So you’ve decided it’s time to gear up and get to your first race. You’ve built your quad, you’ve impressed your friends and scared your dog flying around the back yard, and things are looking good. A local chapter of MultiGP is hosting a race nearby in two weeks, are you ready?
Making the jump from backyard flying to competitive (even friendly-competitive) racing isn’t difficult, but preparing ahead of time is always worthwhile to ensure a good time for yourself and your fellow competitors. What follows are some suggestions that will help you enjoy your first time out, but some are to make sure your flying and your participation in the event won’t impact other pilots.
First, bring your RC transmitter. All modern transmitters are digital, so just make sure yours is paired up with your quad properly, and it has new batteries. You can go weeks without battery changes on your TX, so as long as you’re showing full, you should be good.
Your quad (either single or multiples) should be complete and solid. No dangling wires, loose components, or other signs of damage. Most events will have a safety inspection before entering the race – make sure your quad is safe to fly around other pilots and spectators. If your props are showing signs of stress (broken or discolored due to flexing), replace them before going in. Make sure things that can work loose (like batteries, cameras, etc) are securely attached.
On the subject of props, you probably know by now, quads break props easily. One collision with the ground, a gate, or another quad virtually guarantees a broken prop. Bring lots of spares, and the tools needed to replace them in the field (a nut driver or similar). It’s not uncommon to carry a dozen of each prop (CW and CCW) as spares, and they don’t take up a lot of space, so stock up!
Now, lets talk about batteries for a moment. Aside from the actual flying quads, Lithium Polymer batteries (or LiPo’s) are the most dangerous and sensitive component you’ll be responsible for. Slight damage or misuse can cause them to catch fire or explode, so take extra care with them. Most pilots will bring anywhere from 6 to a 15 LiPo racing packs with them to an event. That allows for 2-4 packs to be charging while having enough to keep flying for the hour they take to charge. Check in with your event organizer for how they want to manage charging. Some events will have a specific area with power set up for charging stations, others will allow charging in the pits. Whatever the arrangement, follow the events rules regarding charging bags, attended charging, etc. As part of your checklist you should go over all your batteries and makes sure none are damaged, ‘puffy’, or questionable in any way. If so, leave them at home or dispose of them correctly.
You might be wondering how to carry all this stuff. Most pilots carry at least two cases. One case holds your quad and maybe some supporting equipment. This is frequently a cut out foam interior in a plastic case, sometimes used for transporting models or other sensitive equipment. The other box should be your tools and support gear. Fishing tackle boxes are a great resource, and they can be had for relatively cheap. Get something with a lot of drawers, and at least one or two “big” storage areas, for bulky things like your TX.
Your mobile kit should also include any support gear you’ll be needing. Spare parts, tape, tools, wire, velcro, VHB tape, extra standard batteries, cables, chargers, diagnostic equipment, antennas, connectors – these are your responsibility to bring with you. Occasionally you can ask other pilots for items, but don’t assume people will supply you with parts or tools you’ll need. Part of being in the sport is being able to build, maintain, repair, and fly your own rig. Don’t depend on others if you don’t have to!
Once you’ve done your first race, guaranteed you’ll notice things your missing. Might be a charging cable, might be batteries, might just be a comfortable chair to sit in. Don’t be discouraged! Everyone’s needs at a race are different, so find out what you need to have a great time out, and put it together, and go racing!