10 Best Drone Simulators In 2022 Reviewed: Avoid Expensive Crashes!
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Drone simulators aren’t a new thing as they have been around for ages. However, only recently we have seen simulators explicitly designed for racing and a first-person view and consumer drones.
You may or may not have heard about these types of drone simulators, but it’s time you learn about their benefits. Their primary focus is allowing you to practice FPV flying on your computer. This means you can operate at any time and place regardless of the weather.
IN A NUTSHELL: If you’re going to learn to fly FPV drones or race drones, you’re going to crash a LOT at the beginning. Drone simulators are a VERY cheap way of learning and making all your mistakes without breaking your brand new drone.
Simulators are ideal for beginners who are afraid of crashing their quadcopters. If you’re one of them, you can now practice without really crashing your drone.
It’s also a great thing for people with an advanced skill set. It allows you to practice challenging tricks and things you’re too afraid to try outside. There are lots of moves that are tricky if you’ve never done them before, and you’re BOUND to crash the first few times.
Save those crashes on your drone and just learn the move on a simulator. Then when you’re ready to REALLY do the move, you’ve got the exact motions perfected on your simulator, you’re much less likely to crash.
Benefits of drone simulators
Probably the most significant benefit of FPV simulators is their price. You’re interested in flying a drone, but you’re scared of crashing it? If that’s the case, then this type of simulator is ideal for you.
- You get to learn how to fly but without damaging your quadcopter. In case you crash, you just hit the reset button and go from the start. It saves you not only time (running to pick up and fix your quad) but money (cost of new parts).
- Let’s say you know the basics of flying and you’ve done it before, but it’s time you improve your skills and learn some tricks. The simulator allows you to learn and build confidence before you take your drone outside.
- Also, you get to fly and play even when it’s RAINY outside. It’s a great way of enjoying some drone action even when the weather is bad. More so, drone simulators allow you to compete and have fun with many people all over the world.
You can use your own transmitter
Most FPV simulators allow you to use your keyboard or a gamepad. However, the best thing to use is an R/C controller.
First and foremost, you’re training your muscle memory this way which will reflect your real-life flying. Some controllers have a USB port so you can connect them to the PC, while others require a dongle.
It’s up to you to choose the controller according to your preferences. Some are easier to use than others, so make sure to consider all your options.
The physics of drone simulators
Do physics MATTER (regarding drone sims)?
It’s one of the most popular questions, but unfortunately, nobody can give you a specific answer. Physics do matter to some extent, but the matter doesn’t have the most significant effect on the overall quality of the simulation.
These simulators are continually growing and becoming better. Though some of the best simulations come quite close to the real experience of flying a drone, they can never replace the feeling of actually flying a real drone. For this reason, physics is mainly a matter of personal opinion.
The whole point of this is to help pilots learn the basics of flying before it helps them build their skills even more. It helps you with muscle memory and gives you an idea of what flying is like.
You’ll do well just to pick one that has good graphics and can run smoothly on the PC you have. This is enough for you to enjoy the game and learn a lot from it.
10 Best Drone Simulators in 2022
1. LiftOff Drone Simulator
This one keeps getting better and better thanks to the team of people who are constantly working on improving it. It’s highly customizable as it allows you to adjust the rates.
By doing this, you’re more likely to achieve the life-like experience you would get with an actual drone. The simulation allows you to get an overall feeling of what it feels like to fly.
Although you can modify propellers, motors, and batteries, it’s something you won’t need much in real life. Most people like it because it offers plenty of different scenarios. You also get a number of integrated race courses, and if you go to the Steam store, you can download a few community race courses as well.
One disadvantage is that your drone might feel a bit too floaty which isn’t how drones usually feel in real life. The LiftOff works well on most computers, but you can also lower the settings if your PC is a bit slower.
- Massive community
- Highly customizable
- Works on most computers
- Drones are a bit floaty
2. FPV Freerider
The Freerider is probably the most popular simulation.
It’s one of the first and best drone simulators for beginners and newbies. You’ll probably feel the difference in your skills and confidence after only a few hours of playing with the Freerider.
The first thing you should know is that it’s limited in regards to flight characteristics. Because you can’t customize the rates, it might be a bit tricky to get your drone to behave the way it would in real life.
For this reason, it’s mainly used by beginners. It’s just not good enough for advanced pilots, but beginners do benefit from its ease of use.
You get to fly in six scenarios including meadow, desert, car park, island, field, and a playground. The modes you get to choose from are FPV which is the most popular, as well as Line of Sight, acro, and angle modes.
It’s compatible with Windows and MacOS while also supporting a wide range of transmitters.
- Easy to use
- Six scenarios to choose from
- Works with MacOS and Windows
- Only for beginners
Many experienced pilots consider Velocidrone a blend of Liftoff Drone and FPV Freerider features. The simulation allows you to choose an aircraft, create race courses, explore maps, adjust rates and enjoy life-like mechanics.
You’ll immediately notice it’s not the most affordable drone simulator on this list, but it’s worth the price. Right out of the box, the Velocidrone is compatible with Taranis or Turnigy Evolution. It’s a plug and play simulation, so you get to enjoy it the minute it arrives.
It offers many sophisticated maps allowing you to fly in a subway station, a warehouse, an open field, a soccer stadium, in an abandoned factory, and a port. It also has preconfigured courses although you can share your own as well.
The difference between this one and the two above is in the requirements. This one requires a high-quality graphics card which means it doesn’t work on slow computers. It works rather smoothly on MacBook Pro but has some issues on MacBook Air.
- High-quality maps
- Many scenarios to choose from
- Packed with useful features
- Doesn’t work on slow computers
4. FPV Simulator Air 2
FPV Air 2 is one of the newest simulators on the market. It’s been released in August 2018 and has quickly become one of the favorites.
It has all you could want from customizable physics, multiplayer modes, to beta GUI. It’s ideal if you’re into racing as it allows you to take your skills to the next level quite quickly.
The first thing you’ll notice is that it doesn’t have great graphics. However, this allows the simulator to work on slower computers so you can’t really say that’s a drawback.
It has accurate physics and adjustable PID and rates. Many pilots use it because it’s relatively affordable although it’s new to the market.
- Many useful features
- Works on slow computers
- Customizable rates
- Not the best graphics
5. FPV Event
If you’re looking for a serious simulation, FPV might be the best for you. It costs significantly more than others on the list, but it provides unmatched flight physics.
It’s one of the most expensive simulators, and yet it doesn’t have the best graphics. Still, this is compensated with great physics that you can’t find with other similar simulators.
The brand collaborated with the MultiGP Drone Racing league to make this one. As a result, we got what’s more racing than a freestyle simulator. Still, freestyle is an option and an entertaining one at that.
One of the best things about the Event is that you get to race yourself. Though this sounds funny, it’s actually quite useful since there’s no better thing than to outdo your own self. As you fly, you’ll see a ghost drone flying your previous lap.
All its parameters are fully adjustable, so you get to play with camera angle, thrust to weight ratio and other similar things.
- Unmatched physics
- Easy to use
- Adjustable parameters
- Not the best for freestyle flying
RotorRush is the “it” simulator to go for if you’re into online events. Its community online is among the largest, and that fact alone makes it an exciting simulator.
Their team is constantly partnering with other FPV brands and organizations to host online multiplayer events. The experience is fun and great for people who want to improve their flying skills.
The simulator itself has a great feel and is somewhat realistic. However, the main thing you should remember is that you cannot simply buy it as you would others on our list. You subscribe to it on a monthly or annual basis.
Though it provides an exciting experience, it’s something you can achieve with regular multiplayer modes just as well.
- High quality
- Large online events
- Quite realistic
- A bit expensive
Hotprops has to be one of the most popular drone simulators on the market. It’s free, but it has been discontinued and not in active development since November 2017.
It offers fully adjustable parameters, so the drone behavior is quite similar to real life. Realistic physics and great looking graphics made it as widespread. The simulator provides lots of maps to practice on though they’re also great for racing.
Hotprops might come back with a bang, but we’re yet to see that. It’s said they are working on improving the simulator although no official words came from the brand itself.
Most people love this one because it’s free and well done. It’s ideal for beginners who are still unsure about buying a real drone. The experience it provides is fun, and you can learn a lot.
- Good graphics
- Realistic physics
8. Heli-X UAV Flight Simulator
It’s no secret you’ll often hear pilots recommend this simulator is one of the best. Its real-time physics are so accurate you’ll experience a fantastic flying performance. It works on Windows and Mac.
It’s not the most affordable on the market, but it offers some impressive features for the price. You get many scenarios to choose from such as reaction training and rescue scenarios. It’s competitive and exciting which is all you need from such a simulator.
You also get auto-rotation and hoover training. Keep in mind that it doesn’t come with a controller, but you can use a regular USB controller. The app works in different ways, so play around a little until you find what works the best for you.
The great thing is that it’s suitable for beginners as well as advanced pilots.
- Accurate physics
- Fun scenarios
- Suitable for all skill levels
- Doesn’t come with a controller
10. RealFlight Drone Edition
Another favorite has to be the RealFlight drone simulator. It’s the ideal thing to help you build muscle memory and have some amazing flying experiences.
It comes with a Futaba Interlink Elite training controller. This might not mean much to you if you already own a controller. However, it’s a great option if you don’t since it’s far better than to use a keyboard or a mouse.
You get fifteen different models to choose from in racing and photography drones, hexacopters, and eight-rotor machines. It simulates up to eight control channels with impressive flight physics.
Choose between 20 environments and challenges as well as freestyle practice flights. Overall, most pilots swear by it because it’s as easy to use and versatile.
You get to experience what it’s like flying a drone with an authentic controller that has all the buttons you’d find on an actual drone controller. Not only this helps beginners develop muscle, but it helps advanced pilots learn new tricks without risk of crashing.
- Comes with a drone controller
- Many drones and environments to choose from
- Too pricey if you already have a controller
What is the best drone simulator?
I have to say from my personal experience, it’s FPV Freerider. Now that’s not because it has the most features, it’s because it’s cheap, easy to use and for me it feels most like the drones I actually fly.
And that’s what it comes down to, you’ve got to be flying in a simulator which REALLY feels like the drones you own and fly. For me that’s FPV Freerider, but for you it might be something different. Try out various simulators, and see what feels right for you!
Most drone sims actually have a free trial or even entirely free version, so you can easily test out which ones you want. Also, even if you bought ALL of the done simulators on this list, it STILL wouldn’t cost you as much as crashing your average racing drone ONCE, so it’s well worth the money.
Plus you can fly in all weathers with a drone simulator, and even on the go or in a hotel room with your laptop! That’s why I love drone simulators, they’re very flexible.
How to get the most out of a drone simulator?
Sure it is fun to just fly and mess around, but you should really be using a drone simulator to practice some new maneuvers in a risk free environment.
Whether you are working your way through the Drone Flying 101 course just trying to nail the basics or you are trying to master some of the more advanced maneuvers in the Drone Maneuver Mastery course, you should always be improving so that when you finally do get outside, you are confident in your abilities.
If you don’t have a drone yet, you might want to check out our post about the best budget drones when you’re ready! They’re all under $100 and perfect for beginners fresh from the simulator.
If drone racing is your thing, I spent a long time writing a guide on how to become a better drone racer and it’s extremely helpful. It tells you what to practice and what mistakes most people make when trying to learn. This guide along with consistent use of some the best drone simulators and you should shave off a few months from your learning curve.