How to Build a Racing Drone Step by Step

By Hal Simmons •  Updated: 03/30/20 •  7 min read

There is nothing quite as rewarding as building something of your own. The world of racing drones is no different. I guess that is why I am curious as to how to build a racing drone. There are plenty of different ready-to-fly or RTF racing drones on the market. I recommend beginners start here, but professionals and extreme hobbyists will venture to build their own drones. There are a lot of moving parts, and the best racing drones are ones that are built to allow for future upgrades and further modifications. With this step-by-step guide, you should be building your own racing drone in no time.

Building a racing drone can cost you anywhere from around $200.00 all the way to $1,000.00 depending on the quality and modifications you choose to go with. Believe it or not, there is a third option other than building your own drone and buying an RTF drone. This option will be one of your cheaper options, and it’s great for someone that has never really messed around with a drone before but wants to learn how they work from the inside out.

If this sounds like you, and you don’t want to spend upwards of a grand on a new drone, then a DIY racing drone kit is your best option. This is the perfect middle ground between building from scratch and purchasing an RTF drone. You will be given the basic framework and all the parts you need for a racing drone along with instructions on how to put it all together. If you decide to go this route, it will teach you a lot about how your drone works. Then, you can upgrade the parts as you see fit.

On the other hand, if you are more experienced with drones or you just like to learn how things work, then building one from scratch will be the most fulfilling. You can choose exactly what brand of each part you want and customize the aircraft completely.

There are a lot of moving pieces when it comes to building your own racing drone, including the tools and skills you need to accomplish the task, along with the proper parts to make it all work. Continue reading to learn more about all this and for a step-by-step guide on how to build your own racing drone from the ground up.

Step One: Buy the Necessary Pieces To the Puzzle

Before you get started building, you have to know not only the necessary parts you need to build a racing drone but what companies sell said parts. You may not be looking to pay top dollar for the best parts, but you at least need to know the basics of what materials make a racing drone stand out from the rest. Not only that, but you must decide what size racing drone you want to build.

Typically, racing drones range in size from 3-6” in class build. Once you get into 7” and beyond is when you are looking more for a photography drone rather than a racing drone. The size is really up to you. Keep in mind, though, the smaller the drone, the smaller and more compact all the parts will be when putting it all together. A 3” drone could be a lot harder to build if you’ve never done it before.

Once you have decided on the size, next you will need to purchase all the other parts:

• Frame
• A carbon fiber frame is recommended.
• Some common things to consider:
• Would you rather a lightweight racer or freestyler? Where do you want the battery located? Do you want a one-piece design or swappable arms?
• Brushless MotorsMotor size
• Motor velocity constant (KV)
• Electronic Speed Controllers (ESC’s)
• You can get four separate mountable ESC’s or an all-in-one board
• Flight Controller
• Betaflight, KISS, and Raceflight are all viable options
• Power Distribution Board (PDB)
• FPV Camera
• Video Transmitter (VTX)
• Video Antennas
• Propellers
• Transmitter and Receiver
• Goggles
• Quadcopter Batteries
• Charger

If you ever feel stumped, check out Rotor Builds for building inspiration or take a look in to more training here. This site includes photos, parts lists, and build guides of user-created drones.

Special Tools and Skills Required For The Job

Just like anything you build on your own, there is a list of tools you need to accomplish this build. You will also need a basic understanding of how to solder. There are plenty of videos that can teach you enough about soldering to build your racing drone.

Here is a list of tools and extras necessary for the job:

• Wire cutters
• Low cost Soldering iron or Digital soldering iron
• Set of hex keys or drivers
• M5 (8mm) nut spinner or ratchet
• Cable ties
• Standoffs
• Heat shrink
• Electrical tape
• Double-sided tape
• Thread locker

You’re Ready To Build!

1. Assembling the frame is the first order of business. The frames usually come flat packed as a series of carbon fiber parts, so a little elbow grease is required right off the bat. When you are assembling the frame, keep in mind where you want all the components to be located and how you want to run your wires. After all, this is the foundation of the entire drone.
2. The PDB is the heart of the drone. Everything connects to it, so it’s recommended to mount this first. Keep in mind where you want your battery is going to be while you mount the PDB. You will also need your standoffs.
3. Next, you want to mount the motors. Motor order is important if you have clockwise and counterclockwise motors.
4. After the motors are mounted, you can fully mount the PDB and start hooking things to it, which means the ESC’s are next. If you have four separate ESC’s, the best place is to mount them on all four arms. It is important your ESC’s never touch your PDB, though. The best way to mount it is to protect it in heat shrink. Then mount it with double-sided tape and wrap it in electrical tape.
5. Now it’s time to solder the ESC’s to the motors. Each motor has three wires that need to be soldered to the ESC pads.
6. Then connect the ESC’s to the PDB.
7. Now that the power system is ready, it’s time to set up the FPV camera and VTX.
8. It’s important to remember that the steeper angle you mount your camera at, the more top-heavy the drone will be when flying.
9. The VTX will just go in the available space you have left and connect it right off the PDB.
10. Next, you will want to mount and power the receiver.
11. The receiver will have one or two antennae, and the placement of these is critical to acquiring a good signal. The best angle is at 90 degrees to each other in a V shape.
12. The flight controller is the final piece to mount. It is the drone’s brain and the point where most of the wires get connected.
13. Once everything is mounted and connected, it’s time for software configuration. After this is completed, you are ready for a test run!

Building your own drone takes a lot of time and brainpower, but once you have finished, it is definitely something to be proud of. It teaches you more about racing drones and takes your hobby to the next level.

Hal Simmons

When I first started flying drones I was always afraid of damaging my drone. I would always be thinking what if. I questioned myself often and as a result it made me question various aspects of flying drones. In the process I learned a lot. This is why I feel I have a lot of information that will be helpful to beginners and intermediate drone enthusiasts. Of course I still have a lot to learn so join me on this journey and I am sure you will enjoy the adventure ahead of us.