For most of us, if our drones can break 50mph, we’re pretty impressed. Even the popular DJI Mavic 3 only manages up to about 47mph in ideal conditions. For <250g drones like the Autel Evo Nano (review here) and DJI Mini 3, even hitting 30-35mph is a bit of a struggle. Imagine, though, if you had a drone capable of shooting 224mph. For one man, Ryan Lademann, there’s no need to imagine. He built one.
He created the XLR V3, which he took out into the Arizona desert to put it to the test and made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for “fastest ground speed by a battery-powered remote-controlled (RC) quadcopter”. He hit an average speed of 224mph with a maximum speed of 257.25mph. The attempt was made in November of last year but was finally just confirmed by Guinness.
The last record was set was a mere 163.5mph back in 2017 and it’s been absolutely hammered by Lademann’s XLR V3 drone. Drone speeds above 100MPH are banned by the FAA unless you get in touch with them in advance and can demonstrate that you can do a faster flight safely – which Lademann did. According to Gizmodo, he headed out to the Arizona desert with his XLR V3, with a custom-designed chassis that houses the motors and electronics vertically in aerodynamic cores.
The drone itself weighs only 490g, using off-the-shelf electronics, including the batteries electric motors, live streaming camera and even the propellers. Guinness writes that LAdemann designed and built several prototypes leading up to the XLR V3, using 3D printing and “hand construction skills”. He had hoped that his skills and desire to learn new things would ultimately allow him to be able to break the speed record. Well, he’s certainly done that, and smashed the Drone Racing League’s 2017 record by a very wide margin.
In order to claim the record, Guinness requires that the drone be flown in two runs in opposite directions on the same path during a level flight. The top speeds of both runs are averaged together in order to determine the final speed. This is a great way to do it as the wind direction and speed can make a massive difference on how fast a drone can travel. How many of us have put a drone in the air, seen it zip away to maximum safe/legal distance in no time at all, only for it to take 2-3x as long to actually come back?
Lademann admits that the footage is pretty terrible, as there are no filters on the lens and it’s just an ultralight FPV cam. The flights are also extremely short, as it takes a lot of juice from the batteries to spin the motors up fast enough to attain the speeds required for breaking records. This is probably why the Guinness distance requirement is only 100 metres.
And it doesn’t always go to plan, either. Lademann writes about this failed attempt:
This was the first flight of the day for the Guinness world speed record attempt. These batteries are not easy to build and the tab on one of the cells was very small. Either the high current caused the solder to melt or (more than likely) it was a cold solder joint. Since you don’t want to keep the soldering iron on the battery tab any longer than you have to, I may not have given it enough time.
It might not be the ideal drone for filmmaking, but the fact that individuals out there are pushing the boundaries like this and testing out new drone designs and electronics is going to inspire drone manufacturers like DJI, Autel and others to keep pushing. For now, the 58mph I get out of the XDynamics Evolve 2 (review here) is more than plenty for what I need to film!