Updated 6/20/2018 – Fully re-written with new parts for 2018!
Through the history of this site, we’ve done several “budget builds” and made many more suggestions for how to get into the hobby while spending as little money as possible. One thing we discuss much less is how to build a high end racing quadcopter that will be competitive with the gear that all the pros use. To honor USA tax return day – we’ve put together a list of what we consider the “dream team” of high end racing miniquad components.
First, a few notes: All the parts on this list have been tested by us or come from brands we trust. To pull together a list of all-star parts like this means we needed to recommend buying from several different sources. Where possible, we will point you to partners who have worked with us in the past. Remember: when it comes to high end miniquad parts – the market is hot! Parts go out of stock often. Luckily, most parts are in stock somewhere. If our links don’t work, just search for the part on Google.
Finally — if you like this article, keep it bookmarked! It’s our intent to continuously revise it as new products hit the market. Much like the articles in our drone racing guide, we want this page to be evergreen – constantly relevant to the latest and greatest in this amazing hobby.
High Performance Quadcopter Parts List
The parts list in this section includes everything you’ll need to build an equivalent quadcopter to an ARF-style quad (e.g. one that does not include Transmitter / Batteries / Goggles). In the section after the parts list table, we explain each of our choices.
|Armattan Rooster||Armattan Quads||$95.00|
|Bardwell F4 FC+PDB||Race Day Quads||$34.99|
|Littlebee Summer 30A||Banggood||$59.70|
|T-motor F40 PRO II 2306 2400kV||Banggood||$26.90 x 4|
|ImmersionRC Tramp HV||Banggood||$34.99|
|Runcam Eagle 2||Banggood||$44.99|
|Runcam Swift 2||Banggood||$39.99|
The Armattan Chameleon was our favorite frame design of 2016. Apparently we were not alone — this quadcopter frame was sold out for several months after its release, and has seen tens (hundreds) of similar designs crop up since. Armattan recently released the successor to the Chameleon: the Rooster. This frame is very similar to the Chameleon, but has several improvements that we feel keep in on the top of the market. If the Chameleon was a durable, well-engineered design, the Rooster is damned near approaching perfection.
And don’t forget about Armattan’s lifetime warranty covering all frame damage. The popularity of Armattan frames means you can expect to receive free parts support for a long, long time.
You can buy the Armattan Rooster here.
I had a tough time picking a flight controller for this list. Here’s why:
On the one hand, the Bardwell F4 flight controller from Race Day Quads has the best PCB layout and featureset of any F4 on the market. That is combined with what is undoubtedly the best manual in the industry. With the reliable MPU6000 gyro placed square in the center of the board, it represents the “safe bet” on our list. This is the flight controller to pick if this is your first quadcopter build or if you don’t like tuning.
On the other hand is the BrainFPV Radix flight controller. This is the Ferrari of flight controllers: pricey, full of performance potential and full of interesting features. Like an exotic sports car, it represents some risk in using a Bosch gyro: this gyro allows 32kHz gyro data rates but is relatively rare in the hobby. This means that the control software that uses it will not as well-tuned as MPU-6000 flight controllers. I really liked the Brain RE1 flight controller (the Radix’ predecessor) and look forward to trying out the Radix.
Motors & ESCs
A year has gone by since our first “high end racing miniquad” article, but our motor and ESC choices really hasn’t changed.
In our opinion, T-motor still makes the highest quality motors on the market and the new F40 Pro II is the best suited of these motors to power your quadcopter. Design changes since last year have chopped off the motor bottom, which slightly reduces weight. The motor is also slightly more efficient and produces more thrust than last year’s model as a result.
We also still recommend the FVT Littlebee “Summer” 30A ESC. ESC development has stalled a bit since BLHeli 32 was released. I really wanted to include a BLHeli 32 ESC in this list, but all three BLHeli 32 ESC variants we have tested have had failures — for reference I’ve never had a BLHeli_S ESC fail unless I was doing something seriously wrong. For this reason, I cannot recommend BLHeli 32 ESCs at this time. Note that there are several variants of the FVT Littlebee “Summer” ESCs. The variant of the Littlebee we chose specifically supports 6S batteries, but consider picking up the 1800kV F40 motors if you are thinking of going this route.
You can buy the T-motor F40 Pro II here.
We still adore the Tramp HV from ImmersionRC. They might have engineered the perfect VTX: it is light, small, durable, cheap and has (in our opinion) the best race support on the market. MultiGP’s spec class specifically calls for the Tramp HV because of the TNR Race Wand enables race coordinators to easily call out VTX channels for racers. We suspect that the hobby may be coalescing around this VTX for that reason.
You can buy the Tramp HV VTX here.
We can finally recommend a CMOS camera for a high-end quadcopter! The Runcam Eagle 2 finally beats the video latency performance of our previous favorite CCD camera the Runcam Swift. It does this while providing some neat digital sensor features like adjustable aspect ratio, WDR, and better image quality. The Eagle 2 does still have some problems with transitions to and from bright lights, and some folks still prefer the look and feel of the old Sony SuperHAD CCD sensor. For this reason, we included the Runcam Swift 2 on our list as a secondary option.
You can buy the Runcam Eagle 2 here.
Picking the first option from every section above nets you a subtotal of $467.25. Quite a bit pricier than our sub-$200 budget quadcopter build, but for that extra cash you get a quadcopter with:
- Name-brand, high quality equipment, including the Armattan warranty.
- Better repairability and easier maintenance.
- Better manuals and documentation for all components.
- More power! Including the potential for 6S.
Making it Ready To Fly (RTF)
To get your quadcopter ready-to-fly, you’ll need a few more items. Here are our recommendations:
Radio Control TX/RX
Get an FrSky Taranis X9D. It’s not cheap at $200 but it is the best on the market. Every other guy at your local flying club will be using one and knows how to use one. It also has great resale value if you decide the hobby is not for you.
While the Taranis is likely the best transmitter on the market, we really like the TBS Crossfire system, which attaches on to the back of the Taranis. We explain how to configure Crossfire with the Taranis in this article. Crossfire improves the Taranis by drastically increasing radio range and reducing control latency. The wireless set-up features are also really cool!
The Special Edition of the Taranis upgrades the base radio with hall-effect gimbals, a removable antenna, upgraded switches and a really cool hydro-dip paint job. If you’re looking for a high-end radio, this is an obvious pick.
This is a tough recommendation since everyone has a slightly different face / eyes and will prefer different goggles. If money is no object, we assume you are looking at buying goggles and not a headset. If this is the case, you really only have two options: the Aomway Commanders or the Fat Shark Dominators. Both goggles are very good, what you choose is up to your budget and your brand preference. I slightly prefer the Dominator HD3’s. Remember that you must buy a RF module when purchasing Fat Shark goggles. We recommend the new ImmersionRC RapidFire receiver.
We’ve been preaching the Aomway gospel for years now. Pagoda antennas have beat the Aomways out on the low-end, but these are still the best antennas on the market when you want durability and performance. Make sure you consult the manual or product page of both your FPV goggles and the VTX you purchase to buy the correct antenna polarity (SMA vs RP-SMA). See our antenna guide for more details.
Aomway CP Antenna – $13 x 2 ($26)
We’ve collectively flown hundreds of hours on Banggood’s Infinity branded LiPo batteries. They are every bit as robust and power-rich as the big name brands but come in at a fraction of the price. Instead of buying more expensive batteries – we recommend you buy more of them! Pick up a multi-charger and get 4, or even 8 batteries so you can go to the field for a full day of flying. 1500mAh or 1300mAh will work, we recommend the larger packs for beginners.
Infinity 1500mAh 4S LiPo – $19 x 4 ($76)
Picking all the components from above and including the cost of the quadcopter parts, you could be flying a top of the line quadcopter for $1373!