 300, meaning they are very smooth to fly
- They are opto speed controllers making them small, as they have no BEC, meaning they can’t supply voltage to the flight controller, however the flight controller I have chosen has an inbuilt BEC
I have chosen a clone of a Raceflight Betaflight CC3D REVO F4 board
- It has a built in BEC, meaning you can power it directly from your flight power on your power distribution board
- It comes preflashed with Raceflight or Betaflight 3.0, and some of the more recent boards have come with Raceflight or Betaflight 3.1
- It can support PPM, Sbus, and Spektrum DSM, DSM2 and DSMX, so will work with spektrum satellite recievers, and has pwm input
- It has a modern F4 chip, so very fast gyro and PID loop times. 8khz 8khz can be run without even trying, giving you a very smooth flight
I have chosen the Martianll 220mm drone frame
- It is a carbon fibre drone frame for only 21.62 pounds
- It has 4mm thick carbon fibre arms, making the arms extremely strong
- We have chosen the 5 inch version so we can run 5 inch propellers, however you can get a 6 inch and a 4 inch version of this frame
- The bottom plate is 2mm thick, which is plenty thick enough. Especially with the way the arms are sandwiched, you will struggle to break this frames bottom plate
- The frame comes with a structural PDB, which at I am not personally a fan of, however the frame comes with an extra fibreglass plate to stop the PDB from shorting out on the carbon frame, and to increase the strength of the sandwiched arms
- This frame is a clone of the Impulse alien 5 inch, and the chinese company who made this frame have done a very good job on making a very slick drone frame
I have chosen the ZOP Power 14.8v 4 cell 1800 mah 65c Lipo
- They can supply a massive 117 amps constantly, and this drone only pulls around 110 amps on maximum throttle, so you will not get puffy Lipo’s
- 2 of these batteries is only 24 pounds which is a very good deal, especially as high discharge Lipo batteries keep on getting more expensive
- You may think 1800 mah is quite a large size for a racing drone, however when you are running a 4 cell setup, the extra weight from the battery does not affect the performance massively, and you get another 1 – 2 minutes of flight time than running a 1300 mah battery, so we prefer to run 1800 mah packs
- The truth is, these pack say a lot of things, but they do have massive voltage sag, so they are great for learning, they are cheap, but they are not very powerful batteries.
We are using the Eachine TX526 video transmitter
- It transmitts on the 5.8ghz band over 5 bands on 40 channels
- It outputs 25,200, and 600mw of power, meaning when you learn how to fly FPV, you will have very little break up.
- It only cost 10 pounds, and after trying many more expensive video transmitters that cheap and chearfull is the way to go for these products
- The transmitter has an RP-SMA port for your antenna, and has a push button, and 7-segment display so you can easily change the channel on your video transmitter.
- It can run off any voltage from 7 volts to 24 volts which means it can be powered directly of the power distribution board.
- It has no 5v BEC for the camera, however this does make the VTX much smaller.
I have chosen a 600tvl camera with a 1/3” sensor
- It comes with a 2.8mm lens which is good for learning on
- It has a CCD sensor with wide dynamic range and auto white balance, which means the camera has very good light handling, no white outs of black outs
- It can be powered from 5 – 22 volts, so directly off the power distribution board, or from the BEC in the video transmitter
- It is a standard 26mm case meaning that it will fit comfortably in the front of the frame
I have chosen the eachine VR-007 fpv box goggles
- They have a 40 channel receiver with autoscan, meaning that the goggles will find the channel for you
- They come with a 7.4 volts Li-ion battery that can be charged using a micro USB
- Their screen resolution is 480×272 and a 4.3 inch screening giving a very immersive FPV experience
- They are extremely comfortable to 3ar, the adjustable headstrap means they fit very comfortably on your head
- They only costed 41 pounds at the time of purchase
There are 3 drone transmitters you should consider. Two of them are available on Banggood, and one of them is available on HobbyKing, and other various websites. They both have the same functionality and user interface, but due to ergonomics and compactness, I would recommend the Taranis QX7. However, in the build, we are using an fr-sky taranis x9d plus with an x4r.
Flysky FS-i6s 10 channel transmitter
- It has a touchscreen user interface, and has 4 switches and 2 rollers
- It comes with a receiver with PPM capabilities, so you only need to plug one wire into the receiver and then the flight controller to get 8 channels
- It has good range, and at a price of 52 pounds at the time of purchase, is also a very good deal
Turnigy Evolution Radio
- It has a touchscreen user interface, and has 4 switches and 2 rollers
- It comes with a receiver with serial capabilities, so you only need to plug one wire into the receiver and then the flight controller to get 8-16 channels
- It has good range, and at a price of 54 pounds at the time of purchase, is also a very good deal
- It has a very ergonomic design like a game controller, making it a familiar site to a first time quad pilot.
- I would definitely recommend this over the FS-i6S, however it is not available off banggood
- It can easily be used with a simulator using a micro usb cable
- Firstly, it uses the accst radio protocol, which is, by far the most reliable system in the rc hobby
- Though this is a more expensive option for a ‘budget’ build, remember a radio is universal and the resale value of taranis is incredibly good should you decide the hobby isn’t for you.
- It uses open tx software so it is highly modifiable
- It can be used with simulators using a standard mini USB cable
- It is quite ergonomic, and, in my opinion the white transmitter looks amazing.
I have chosen the Charsoon DC-4S 2-4S
- It comes with a power supply, which is key, as beginner pilots will probably not have an ac/dc powersupply, and for 9 pounds, this charger is great value.
- It can charge 2s, 3s, and 4s lipo batteries, which is great, and as all you need to do is plug the balance lead in to charge, it is easy to use
US Buy Here
Firstly, when building with a novice builder like I was, patience is key. Once you have built over 5 or 6 drones, you can build a drone in half a day without even rushing. When building with someone who has never built before, they don’t want to do everything in one go. It may take a few days, as they only want to do one step at a time, not 5 in 5 minutes. However, teaching someone how to build is always very rewarding. The build overall was very easy. The martian frame was very easy to put together, and as the esc’s have exposed solder pads, we did not need to desolder any wires, or cut back any heat shrink. The power wires and the signal wires were also long, so they could be cut down to length. The motors had nice silicone wires, which were easy to solder as well, and the super cheap f4 board works extremly well. Like, surprisingly well. For 17 pounds, it worked better than some of the more expensive flight controllers we have used that are also over twice the price. Nothing was broken whilst building, but having a powerful soldering iron is key. If this is your first build, and you know that you will be building lots, invest in a HAKKO soldering iron. They are extremely high quality, and you will have no problem soldering esc’s or PDB’s with that. Another good soldering iron for much less money is the YIHUA 938, which hobbyking sell. It has enough power to carry out builds, and the adjustable temperature is very useful.
The First Flights
Firstly, before you fly your drone, make sure you can fly to a decent level on a simulator such as FPV Freerider. This will save you from having many crashes. The second thing, is never fly in an auto level mode such as angle or horizon mode. Start in full acro mode. The auto level modes can teach you many bad habits for when you move onto acro mode. The simulators can teach you to fly in acro mode extremely well. The simulators of today are actually extremely close to the real flying experience now. The drone flew surprisingly well for the components that were on it. The frame was strong, and didn’t break, and everything performed to the expected level. From the feeling of this drone, even from a more advanced pilot, I would use this as a ‘sacrificial drone’ for flying in spots I might not with other drones, as the drone itself only costs around 100 pounds, compared to my general flyer which is closer to the 250 – 300 pound mark. The drone would be perfectly tunable if you wanted to tune it, but it flew well enough on stock PIDs. The F4 flight controller felt really nice, and it even had 16mb of flash storage if you wanted to learn how to blackbox tune.
So, after all of this, should you actually build a cheap drone for your first build that you will probably eventually outgrow? I would definitely say yes. As a beginner, you would not be able to handle the speed and grunt of a top of the range racing drone, and lots of racing drones have thin 4mm arms, or 3mm arms to save weight which you would break easily. The other thing is, parts are developing so quickly that the drone that you built when you started, by the time you got to the stage where you could start competitively racing, your quad wouldn’t be competitive as well. At a semi-professional/professional level, the old emax RS2205 motors just aren’t competive for that level anymore, but 6 – 8 months ago, they were the motor of choice for a lot of pilots. So, all in all, a cheap, durable beginner build like this is perfect for learning to build and learning to fly a racing drone.