FPV drone racing is a high stress, action packed, intense, demanding sport. Reaching speeds of up to 166 miles per hour and performing instant turns and flips seemingly defying gravity, FPV racing is one of the most exciting and awe-inspiring sports to watch.
FPV racing consist of a light-weight, highly nimble, and powerful drone specifically built for FPV racing. The pilot also has to wear goggles that allow them to see, in real-time, what the drone sees, hence the term First Person View (FPV).
The user controls the drone as if he is in the cockpit flying down the course and must rely on the instant video transmission from their FPV camera to their FPV goggles. This requires an insane amount of skill and muscle memory in order for you to not crash your drone or to be successful and pull off crazy tricks.
The drone itself is the most crucial part of your FPV setup. Your customized drone is what allows you to pull off corkscrews, flip sequences, piloting your drone through tiny holes in trees or through buildings, and so much more. The weight of your drone plays a crucial factor in how maneuverable, fast, and small your drone can be. The weight comes from all the different parts that make up your drone. Read on for more information comparing the different parts of a drone and how much they weigh.
What Parts Affect Drone Weight and Why it Matters?
The factors that affect the overall weight of your FPV drone are the weight of your battery, motor, frame, camera and the accessories that you put on your drone.
The golden rule for FPV racing in regards to building your drone is to reduce weight as much as possible. Why would you want to do that? Well, a lighter drone has the advantages of being much more agile, easier to maneuver in the air, faster acceleration, is able to fly in tight spaces, and is easier to fly when just using FPV goggles.
When the overall weight of the drone is decreased, you are able to stay in the air longer because your battery is not drained as fast powering the motors to keep you in flight. If you were to have a heavier drone, (we are taking into account the battery is the same size) the motors would have to produce more lift to keep you in the air which requires more battery usage.
You are also able to accelerate faster since the drone does not have a lot of mass to weigh it down. The lighter drone requires less energy to get to max speed allowing you to reach it faster and not use as much battery charge as well.
Now, you might realize that larger drones typically have a longer flight time. That is simply because they have much larger batteries, we are talking about 100 times larger in some cases, compared to smaller drones.
Smaller, lighter drones are more maneuverable, in general, compared to larger drones. This concept is the same when you look at most things that move: cars, planes, etc. Smaller planes and cars, such as fighter jets and sports cars, all boast vast maneuverability improvements compared to their larger counterparts such as commercial planes and semi-trucks. You are able to make tighter turns, fit into smaller spaces, and able to have much more ease of maneuverability all around.
Weight is becoming more important as due to recent FAA regulations drones under 249 grams do not have to be registered. DJI worked hard on the release of the Mavic Mini which weighed in at exactly 249 grams. This weight makes it appealing as there are fewer regulations tied to it. Building a drone under 249 grams is difficult and you need to analyze every gram of every part as you build.
A Closer Look at Batteries
Batteries are arguably one of the most important parts of the drone. They are probably the heaviest part of the drone as well. You have full control over how powerful, fast, and how much your drone weighs when choosing your battery. You have to take into account the mass of the battery when considering how long you want to stay in the air, how fast you want to fly, and, overall, how light you want your drone to be.
This concept applies to FPV drones because you want to choose a battery that has enough charge that allows you to stay in the air for the desired amount of time while being the most efficient. A heavier battery or payload means that you have more momentum in one direction and it requires more energy to change direction compared to a lighter payload or battery.
FPV drones use lithium batteries for the most part. Either LiPo (lithium polymer) or LiHV (lithium polymer high voltage). The difference comes in the max voltage. The LiHV batteries have more power at first which improves performance but suddenly drops in power when discharged. Whereas the LiPO batteries offer linear discharge making it a better predictor in battery life left.
These batteries are composed of cells which are connected through negative to positive end sequences. Each cell adds a higher differential between positive and negative terminals which means a larger voltage. The larger voltage allows more power to go to the motors without increasing amp usage. 1s is one cell. 2s, two cells and so on and so forth. The voltages also increase. Check out the table below and if you are really getting into the RC world you might want to memorize it.
|1 Cell (1s)||3.7 Volts|
|2 Cell (2s)||7.4 Volts|
|3 Cell (3s)||11.1 Volts|
|4 Cell (4s)||14.8 Volts|
|5 Cell (5s)||18.5 Volts|
|6 Cell (6s)||22.2 Volts|
The battery capacity is always measured through milliamp hours (mAh) which is a unit of measure describing the current the battery can supply for an allotted amount of time. An example is that you have a 1500 milliamps (1.5A) battery is able to supply that current for an hour, 3000mA or 3A for 30 minutes, 6000mA (6A) for 15 minutes and so on.
To make it simple just think of the amps like the current or volume of water in the river. The more milliamp hours (mAh), the more volume in the water. Now you gotta be careful that the ESC you have can handle all that current (mAh). The voltage is like the speed of the water and how much force it has.
The most common battery package for FPV drones is a 4S LiPO’s or has 4 cells and provides the perfect balance between power and weight. 6s batteries are used for a little more extra boost and speed. Smaller 1s and 2s batteries are commonly found in micro-sized drones. A Hardcase adds protection but it also adds weight. Too much weight for most FPV drones. Check out some common batteries below and how much they typically weigh. I highlighted red ones that are too heavy for most FPV drone applications.
|Name of the Battery||Weight (g)||(mAh)||$Price$||Link|
|Tattu 1s (6 Pack) 3.7V||20g||800||$22.99||Link|
|Lumenier 2s 7.4V||54g||1000||$12.99||Link|
|Zeee 2s Hardcase (2 Pack) 7.4V||250g||5200||$35.69||Link|
|Ovonic 3s 11.1V||190g||2200||$17.99||Link|
|Zeee 3s Hardcase 11.1V 80C||410g||6000||$49.99||Link|
|RDQ Series 4S 100C 14.8V||187g||1500||$22.99||Link|
|Zeee 4s Hardcase 80C 14.8V||612g||6500||$67.99||Link|
|Tattu R-Line 6s 95C 22.2V||240g||1300||$38.99||Link|
A Closer Look at Motors
The motors are the power for your drone and can make or break your experience flying. The motors are what allow you to pull off the insane flips and tricks and hit those top speeds. A good motor will accomplish these things while conserving as much battery as possible, and give you the ease of control that all pilots want.
Motors work through electromagnetism where an electromagnet is electrically charged with the help of the battery. The electromagnet produces a magnetic field that interacts with the magnetic filed of the magnets located inside the motor. This interaction produces motion, specifically rotational motion of the motor shaft.
There are ton of different types of motors when looking at FPV drones: They all come down to brushed or brushless. The difference lies in brushes located inside the brushed motor that are attached to the DC power contact at the base of the motor which reverse the current through the rotor which reverses the polarity.
Brushless allows for an uninterrupted revolution of the rotor and is basically the industry standard now. All of this process is encased in the motor itself, which provides protection, but lacks the efficiency and lifespan as seen with a brushless motor.
A stator is the stationary part of the motor which is a series of electromagnets that, when a current passes through them, create a series of magnetic fields that propel the rotor of the motor with rotational motion using opposing poles.
Most motors come with a size number written like XXYY. Where XX is the stator width/diameter and YY is the stator height. Basically, a taller stator gives an increase in power at higher RPM and a wider stator gives an increase in torque at a lower RPM. For example, a 2306, a common motor size for drones, is 23mm wide and 6mm tall.
The Kv of a motor is, theoretically, the constant velocity which the motor rotates for every volt applied with no load. A low Kv motor has more small windings inside the motor. It will carry more volts with fewer amps and have higher torque and lower speed, which makes it good for larger props. A higher Kv motor has fewer windings that are thicker carrying more amps and less voltage. This makes it good for smaller props as it will spin faster with less torque.
|Name of the Motor||Weight of the Motor (g)||Size (XXYY)||kV of Motor||Price of Motor||Link|
|Lumenier Bardwell Motor Brushless||35.0||2407||2,500||$25.99||Link|
|iFlight (4 pack) Xing||33.8||2306||2,450||$56.99||Link|
|iFlight (4 pack) Xing NANO||8.0||1206||6,500||$59.99||Link|
A Closer Look at Frames
The frame of your FPV drone is the armor and support structure for your drone. It protects and provides a place for all of your necessities that make your quadcopter function. You want your frame to be as rugged and light as possible while still offering great protection.
Frames can be made of a multitude of different polymers and materials such as carbon fiber, high-density polyethylene, aluminum, and, as technology progresses, more materials will become commonplace. The most common material, however, is carbon fiber.
Thickness is an important factor to remember when looking at frames. Frame thicknesses generally range from as thin as 2.5 mm to as thick as 7 mm. The micro class of drones commonly has frames as thin as 2.5 mm. Often times the arms of the frame are a different thickness than the main body. The thicker the frame the heavier the frame. But the thicker the frame the more durable it is.
The way frames are classified is through a 2” to 7” system which refers to the largest propeller the frame allows for. The industry standard is the 5” which is shown to be the perfect size to allow for power, torque, and efficiency than other sizes. This is the most common class associated with the term “mini” quad. With the increase in class comes an increase in size and weight.
Frames are measured in millimeters from motor to motor on opposite sides of the drone. For most quadcopters, this is diagonal across the frame. Check out the table below with the classification and sizes.
|Classification/Prop Size||Frame Size||Class|
|2″||80mm – 120mm||Nano/Micro|
|3″||120mm – 150mm||Micro|
|4″||150mm – 180mm||Micro/Mini|
|5″||180mm – 220mm||Mini|
|6″||220mm – 250mm||Mini|
Now that we understand some of the dimensions and classes for frames. Let’s take a look at some real frames and how their weights change with size and class.
|Name of the Frame||Prop/Class||Weight (g)||Cost||Link|
|Driblet by Drib||2″||24g||$26.99||Link|
|iFlight Bumblebee Cinewhoop||3″||134g||$78.65||Link|
|Ummagawd Remix V2||5”||126g||$99.99||Link|
|HD1 Frame USA Edition||5”||156g||$59.99||Link|
|Armattan Chameleon Ti||6”||126g||$101.99||Link|
|iFlight Titan DC7 HD||7”||209g||$75.99||Link|
A Closer Look at Cameras
The camera of the FPV drone allows you the first person view that makes FPV racing so exciting and immersive. The camera is what makes your drone, your drone. You get to choose your FOV, aspect ratio, frame rate, and definition when you choose your camera.
Of course, weight also plays a factor here when it comes to choosing the camera that fits what you desire. You have to take into account the weight of the camera you like when choosing how complex and what accessories you want your camera to have. There isn’t a lot of difference in the weights of different cameras but on certain builds, every gram counts!
When choosing what camera you want, you can choose the camera you like best by looking at size, aspect ratio, sensor type, and lens of field of view.
The size of your camera matters because of the weight that comes with it. The bigger the camera, the more it weighs. There is an industry-standard when buying FPV drone cameras so that they can mount on the frames. Some cameras fall into the micro category and others into the mini.
The aspect ratio is how you see the world of the drone from the camera. Common aspect ratios are 16:9 and 4:3. The 16:9 aspect ratio allows you to see a more peripheral view than a 4:3 aspect ratio. But it is all up to what you prefer.
The FOV of the camera matters because it dictates how much you can see through your camera lens and at what resolution you will be able to see. When you increase the FOV, you decrease the resolution.
Sensors relate to the latency that happens when you are flying your drone. Latency is the time delay that it takes for the camera to capture the light through the lens, process it, and turn it into transmittable electric signals. Racers will always want a very low latency as they need to instantly see what the drone is seeing.
|Name of Camera||Aspect Ratio||Weight (g)||Price||Link|
|Runcam Phoenix 2 1000TVL||4:3/16:9 Switchable||9||$34.99||Link|
|Foxeer Toothless 1200TVL 1/2”||4:3/16:9 Switchable||8.5||$39.99||Link|
|RunCam Nano 2||4:3/16:9 Switchable||3.2||$28.99||Link|
|Caddx Baby Ratel 1200TVL||4:3/16:9 Switchable||4.6||$32.99||Link|
Other Required Electronics
Other electronics that are also required to fly include the electronic speed controller (ESC), flight controller, video transmitter (VTX), and receiver. The lightest of all these is most definitely the receiver. All it is made up of is a small circuit board and antenna. It simply receives the signal coming from the transmitter and communicates the input over to the flight controller. Some long distance setups will weigh a little more. See some weights below
For the ESC you can get a 4-in-1 ESC or you can get 4 individual ESCs. You need an ESC for each motor and FPV drones usually have 4 motors/props (quadcopter). Sometimes the 4-in-1 ESCs come as a “stack” and come with the flight controller as well. Usually, the stack works out to save the most weight.
The VTX and antenna that work to communicate the video feed from the cam down to your goggles can vary in weight. There a few different types of connectors for plugging the antenna into the VTX. SMA (SubMiniature version A) is the heaviest but fairly common and durable. A UFL connector is the smallest and lightest, but it is much more delicate/fragile compared to an SMA. The MMCX (MicroMini Co-Axial) connector is a bit of a hybrid between the UFL and SMA connectors. There are also different types of antennas such as patch, pagoda, and omnidirectional. The most common to mount on the drone is the omni.
|Diatone Mamba F722 Stack||22||$112||Link|
|Diatone Mamba F405 Stack||20||$72||Link|
|HGLRC 4-in-1 ESC||23.6||$83||Link|
|CrazPony (4 Pack) BLHeli 35A ESCs||7g||$46.99||Link|
|BETAFPV F4 Flight Controller||5.6g||$63.99||Link|
|AKK X2 5.8Ghz SMA VTX||6.8g||$16.99||Link|
|FOXEER (2 pack) SMA Antenna||7.5g||$21.99||Link|
|AKK X2 5.8Ghz Ult MMCX VTX||6.8g||$22.99||Link|
|Foxeer Lollipop MMCX Antenna||3.5g||$19.99||Link|
|Runcam TX200U UFL VTX & Antenna||2.5g||$18.99||Link|
A Closer Look at Accessories
Accessories are the place where you can make your drone stand out from the crowd. You have full customization freedom when it comes to what accessories you want to put on your drone. You can easily add LED lights, GPS, Buzzers, and more.
You can easily make your FPV drone light up in crazy color combinations with the addition of LED lights. The great part about LED’s is that they barely add any weight to your drone and offer a great, cheap, lightweight, way to customize your drone. You can easily find LED’s with a simple google search that ranges from prices as low as $1.80 to complex systems at $50. The weight of an LED strip can be as light as 0.2g.
If you ever fear of losing your drone or your battery dying on you while you are flying, you do not have to fear when you add a GPS system to your drone. With a GPS system, you can track where your drone has been and can even plan out a flight to let your drone fly itself. GPS systems come in prices ranging from $10.50 to $196.00 to allow your drone to fly itself. These systems can be as light as 7 grams but tend to get heavier with the more accurate/larger systems. GPS systems are not common on racing drones.
Props are usually plastic and typically weigh less than 10 grams. Check out one of my 5″ props below.
Buzzers on drones make it easier to see if your drone is online and ready to fly. Buzzers can be activated and make a sound as soon as a DC voltage passes through it, those or active buzzers. Passive buzzers require an AC sound signal for it to generate sound. Buzzers can range in price from $3.33 to $15.89 and weight from 2g to 20g.
Racing vs Freestyle
When choosing what you want to do with your FPV drone, either freestyle or racing, you must know the basics of customizing your drone to best fit what you desire to do.
For FPV racing, you want your drone to be lightweight. A lightweight drone, as mentioned in the introduction, allows for faster acceleration, top speed and allows the drone to carve tight loops in the air. All in all, lighter equals faster and more efficient.
Most FPV racing drones weigh between 300g to 400g without the battery or camera. Most Ultra-light models come in at 180g to 220g.
If you want to use your drone for more of a freestyle lifestyle, you would want a bit more weight to be able to control your drone through maneuvers. The added weight gives the drone more inertia and provides a hang time effect that the drone experiences when doing flips and tricks. A heavier drone also is not as affected by wind as a lighter weight drone which allows the pilot to better be able to control the drone in an unexpected wind gust.
The essentials of this article are that if you want your FPV racing drone to be as light as possible use the information above to find the lightest electronics, gear, and accessories. This will increase speed and reduce battery usage to keep you flying as fast and as long as possible.
There is an endless amount of customization that you can have when building your FPV racing drone. From the frame, battery, motors, camera, and even making your drone light up the night sky, it is all in your hands. Hopefully, this information helps you choose your parts and keep weight in mind.
FPV drones offer an unmatched level of customization that is not seen in any other sport. It is what makes FPV truly unique and such fast growing field. This is your chance to join the trend and build your own FPV drone and experience, firsthand, what everyone else is loving.