Attending a club FPV drone racing event is a major aspect of the FPV hobby. It is an excellent competitive and social activity with a welcoming environment. The opportunity to converse and race with other pilots is perhaps the best way of immersing yourself in the FPV hobby.
Before you attend your first FPV drone racing event, there are some general tips and common courtesies you should know to help the event to run smoothly and to ensure that you can make the most of the event. This article will aim to outline these key tips and considerations to help prepare you for your first FPV drone racing event.
Finding a FPV Drone Racing Event
The easiest way to find a FPV drone racing event is to use MultiGP’s FPV racing chapter map to find your nearest FPV club. The majority of clubs across the globe have been added to this database making it quick and easy to find the nearest one to you. After that, navigate to the clubs social media page or website where they should have any upcoming FPV drone racing events published. If you are unsure about the process of registering for these events, it is highly recommended that you get in contact with one of your senior local clubs members to assist you.
Preparation for the FPV drone racing event
Preparation for the FPV drone racing event is perhaps more important than the event itself. Once you are at the field, you only have what you brought to work with so good preparation is an essential part of a successful FPV drone racing event.
What to Bring
Here is a general list of gear to bring to the event:
- The obvious. A quad-copter, goggles, transmitter and batteries.
- Tools. Notably, a hex driver set, pliers, prop wrench, screw drivers, knife and even a portable soldering iron. I like to bring a multi-tool such as a Leatherman as it has most of the tools required integrated into one portable package.
- Cable ties and electrical tape. These are perfect for any last-minute repairs or upgrades. My quad-copter will quite often come out of an event with more cable ties on it than it began with.
- Battery checker. This is a useful tool for charging, battery management and peace of mind to ensure that the pack you are about to fly is actually charged!
- Spare screws and thread locker. Screws can quite often work their way loose, especially if you tend to fly through the vibrations when you damage your propellers. Having some spare is always a good idea.
- A backup quad-copter. Whilst you can usually get through an FPV drone racing event with a single quad, it is always good to have a backup. I remember irreparably crashing my quad-copter on the first flight of my first FPV drone racing event and learnt this lesson the hard way.
- Spare parts. If you can’t put together an entire backup quad, it is at least a good idea to carry spare parts, notably frame arms, motors, camera lenses, antennas and ESC’s.
- Spare propellers…lots of spare propellers. You are going to break a lot of propellers. It is best to carry quite a few spares.
- Batter charger. If you do not have enough packs to last the event, bring a battery charger and a large LiPO or car battery to power it. Depending on the delays between races, you may be able to fully charge your packs up during these intervals.
- A chair and table. These are a good idea to include as you don’t want to be standing around all day or having to work on your quad-copter on the ground.
- A hat, water and sunscreen. FPV drone racing events go for the good part of the day and it is quite easy to get sunburnt or dehydrated if the weather is warm and sunny. Bringing these will help you to endure the outdoors.
- A first aid kit. Hopefully you won’t need to use this.
I would also highly recommend purchasing an FPV backpack or storage case to put most of this gear in as it can be quite painful to walk to the track with an armful of loose quad-copter bits. GetFPV has a wide selection available here.
Charge Your Batteries
Make sure to charge your batteries the night before the event. It isn’t fun to arrive at an event without any charged packs or to be frantically rushing around the charger in the morning to get packs charged before the event.
When attending the FPV drone racing event, make sure that you have a decent video transmitter (VTX) and antenna on the quadcopter. Even if you are running a relatively cheap craft, make sure to run a decent video setup. This will not only improve your video but the video of pilots racing at the same time as you. Perhaps the worst thing you can do is force another pilot to crash because of your video transmitter overlapping video onto their channel. I would personally recommend the TBS Unify or Immersion RC Tramp line of video transmitters. You must also check that your VTX is set to 25mW output. Running a higher output power will also give other pilots bad video reception.
You should also familiarize yourself with changing VTX channels quickly. Taking excess time to change channels can slow down the whole event making it less enjoyable. I would recommend purchasing a VTX with the ability to change channels through an intuitive push button setup, the quad’s on-screen display (OSD) or through the transmitter (e.g. Taranis LUA script or Spektrum inbuilt VTX control).
Setting Up Your Failsafe
For safety it is important to have a working failsafe where the craft will drop out of the air within three seconds of losing connection with the transmitter. By default, a craft running an semi-recent version of Betaflight will do this but it is a good idea to check this before the FPV drone racing event. I usually lower my failsafe time to between half a second and one second for extra safety (although I have never had my craft failsafe on me at an event).
Having a Working Quad-copter
Give the craft a once-over checking that all wires are soldered on and fastened down, screws are tight, and that the craft is in a generally flight worthy condition. Then, plug in a battery pack and give the craft a quick video check and test hover to ensure it works properly.
Sticking With the Same Settings
The worst time to be updating software or experimenting with new rates or flight controller settings is right before a FPV drone racing event. Leave your settings as what you have been using previously and change them after the FPV drone racing event. If your settings are all over the place this is then an exception and by all means, try to get them sorted before the event.
To further prepare, I would recommend printing out the below FPV session checklists by Josh Cook and reading his article on Preparing for Flight with an FPV Checklist.
FPV Racing Checklist
FPV Pre-Flight Preparation Checklist
At the Event
Before your quads are allowed to race they must be scrutineered to check for flight-worthiness. The scrutineering checks vary for different events however they generally check that the VTX is set to the correct channel, the fail-safe time is within the (usually three second) standard and that the craft looks to be flight worthy. Performing these checks yourself before the event is the best way of ensuring that your craft will pass scruntineering.
Not Powering Up in the Pits
This is a common courtesy to all other pilots. Powering up your craft when others are flying will inevitably cause someone to lose video and crash which I guarantee will not make them happy. If you must power up your craft, make sure that nobody is in the air, check with a race marshal that it is okay to do so and shout out when and what channel you are powering up on so that other pilots know that you are powered up. When you do power up in the pits, for your safety and others, make sure to remove your propellers, 5″ propellers hurt!
Being Ready for Your Race
FPV drone racing events have many pilots and are usually bottle necked by the 4-8 pilot per race limit due to available video channel bandwidth. When your race is next, stand near the race tent with your transmitter, quad (with a fully charged, unplugged battery) and goggles. This will reduce the time delay between races, speeding up the event.
After Your Race
When the race marshal indicates that the track is clear, go over to your craft and unplug the battery as quickly as possible because the next group of pilots will be powering up for their race. Try to retrieve your quad as quickly as possible to reduce the race delay and make sure to (or at least attempt to) fix any gates/obstacles which your craft may have knocked over.
Talking to Other Pilots
There will quite often be a moderate wait between races. Why not take this opportunity to talk with other pilots, get to know your club members, learn more about their setups and even discuss the latest FPV hype/drama. The community surrounding FPV is quite welcoming so don’t feel afraid to go up and introduce yourself to the other pilots.
Setting & Packing up
For smaller clubs an extra hand setting up and taking down the track is always appreciated. Volunteer to help improves the efficiency of the event, allows you to learn the track, and teaches you how to fix a gate/obstacle if your craft happens to knock one down during a race.
After the Event
Storage Charge Your Batteries
After a FPV drone racing event, your batteries will all be at various levels of charge. To improve their longevity, group all packs within 0.1 volts of each other and perform a parallel storage charge on them. If you don’t have a parallel charging board and battery checker, I would highly recommend purchasing one. Leaving fully charged or overly discharged battery packs for a long period of time (usually more than 10 days) can severely damage the battery cells which is not idea.
Repair/Note What is Broken
In most cases, something will have broken on your quad during the FPV drone racing event (hopefully something minor). It is a good idea to repair whatever has been damaged shortly after the ever otherwise you may end up forgetting about the damage and getting a pleasant surprise next time you go out flying. Some pilots prefer to repair their quads at the FPV drone racing events however I tend to do all major repairs back at my workshop where more tools are available to assist with the repairs.
Register for the Next Event/Sign Up to the Club
If you enjoyed your first FPV drone racing event, make sure to sign up for the next one for even more action! You should also sign up to the club which held the event if you think that racing is something that you would like to peruse. FPV racing is the cheapest, safest and most exhilarating sport I can think of. Name another sport where you can crash into the ground at over 60mph (~100km/h) and walk away without any physical damage (maybe emotional damage if your $500 racer has just exploded into oblivion but you get the point).