Drones are everywhere and are part of everyday life for people. With simulation, you can learn to fly a virtual drone, and get better at it in real-world situations because of the muscle memory you create. In this article, we discuss everything drone simulators and highlight our best picks in the market.
This FPV simulator has many promising features. The full game has 17 rear-life drone models, 14 maps, an extraordinary track editor, night/day sceneries, and various race quadcopters in the whole bundle. You can get a trial version, just to have a taste of what’s in store when you get the complete package.
The software doesn’t use up much of the computer’s resources, so it works very well in low-end specifications (Intel i3, 4 GB memory, 12 GB disk). You can lower the resolution and frame rate for the simulations to work in even less mighty Macs or Windows PCs. There is no noticeable lag in gameplay, and you can fine-tune the settings to fit real-world situations, even adding a bit of delay. The simulator also mimics wind speed and direction change in its various maps.
Easily download the game from Velocidrone’s website, and a setup wizard takes you through everything. The user interface for the simulation is intuitive, and the buttons are large enough for simple inputs. A nifty feature is that you can also assign switches to various controls by yourself.
You can join the Velocidrone community, and compete against other people online, with just a few clicks of your mouse. There are even leader boards for all the official tracks released, and Velocidrone is promising even more to come. With the track editor, you can modify any of the maps or create new ones. More features include:
- Interactive multiplayer
- Discord and Facebook community
- Many tracks models
- Realistic flight
- Works on low-end PC
- Easy to install and use
The track editor takes some getting used to. Additionally, the free version is minimal when compared to others, which are also free or priced much lower.
FPV Air 2
Drone simulators usually take a lot of time to tinker with the settings. However, the FPV Air 2 comes with pre-configured settings and calibrations for you to be well on your way flying. Still, the settings are open for you to customize to your liking. You can change the RC rate, maximum velocity, speeds, camera angle, FOV, graphics quality, and much more, all in-game.
For the price, you won’t get anything better. You can clock in lots of miles, practicing in meaningful and realistic weather with this flight simulator. It can run at up to 60 fps on a computer with very low specifications.
You can change many variables to match almost any quadcopter in the market. You can preset the simulated drone-to-learner (a high starting point for new pilots), intermediate, and pro speed settings. The default screen has a ratio of 4:3, which is useful if you want to transition to using FPV goggles, most of which have the same proportion by default.
The FPV air 2 is bundled with 13 tracks, and there are even more that you can download from the Steam store. Some tracks are short, technical, long, or broad, mimicking almost all types of real-life situations. The night tracks animations look crisp and clear, as illuminated virtual LEDs guide you.
The free Air 2 is also bundled with three freestyle courses and a track editor that you can use to customize your experience. You can add more structures and buildings, and create a virtual city racecourse. The in-game flight experience is quite engaging, simple, and well thought out. There’s also a community that you can join and race against others in the comfort of your home. Other features include:
- customizable tracks
- Works on low-end PC
- A quick and easy control setup
- Online multiplayer
- Customizable flight physics
To run this application, you have to install Steam. Many don’t appreciate having to install software on top of another since that only takes up more resources on your computer.
This highly polished FPV simulator is designed in collaboration with some of the biggest names in the drone industry like Fat Shark and ImmersionRC. For this reason, you can be sure of immersive and near realistic flight simulation with Liftoff. You can even change details such as weight, FOV, camera angle, and thrust in the to emulate a particular drone you’re eyeing.
With big players backing the Liftoff project, they have regular and frequent updates to make your experiences even better. There’s also an interactive community, who are always eager to help you get your feet wet, as you wrap your head around all the various settings.
Everything about the Liftoff simulator is detailed to the T, to capture the authentic experience of flying a real quadcopter. The music playing as you navigate the substantial menu is upbeat to get you eager to fly. The graphics look fantastic and run smoothly. You can even use different transmitters and controllers to control the virtual drone on the 11 official tracks or one out of the 1000s you can download from Steam’s repository.
New pilots will appreciate the numerous exercises and video tutorials to help you be on your way. The introductory concepts are easy to grasp, with few other simulators offering any sort of tutorial. With free flight mode, you can play and experiment with different maneuvers (rolls, dives, flips, combos), before catching onto racing modes. In freestyle mode, you can also execute skill moves and set your best score for your friends to try to beat.
As a pro, you might get a chance to be featured on Liftoff’s worldwide leader boards by showcasing your racing abilities. You can even design custom tracks (assets around the map, track makers) and challenge others to take part in them. On Liftoff’s page, you won’t be short of challenges, since the community has an insane amount of levels and tracks. Other features include:
- Freestyle gameplay
- Compatibility with most controllers
- Multiplayer up to 5 people
- Frequent and meaningful updates
- Realistic flight physics
Liftoff is only playable through a controller or remote. Additionally, this simulator uses a lot of your computer’s resources, and it can’t work if you have a graphics card with less than 1 GB of video memory.
DRL’s animations aesthetics are sure to blow your mind because of their polish. Everything is set up professionally and consistently. There are numerous tracks that it almost feels impossible to get through all of them, which is great for freestyle exploration.
The 3D space is well accentuated and has superb scope in many of its tracks, and you will have a real test on your hands. There are many series, and the community is fond of creating new challenges. With this simulator, you get access to the vibrant community and receive notification of new challenges to your email. You can even watch replays from players around the world, which is useful for beginners to see how others were able to navigate through twisty courses, also showing their joystick movements on the screen.
This simulation is compatible with several types of controllers. You can download other maps from Steam, explore new environments and content at an unbeatable price of free! The DRL Simulator is excellent for new pilots who want to learn from the pros without spending a dime. Other features include:
- Compatibility with most controllers
- Multiplayer settings
- Excellent Replay feature
- Huge maps
- Great assortment of levels
- Easy transmitter binding
After setting up your transmitter, you cannot fine-tune it in the game. If you don’t like the settings, you have to delete and create another transmitter build. Additionally, the graphics are not the best, and it can be hectic and confusing, trying to follow race lines.
What makes this drone simulator stand out the most is its vibrant online community. With their monthly or annual subscription, you will get notified by RotorRush’s team to new events and hopefully get into their league events. The games are well organized, and racers all over the world treat it in earnest, to get featured on not only the leader boards but to win prices as well. Other than that, this simulator has covered all bases very well.
RotorRush was previously known as FPV Event and has come a long way in providing some of the best in-game simulations. Many avid pilots claim that this simulation is the most accurate, in part thanks to many professional pilots hosting their events, providing suggestions, and giving commentary. The excess money generated by the platform goes towards helping the next generation to fly in various academies. Other features include:
- Competitive leagues
- Prices available
- For a good cause
- Many professionals
- Excellent graphics
The issue with this simulator is its pricing model, whereby you have to part with 5 dollars a month or 40 dollars annually. Also, because of its high-end graphics, it can only work on powerful computers, which are inaccessible to many. For one, your computer needs to have a processor that’s core i5 or better, and have a graphics card with no less than 2 GB video memory. Fortunately, if you find your computer is not compatible with this simulator, or you are not satisfied with it, you can cancel your membership and get a refund on your first monthly payment.
FPV simulator: What is it, and how to get started
Learning to fly a drone using an FPV is a tricky business. At first, you might end up spinning your quad out of control and crashing it. A simulator is the way to go to avoid crashing your dreams even before they start. Bad weather or a busy day in the office might prevent you from getting the training you need.
With an FPV simulator, you have the freedom to fly in the comfort of your home, without the worry of hefty repair bills. You can do all manners of crazy maneuvers or fly in pitch darkness, and not lose sleep over it. You only need to download one of the drone simulators in this review, add a few devices, and configure some settings to get in on the action.
How to configure your transmitter to work with your PC
Most radio transmitters only need to be connected to your computer via USB. However, some require proprietary cables or specific dongles to work correctly. Whichever transmitter you go for or have, you can find simple solutions online and get it tethered to your PC.
Avoid game controllers (PS4, Xbox, etc.) when using a drone simulator. The reason for this is that the left joystick on drone controllers don’t revert to their original positions, as is the case with game controllers. If you use a game controller, you might pick up bad habits and not feel the accuracy of a drone controller. Ideally, get a transmitter you like, and train with it always to drill in that muscle memory.
Getting a free drone simulator
With the transmitter ready, you have to choose a simulator and start flying. There are tons of FPV simulators out there, and it can be difficult picking out one. In this list, we’ve narrowed down your options, most of which have demo versions for you to try for free.
However, most demos are just bare-bones, containing only one level and track. With the ones laid out in this list, you get more than that, all with the help of vibrant online communities, without spending a dime. After taking the plunge with free options, you will have a better understanding of features, reviews, pricing, and importantly, figure out what you like without wasting time and resources on what you don’t like.
How to get the most out of your drone flight simulator
It can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to start with a simulator. Still, the best way is to try, and most of the drone simulators have in-built tutorials to help smooth the path. Don’t have a crack on one track, without going through the basics first, or you might get bored because of crashing and stop trying altogether.
The simulators in this review have multiple tutorial levels, tons of environments, and numerous tracks. Even free versions have comprehensive tutorials, that will only leave you yearning for more challenges. You can also use the ‘freestyle’ modes, and fly without restrictions or fear.
Your path to a better pilot
First, get comfortable with basic controls and getting from point A to B, After that, work on adjusting the camera, which is key to improving your skills in real flight. A cool feature to get you up to speed is focusing your simulated drone’s camera to an object at all times, as you draw towards it. This action should make you a better pilot.
Practice makes perfect, so shoot for the tiniest of gaps and work on numerous complicated maneuvers to get even better with simple ones. Do orbits, rolls, flips, while maintaining focus on the targets. Watch what others who are experienced do, and try to replicate the tricks and movements they make. Fortunately, with a drone simulator, you can simply hit the reset button and try again if you fail.
Frequently asked questions
Which is the best drone simulator?
This question is subjective and depends on what you already have. If you have a computer that’s powerful enough and the money to spend, then RotorRush will give you an immersive experience. If you have low-end specifications on your PC and don’t want to break the bank, then the free DRL simulator is okay for you.
The drone community is ever-growing, and new challenges are being requested, so it’s in your best interest to go for something that’s usually up to date and continuously improving. In this review, we have considered the latest features, and which brands look as if they are on the right track.
What’s a drone simulator?
In a nutshell, a drone simulator is a computer program that mimics flying a drone, without having any physical hardware involved. With such a device, you won’t risk breaking a drone as a beginner. Practically, you gain some experience with a simulator first before getting a real multi-rotor drone.
Even though simulators will never give you the real feel of flying a drone, they are getting better by the day. You can learn and experiment with different maneuvers on a simulator, which you can then test out in real life with confidence and high precision.
Get your drone simulator today
Even though a simulation doesn’t replace the real feel of flying, it can help hone your skills and make the actual flying more fun. You won’t have a fear of crashes and broken props with a simulated drone. With consistent flight simulation, you will get better even in real-world situations, in the comfort of your home.