With the drone racing hobby growing at a crazy rate, there are a lot of new comers looking to get started racing. This is a guide of what you need to race drones. I will try and keep all parts and links up to date as new components are released.
Quad: Probably the most difficult choice in droneracing is deciding which race quad you would like to fly. There is a huge variety of choices and everyone has their favourite. A great starting point for a beginner is the trusted ZMR. It is an oldie, but it still holds up well to newer frames. The ZMR is cheap but robust and spares and upgrades are readily available, which is a key factor if you want to race.
For the more seasoned pilots who want a dedicated racing frame, the TSX by Stanton Frames and the Shrike by xLabs are two of the most popular frames ive seen on the race circuit.
A frame this is getting a lot of love for new comers at the moment is the Eachine Wizard, as it come with most of the things you need.
Quad electronics: Once you have settled on your frame, you will need all the electronics to make it fly. Four motors and four ESCs (electric speed controllers). A flight controller and compatible receiver. Then your FPV gear of choice, flight camera, video transmitter and antennas.
With the hobby progressing so fast, it is very hard to recommend any of these parts, as by the time i finish this article and you order a motor, it may very well have been replaced by something newer and better. It is best to join a forum such as FPVHub.com or FPVlab.com or facebook groups such as The Mini Quad club, FPV Racing UK and UK Drone Racing. Here you will find lots of people happy to advise on the newest and best things to use.
Propellers: in my opinion choosing props is simple, you have two choices. DALprop or HQ. Whether you fly tri-blades or bi-blades, 4inch, 5inch or 6inch, is up to you. Different tracks and different styles require different set ups. But the props you want are either DALprop or HQ.
Video VTx/VRx: To send and receive video from your racing drone, you will need a video transmitter (VTx) and a video receiver (VRx) along with some compatible antennas. All racing in the UK, and most worldwide will limit the power of the VTx to 25mw. This may seem counter intuitive but it actually makes it easier to get more pilots racing at the same time with less interference. The best VTxs at the moment are the FX799T (FX668) 25mw and the TBS Unify pro race edition.
Cameras: The cameras used for droneracing are usually small CCTV cameras. These provide a clear analogue picture with next to zero latency, ideal for us. There is a wide choice available but most are very similar. There are two versions of sensors, CCD and CMOS. Avoid CMOS as it is less than ideal for our use. The HS1177 is CCD and is very commonly used by racers as it offers a small form factor and great picture.
Goggles: The most popular brand of goggles for FPV by far are FatShark. They make a wide range of googles each with their own pros and cons. I would suggest you buy the best set your budget allows (avoid the teleporters if you can) and never put on a better set until you are ready to upgrade. They hold their value very well and are not something that you would generally break. Skyzone also make a very good set of goggles which are worth looking at. Not as popular as the FatSharks, but are sometimes more reasonably priced for a very similar quality.
Transmitter: By far the most common radio transmitter used within the droneracing and FPV community is the Taranis by FRSky. It is a reasonable price but has all the program-ability you will need. If you are on a very strict budget, there is also the 9xr Pro. Combined with the XJT module, the 9xr Pro is compatible with the majority of the FRSky radio receivers. It does not have all the features of the Taranis, and it feels cheaper to the touch, but it is a cheaper option if you need it.
Batteries: Battery technology is one of the main things holding back droneracing currently. With more and more powerful motors being made, we need batteries capable of delivering lots of power fast. This is a big demand on todays Li-Po batteries. Stock levels can also been an issue, as when a decent battery is released, demand often out weighs supply.
Good brands to look for are Turnighy Nanotech, these are a nice cheap but decent pack. Turnighy Graphene, these are a heavier more expensive battery, but with their graphene technology and protective plates they really handle a lot of abuse. Acehe batteries are fairly new to the market but so far reviews are very good. A little on the more expensive side but they provide lots of power with little sag.
Charger: If you want to actually fly your racing drone, you are going to need to charge the batteries. There are hundreds of Li-Po chargers out there but not all of them are good. To get started, the SkyRC S60 from Banggood.com is a great entry level charger. Once you get more serious and want to charge multiple batteries at once you will need something more powerful. The iCharger range is very good, as is the SkyRC D100.
Tools: When racing at high speed just meters off the ground, damage is inevitable. So having all the right tools to repair your racing drone is essential. I will try to list all the most commonly used tools, but you can never have too many. A good soldering station will save you lots of time and make builds and repairs a lot easier. A selection of hex drivers will always be needed to take frames apart and remove motors. Needle nose pliers for those small fiddly jobs. Wire cutters, zip ties, heat shrink, all kinds of glue, are all part of a drone racers kit. A voltmeter can save you from burning up equipment and help you troubleshoot problems. 8mm spanner/wrench for changing props.
Spares: There is nothing more frustrating than having the perfect flying weather but being grounded waiting for the postman to bring you that one spare part to get you back in the air. Stocking a wide variety of your own spares can help avoid this. Ideally you would want at least one spare of everything, but this isnt always practical for everyone. The most important spare parts to have are motors and ESCs. Cameras, VTxs and antennas. And props, lots and lots of props.