Drones or quadcopters are jam-packed with features that make it easy to learn how to fly these RC aircraft, even for beginners. Altitude hold is one drone feature that many people consider indispensable on their drone. When it comes to racing drones, where does altitude hold fit in, and is it a feature on racing drones?
Racing drones do not have altitude hold. The feature has no benefit to the way the drone is flown since the course of the race will have varying altitudes and numerous obstacles to navigate. The additional components for altitude hold would add weight to the drone and reduce its speed.
Many people who have started out in the drone flying hobby develop an interest in drone racing. The technology used in drones has been advancing at a rapid rate, making modern drones faster, more agile, and more controllable. In the majority of other drone flying disciplines, altitude hold is viewed as an important feature that is actively sought out in a drone model. Drone racing has a slightly different spin on this feature, and it is frequently not available on drones designed for racing.
Is Altitude Hold Available On Racing Drones?
Drone racing is all about the speed and agility of the drone and the skill of the operator. These requirements make racing drones somewhat of a different animal compared to recreational drones or drones intended for videography and photography.
Drone racing involves piloting a drone through a predefined course, often a 3-dimensional course that includes navigating obstacles. All this is done at high speed. Racing drones can achieve some significant speed, some up to speeds of up to 120-mph, which requires significant piloting skills to keep the drone under control, but this would be an advanced drone.
Most racing drones are fast, but the speeds are more typically between 25 and 30-mph, which is an ideal speed to learn to race before you get to the big leagues.
The goal of drone racing is pretty much the same as any other race; navigate the course with skill and speed and be the first across the finish line. Some drone races are timed events, which means that the fastest time around the course results in a win rather than crossing a finish line.
The speciality of racing drones means that they have different features that are more conducive to the racing environment. Racing drones are generally smaller than other drones, much more agile and responsive than other drones, and made from lighter materials to get that extra speed and manoeuvrability!
Racing drones often crash, which means they need to be tough and durable, and the pilot needs to be able to replace parts and get back in the race.
The nature of flying when racing a drone means that some features common and indeed necessary in other drones are not suitable for racing. One such feature is altitude hold, which is an indispensable feature for a beginner drone or on a photography drone.
Altitude hold is a feature that is typically lacking on a racing drone, and there are several reasons for leaving this feature out of this style of the drone.
Let’s take a look at why this feature is excluded and how racing drones are flown.
Why Do Racing Drones Not Have Altitude Hold?
Altitude hold is a feature that uses sensors to keep the drone at a specific altitude. This feature helps beginners learning to fly as it is one less control they need to worry about as they learn how to pilot the drone.
In photography and videography drone flying, the altitude hold feature helps to capture blur-free images and maintain altitude for smooth video footage. The altitude hold keeps the drone at the prescribed height throughout the flight.
Drone racing seldom includes straight and level flight at one altitude. The nature of the course navigated as part of the race includes flying through low altitude obstacles and swooping over higher altitude obstacles.
The racecourse often includes flying through pipes or tunnels that could mess with the altitude hold technology and cause the drone to crash in these obstacles.
The technology used to provide the altitude hold feature adds extra weight to the drone, which is not ideal for a drone that requires as much speed as possible!
The absence of altitude hold makes racing drones harder to fly, which is why you need to be confident in your piloting skills when you take the controls of a racing drone. Drones designed for racing may include some features such as angle mode and horizon mode, and other feature sets which help the pilot to manage the altitude and level flight of the drone, but this is not altitude hold.
Some of the racecourse layouts for drone racing may take the drone out of the visual range of the pilot, so how do drone racing pilots control their drones?
The Power Of FPV For Drone Racing
Racing drones requires being able to see what is in front of the drone so that you can take the appropriate action to navigate the course. The only way to do this is for the pilot to be able to see what is ahead of the drone, and this is achieved with a forward-facing camera on the drone.
This is known as FPV, or first-person view, which gives the pilot a view of what is ahead of the drone as if they were sitting in the cockpit.
Most drone racers will use a pair of FPV goggles which will display the image seen by the drone camera and gives a more realistic feeling to the experience and the control of the drone. Beginners sometimes use their mobile phones to receive the images from the camera or a screen on the controller to see what is ahead of the drone.
The camera on a racing drone is, therefore, a critical feature for racing. The camera must be fast, at least able to shoot 60fps, and it must have a wide field of view or FOV, which enables a wider perspective of the surroundings. This is of particular importance for manoeuvring around corners.
The camera also needs to have a good upward tilt angle since the nose of the drone tilts down during acceleration, and you still need to see what is directly ahead of the drone.
Best Racing Drone For Beginners
Flying a racing drone means a crash or two will be inevitable, especially as a beginner. Learning to fly a racing drone requires practice and a robust drone that will handle the knocks it receives while you learn the controls and get accustomed to the speed and agility of the drone.
The racing drone that I recommend for beginners is one that is robust, easy to repair. It should be small enough for indoor and outdoor flight so your can practice your flying skills in both environments.
It is good to include safety guards to protect the propeller blades, as these are the most damaged components when you are learning to race drones.
The EMAX Tinyhawk 2 fits the bill perfectly for any drone pilot who wants to give drone racing a try. This compact little drone comes with everything you need to get started.
- 5.8g FPV Goggles
- 1 x 1s 450mah battery
- 1 x 2s 300mah battery
- 1 x extra set of propellers
- A USB charger cable
- 1 x USB Battery charger
- A user manual to give you the basics.
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The Emax brand has a number of racing drone models that you can upgrade to when your skills outgrow this drone.
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Racing drones do not usually include altitude hold as a feature. Racing a drone seldom has a need for altitude hold because the drone is seldom piloted in straight and level flight for any length of time.
The additional weight that the components for altitude hold would add to the drone would also reduce the speed, which is not going to help you to win any races.
Racing drones is fun, but you do not need to use a racing drone to race. You could use one for recreational freestyle flying, using the agility and speed of the drone to perform amazing aerobatics!