Red Bull DR.ONE racing drone in repose
Drone Racing

4 ways racing drones aren't like ordinary drones

© Armin Walcher/Red Bull Content Pool
Watched the action at Red Bull DR.ONE in awe at the way the pilots pull off manoeuvres? Allow us and expert racer Ross 'rekreK' Kerker to explain what separates extraordinary drones from the ordinary.
By Alessandro NocciolaPublished on
Ross Kerker, aka 'rekreK', is an Australian drone racing competitor, and in the clip below he gives you an exclusive tech talk direct from the Red Bull DR.ONE event on how a racing drone is different from your average off-the-shelf example.
Drone Racing · 2 min
rekreK's Red Bull DR.ONE racing drone tech talk
Clearly it's a custom machine and not an out-of-the-box toy, but exactly what makes it flyable at speeds of up to 150kph and capable of such incredible manoevrability? In homage to the four familiar rotors of a custom quadcopter, below are four things to consider when you watch a pro racing drone in action.

1. All four motors are separately controlled

As rekreK explains, having every motor individually set up on your controller means maximum agility, with much easier control of pitch, roll, yaw and incline. Each motor is controlled on a separate channel by the controller sticks.

2. Thrust-to-weight ratio is an important factor

Having a drone that performs well in flight is only part of the story. As well as finding sufficient thrust to perform successful manoeuvres at speed, getting the drone off the ground as quickly as possible – and these guys are generally doing 0–150kph in under one second – means you need to do the maths when you choose your motor. One rule of thumb is that an optimal thrust-to-weight ratio for a racing drone is about 2:1, so a drone weighing 500g needs 1kg of thrust across its four motors. However, every racer and drone are different.

3. The drone is very lightweight

It might seem obvious, but millions are spent every year in ground-based racing sports like F1 on shaving a few grams here and there off components for that extra edge in performance and cornering. Drones are no different, so expect your average racer to have found the lightest frame, motor, battery etc that they can conceive, design or afford.

4. The racing pilot sees the world very differently from a normal pilot

Vladimir Ivanov of Russia and winner Bastian Hackl of Austria seen during the finals of the Red Bull DR.ONE in Spielberg, Austria on September 30, 2017.
Bastian Hackl and Vladimir Ivanov in the final
Here's where racing drones are in a different league. Unlike the average user who watches their drone from the ground and enjoys what the drone captured once the camera is back on the ground, a drone pilot's view is practically a VR experience. An antenna on the camera sends live pictures back to the pilot's headset that give them the experience of being on the drone and allow them to make split-second decisions during races.