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a basic guide for absolute beginners

I often receive questions from friends in Facebook Groups who want to move from a consumer "video drone" to a "racing quad", so I decided to write this short guide to help other beginners (like me...) find their own way thorugh the amazing world of racing drones.

Commercial HDcamera drones

In December 2016 I purchased my first HDcamera drone "Parrot Bebop2 FPV" (First Person View) taking advantage of a Mediaworld end-of-the-year-sale at 499€, that allowed me to enjoy breathtaking views through its FullHD camera while flying at 60 kmh, and gave to me and my family a series of beautiful vacation clips.

But unfortunately most of these commercial HDcamera drones transmit video through the same Wi-Fi frequency used by the remote controller and the images generally arrive to the display with some latency, making FPV control impossible at high speed, because what you see on your screen has already happened...

I also tested more expensive models like the Dji Mavic Pro, which is much better performing under all the other aspects (video quality, flying range, reliability, portability, etc...), but, with surprise, I found that it was not as reactive and fun to fly in sport mode as the Bebop2.

In october 2017 I finally took the decision to sell my Bebop2 before its price started to go down (I still made 475€ !), I bought a small stabilized Dji Spark Combo ( 527€) for the family videos and I started to put together a Racing FPV kit to experience real fun acro flying FPV.

RACING drones

Also in the world of the racing drones it is possible to start with "RTF complete kits" (Ready To Fly), including a cheap radio, a cheap quadcopter, a cheap FPV visor, a cheap battery charger, etc.... but it's much better to put together a quality expandable solution step by step, starting from 2 basic elements:

  1. a good RC Radio (60 - 70 €)
  2. a good flight simulator (0 - 20 €)

This permits you to get immediately started with quite a realistic flying experience, you can follow a good racing or free-style tutorial and understand how different is flying a stabilized auonomous drone and piloting a spectacular unstabilized racing drone in "acro" mode.

The more time you spend practicing at the simulator, the better your flying experience will be.
Then, when you really get more and more passionate with this hobby, you can proceed with the second part of the investment.

You will need:
  1. a good FPV visor (260€): this is the most expensive element of this second kit
  2. a good video receiver (100€)
  3. a micro indoor qadcopter (60€ - 90€)
    or a robust expadable model (90€ - 150€)
  4. a set of batteries (20€ - 30€ each)
  5. a control receiver (10€ - 20€): it may be included in the quad, or you should add one
  6. a video transmitter: this will be probably built into your first preassembled quadcopter
  7. a battery charger (20€ - 40€)
  8. a small robust action camera (80€ - 220€): this will be the last element, you will buy it when you are ready to show the world how good you are and how great is this hobby

The Starting KIT

1) the RC Radio

The first element is the RC Radio: once you have a good radio, you can start to practice on a Flight Simulator. After a short investigation I chose the model FrSky Taranis Q X7 that offers the best possible functions at an affordable price. I paid it 67€, you can find it at a price that ranges between 70€ and 150€. This radio permits to transmit over 16 channels with a super-low latency, to receive the OSD telemetry from the drone, it has a microSD slot, it can talk to you with multilanguage voice messages while you are flying, it has the possibility to add a "trainer-cable", it has a direct mini-USB connecotr to control the flight simulator, it has 6 switches, 2 potentiometers, and a great software with infinite possible settings. It can be powered with 6x commercial AA stilo batteries or with a 2S/3S Lipo battery. It also offers the possibility to add an external 433 MHz transmitter to fly super-far distances or a multiProtocol transmitter like as the iRangeX.

2) a flight simulator

Once you have the RC Radio, you can connect it to your PC through an USB cable and you can practice flying in FPV on a good Flight Simulator. I started with the demo edition of FPV FreeRider on an Android Tablet but as soon as I received the radio I immediately purchased the full edition of Velocidrone for 18€.

"Velocidrone" is a spectacular and realistic learning platform and I strongly recommend you to test at least the free demo version:
> you can download it here,
> you can watch a video demostration here ,
> and you can follow a complete tutorial in this Youtube Playlist

The next STEPS

3) a good FPV visor

The next elemen that you can add to your set is the "FPV VISOR", which can be connected to your PC through an HDMI cable for a more realistic experience with the Flight Simulator. The FPV visor is the most expensive element of this initial set: you will probably change several quadcopters in the near future, but a good RADIO and a good FPV VISOR can last for 5-7 years. I chose the model Fatshark Dominator V3 (259€) and I'm extremely happy with it.

4) the best possible video receiver

To connect the FPV Visor with the camera of the drone you need a video transmitter on the drone and a video receiver on the FPV visor. One of the best solutions available today (January 2018) for the Video FPV Receiver is the Furious True-D V3.6 Diversity Receiver that can be purchased in bundle with a set of 1x PAGODA antenna + 1x PATCH antenna at aprice in he area of 100€

5) your first racing quadcopter

When you have reached an acceptable flight control at the Simulator, you can start to evaluate which will be your first learning "quad". The natural choice is to start with a Micro Indoor FPV Quadcopter and one of the best possible solutions in this case is the model King Kong Tiny 7, that you can find in different online shops at different prices, ranging from 45€ to 85€).

I preferred to jump this passage and i bought directly a pre-assembled "BNF" quadricopter , with a robust frame and equipped with basic components that can be easily replaced in case of important crashes and upgraded in the future to make it more and more performant as you grow with your skills. In this case it is important to be sure that the angle of the camera can be tilted down to 0 degrees for your first 2-3 flights, when you want to move the first easy steps without speeding up.

At the same time I also purchased a superfast "Furibee DarkMax 220 BNF FrSky" , one of the best BNF quads in 2017.

But what does "BNF" mean?

When you

6) a set of batteries

7) the control receiver on the quadcopter

8) the video transmitter on the quadcopter

9) a battery charger

10) a small robust action camera