The sport of
drone quad racing is quickly growing from DIY hobby to full-fledged competitive sport. Unlike off-the-shelf drones like DJI’s Phantom series, the racing drones are quadcopters (hence, “quad” racing), generally hand-built and fully customizable. In a multi-part video series, Mashable Creative Producer Sam Sheffer explores what it takes to build, race and compete in this new sport.
The core of our quad is the fully integrated TBS PowerCube. This one block of circuitry combines the Flight Controller, Electronic Speed Controllers (ESC) and the Power Distribution Board (PDB). Normally these would come as separate components, each manually wired and soldered together.
Furthermore, the wire connections terminate into easy-to-connect bullet connectors allowing noobs like ourselves to ditch the soldering iron. But the convenience doesn’t mean it was the best choice — as our racing consultants noted, every bit of extra wire or connector adds weight to the finished quad.
Next step is to mount all four motors: Four screws per motor and Loctite on each will prevent unwanted vibrations from loosening their grip.
Next we add our vision. In this sport it’s all about flying from the point of view of your flying machine. This is called First Person View (FPV) and is achieved with a tiny video camera, transmitter and receiver. Here we have a TBS camera connected to the TBS Unify Pro video transmitter (VTX).
The camera mount typically allows the pilot to adjust the camera axis for optimal orientation.
The faster the forward thrust, the more the racer tilts. To keep the pilot’s line of sight, the camera is usually tilted upward to compensate.
After a lot of cable management and some finishing touches the frame is closed up. The last thing you want is for your quad to get its wires tangled up and lose control in mid-air. The battery is then mounted to the top and antennae are added.
But wait! There’s more! The quad needs to be calibrated. With a little help, we were able to calibrate the flight controller to speak to the receiver, configure the throttle threshold, communication protocols, the ESC and a lot more.
And finally, the props are bolted on.
The folks at Team Black Sheep sent us their TBS Tango remote. Unlike most remotes we’ve seen the Tango has an FPV screen built right in. While convenient it seems that most pilots we talked to prefer the traditional FPV goggles when flying. We think it’s pretty cool so we’ll try it out.
Now that the quad is built and configured we have to fly it. Check out Sam’s first attempt in the video above and follow along in the next few episodes to see how he does in the Liberty Cup Drone Race (hint: he doesn’t win).
Check out our video series “How to Race Drones”:
Stay tuned for more!
By Keith Hopkin