These days, I’ve been stumbling across more and more drone simulators. Personally, I think they’re quite cool! Do they portray a realistic flight experience? Yes and no.
Yes, drone flight simulators somehow portray realistic flight experience by giving you FPV (first person view) of the flight on a computer without damaging any drone. With this, you'll be able to familiarize yourself on flying a drone – learning how not to crash and practice any acrobatic tricks you'd want to do.
On the other hand, a drone flight simulator doesn't portray a realistic experience because there are real-world factors that may not be considered during the simulation – such as weather changes and other aerial elements.
Flying a drone in the real world is still way different than flying one in a simulation. With that said, if you’re a beginner, or if you’re bored and want to pass the time, a quadcopter simulator can be a good idea. In this post, I’ll show you some of the best ones I’ve found to date.
RealFlight Drone Flight Simulator
The RealFlight Drone Flight Simulator flight sim is among the best that you can buy today. Its super-detailed, powerful, and simply awesome. Just know- you get what you pay for, so it’s going to be more expensive than some of the other simulators on this list.
Depending on where you buy it, the game’s going to run you $100 to $200. It’s a lot, but trust me when I say that it’s worth every penny. It’s the epitome of what a quad simulator should be like. You’ll be able to practice your maneuvering and camera skills, as well as explore FPV flying.
Not only can you fly DJI’s famous Phantom models, but you’ll also be able to adjust factors like direction, windspeed, night/day, and many other conditions.
Another key feature is the rewind button that allows you to see the simulation again, especially if you crashed, and helps you identify how to improve your maneuvering skills.
The simulations are realistic and challenging, so chances are you won't get bored of this drone flight simulator. We only recommend this software for flyers who are serious about mastering drone flight. If you're looking to get into it as a hobby, then any of the other options on this page will suffice.
The game is challenging and the simulations are realistic, so chances are you won’t get bored of this game. I only recommend this software for flyers who are serious about mastering drone flight. If you’re just looking to get into it as a hobby, then any of the other options on this page will suffice.
FPV Free Rider
If you want to practice your drone-flying skills, then check out FPV Free Rider. The graphics are pretty good, the virtual landscape is vast, and the physics of the game (gravity, drag, etc.) are relatively accurate.
I also like the fact that you can adjust certain physical laws like gravity or drag to make your drone fly in strange ways. While there is a free version of the game, I highly recommend the paid version. The free version only offers a single map and doesn’t have all the settings unlocked either.
Phoenix Model Flight Simulator
The first thing you’ll notice about the Phoenix Model Flight Simulator is the graphics are good. In fact, they’re too good (almost realistic). That makes it worth every penny in my opinion. But the product isn’t perfect, and here’s why: the drone simulation just isn’t that realistic.
Sure, the graphics are nice, but the quadcopters don’t follow the same laws of physics in the game that they would in real life. Also, learning all the features of the game can take some time and can be quite confusing. It’s definitely one of the best drone simulators out there, but it’s not my #1 pick.
Aerofly RC 7
Aerofly RC 7 offers over 200 models and 50 sceneries to choose from. That’s quite a selection. The graphics are realistic, making you feel like you’re there. This will allow you to really become immersed in the game. I was surprised that the physics of the game are realistic.
You may choose from the standard version which is certainly cheaper or advanced ones that will cost you more, depending on how serious you might want to practice.
You also have the option to buy with or without a controller since it allows you to use your existing controller provided that you have the appropriate connection kit.
It really does mimic what you would feel if you were flying a drone in the real world, which is exactly what a good simulator should accomplish. I like the fact that the allows you to adjust your FPV camera tilt angle. I like Aerofly RC 7 a lot, and could easily consider it one of the best quadcopter simulator games out there.
Another significant fact about this simulator is it is compatible for both Mac and Windows OS. You need to have the right transmitter connection kit.
We like Aerofly RC 7 a lot, and could easily consider it one of the best FPV simulators out there.
Simpro Drone Flight Simulator
Built for Mac or PC, the Simpro Drone Flight Simulator game does an excellent job at replicating real-world physics of drone flight. The scenarios are realistic, and there’s an accurate flight model of the Phantom 2 Vision+. I was also surprised by how realistic the lighting conditions were.
You can tell that the creators put a lot of effort into making the geological features and terrain look as realistic as possible. There’s also obstacle courses that you can use to hone your skills.
To better fit the needs of any drone pilot, Simpro Drone recently announced that the software now allows customization of the environment and the type of drone used.
With this, drone flyers will be able to practice more realistically, meeting even their specific requirements. There’s a demo of the game that you can try to see if it’s something you’re going to enjoy.
Last, but surely worth noting is that this realistic drone flight simulator is at the significantly affordable price compared to other sims of similar quality.
Rotor Rush is said to be the most actual drone racing and probably one of the best FPV simulators. Those who are serious with drone racing will surely appreciate and learn more through this FPV simulator.
The developers of the Rotor Rush intend to make drone racing more accessible to everyone, so they partnered with various drone racing organizations like MultiGP, FPV Racing Events, Tiny Whoop, etc.
This partnership allows you to practice on their official tracks and even race online against other pilots. You may also join in various live online events and to make the experience more realistic; these events yet have a live documentary.
Another unique thing about this simulator is that they have a Rotor Rush Academy that supports schools that teach kids how to build, fly and race drones.
This FPV simulator is compatible both for Windows and Mac OS. The devices it support is only limited to Taranis and Spektrum Transmitters.
Moreover, unlike other drone flight simulators in this list, since Rotor Rush allows you to become part of an online community of online drone pilots, Rotor Rush requires a monthly payment for membership.
This membership already will enable you to access the simulator, download the race tracks, join the online competitions and even contribute to the funding of the Academy.
DRL Drone Racing Simulator
Simply put, DRL Drone Racing Simulator is the official simulator of the professional Drone Racing League (DRL), and it's available for a meager cost (although before it is for free).
If you are serious into drone racing, then this one is perfect for you since it offers courses that are particularly similar with the real competition. You will also be scored the same as you would in a real drone racing, taking into consideration the checkpoints and completion times.
To make it more realistic, you will also be able to customize the model drone as much as you could to a real drone. You can also customize the environment – add buildings, factories, and even shipyards.
However, the physics of this quadcopter simulator maybe not that great but it has already improved compared to its previous version. Your quadcopter may feel quite underpowered and heavy. This is because the simulator based their drone models on real quadcopters used in actual DRL, which weigh around more than 1kg each.
Another key feature about the DRL Drone Racing Simulator is that you can reset your race or the position of your quad. It is also compatible with console or RC controllers and even has an option for keyboard controls.
Undoubtedly, the DRL Drone Racing Simulator is worthy to be considered one of the best drone simulators around.
The final game/simulator that we’re going to mention is Liftoff by Immersion RC. This simulator is very niche-specific, meaning, only certain types of flyers will benefit from it. Those flyers are FPV racers. If you’re an FPV racer, then you’re going to love Liftoff.
You’ll be able to master your drone racing skills with this simulator. It’s relatively cheap, easy to learn, and the graphics are respectable. It’s not very useful if you’re into aerial photography. It’s geared towards flyers who want to master the intricate nature of drone racing.
With VelociDrone, drone flyers can choose real-life drone models. Since it uses Beta flight firmware codes, you will be able to adjust rates and (Proportional Integral Derivative) PID settings of your drone for more accurate simulation. VelociDrone also allows you to change the physics of the simulation – the gravity, drag, quadcopter power, etc.
All these customizations allows you to have a very realistic drone simulation. However, its graphics are noticeably not as great as that of Liftoff, but this specification enables the software to run better even in slower PCs. It also has a track editor and multiplayer mode that allows you to go from one race to another.
Helix X UAV Flight Simulator
Next on our list is the Heli X UAV Flight Simulator. This game uses accurate, real-time physics that will make for a very realistic flying experience. You can download the software on Mac or Windows, which is great.
The cost of this simulator is competitive, and there are dozens of fun scenarios to choose from. For example, there are rescue scenarios, reaction training, and more. There's also hover training and auto-rotation training.
Although it does not come with a controller, you may use typical USB controllers especially if you want to control the models available in the software. Nonetheless, you may still be able to boot the app without the controller. Overall, we think it’s something that beginner and experienced drone flyers will enjoy.
FPV simulator Air 2
FPV Air 2 perhaps is the newest quadcopter simulator on this list, being released just last August 2018. It includes the key features you would expect in an FPV simulator – customizable physics, beta flight-like GUI and even multiplayer mode. It is best for FPV racing pilots who take drone flying pretty seriously.
It may not be as polished yet and doesn't have great graphics, but it can be run even on slow PCs. Its physics is also considerably accurate compared with other FPV simulators and. The PID and rates are adjustable.
All these features are available on Steam at an affordable price. Although new in the business, FPV Air 2 is becoming one of the best FPV simulators available in the market.
FPV Free Rider
If you want to practice your drone-flying skills, then check out FPV Free Rider. This FPV simulator is cheap and basic, perfect for beginners.
The graphics are pretty good, the virtual landscape is vast, and the physics (gravity, drag, etc.) are relatively accurate. We also like the fact that you can adjust specific physical laws like gravity or pull to make your drone fly in strange ways.
While there is a free version of this quadcopter simulator, We highly recommend the paid version. The free version only offers a single map and doesn’t have all the settings unlocked either.
However, even the paid version is quite limited so even as beginners; you might outgrow the sim later on. The software also fails to offer multi-player support which disappoints a significant amount of people considering that it is designed for racing.
It doesn't have a controller, but it can work well with most USB controller. You have to find a compatible one and connect it to the app.
Another thing, if you want to practice aerial photography or how you can work around your drone camera, then sadly, this software is not the one for that. It will be also unable to help you practice using a phantom or other expensive new drones, for that matter. You might want to find other FPV simulators if you intend to practice for costly drones.
4 Factors to Watch For
I do believe that a quality quadcopter simulator can make a difference in your skillset. However, you need to make sure you buy the right software, otherwise, it’s not going to help.
By this time, you have realized that not all drone flight simulators are the same. Some simulators allow you to customize the environment or even the physics and there are those that will enable you to try on real-life tracks especially if you're into racing.
Some quadcopter simulators let you experience flying some high-quality drone models while others do not. There are those that you can control through RC controller, and there are those that have keyboard options.
So before you go buying a drone flight simulator, here are some factors to consider:
The graphics are one of the most important factors to look for in my opinion. If the graphics are bad, then it’s simply not going to be a great experience.
However, if you would opt for a quadcopter simulator with the best graphics, then your computer should also be ready.
Simulators with great graphics usually require higher specifications for it to run smoothly. Otherwise, even with great graphics, your simulation experience will still be compromised if your PC cannot keep up.
For the best graphics possible, I recommend the RealFlight Drone Flight Simulator.
Most pilots use drones either for racing or for photography. As there are drones dedicated for each purpose, drone flight simulators that specialize in either racing or photography.
What’s your goal? Are you trying to become a drone racer or are you interested in aerial photography? If it's drone racing, then you can consider Rotor Rush, DRL Drone Racing Simulator or Liftoff. If it’s aerial photography then consider the other options on this list.
Some simulators, like the Phoenix Model Flight Simulator for example, are simply too difficult to learn. The learning curve is way too high for the average person, which takes away from the fun you’ll experience.
The simulators also vary regarding difficulty. There are those that are easy to learn, and there are those that will require you a significant amount of time before you can master what is going on. You would not want a simulator that is too hard for you because it will take the fun out of the simulation.
The safe picks, nonetheless, are Aerofly RC 7 and Heli X for they are suitable for beginners and experienced drone pilots alike.
Keep these four factors in mind and you should end up with a simulator that you really love.
With regards to compatibility, the first thing you need to consider is if an FPV simulator is compatible with both Windows and Mac OS. This is particularly important for Apple users since not all simulators are also compatible with Mac OS. The RealFlight Drone Flight Simulator, for example, does not work with Apple products.
Another device compatibility you might want to check with is the controllers. If you are entirely on a budget, then there are quadcopter simulators with keyboard options. However, for better flight simulation experience, it is preferable to have a controller similar to what you would use with your actual drone.
Since we're already in the topic, perhaps it is also best for you to know the most commonly used controllers for drone flight simulators. In general, you can either opt for a game console or a radio transmitter (TX).
However, it would help if you were aware that for actual drone flights, then you will need a radio transmitter or the controller that comes with the package. If you are serious in drone flying, then it's better to have a TX even for your simulator.
One practical and common choice is a game console, especially if you already have one in your home. PlayStation and Xbox Consoles are also generally compatible with most quadcopter simulators.
It is also a wise choice especially if you're still unsure about purchasing a drone since it's unlikely that you will be able to use a radio transmitter for another purpose.
However, since these game consoles are not mainly designed for drone flying, you might find its controls very limited.
Next, to the game consoles, this Taranis X-Lite is perfect for beginners mainly to its price and features for beginners. Its size is also just almost similar to that of game consoles, so it's practically portable. It has the OpenTX firmware, identical to that of Taranis X9D Plus, and great gimbals.
It also has four switches which are more than enough for what you need. They are all placed well on the TX and pretty accessible even when you’re flying an actual drone.
The gimbals are noticeably smaller especially if compared to other popular Taranis models. So if you’re transitioning from other bulkier radio transmitter, you might need to adjust on using the gimbals with your simulator before using it on the actual drone.
About the price, although it is cheaper than other big and bulky TX, it is still not the cheapest you'd see on the market with similar features.
Taranis X9D Plus is one popular choice among the available TX in the market. Aside from being compatible with most simulators and drones (64 models), this radio is even packed with a lot of useful features. Although it cost some significant amount, you would see that it is worth its price.
It has Open9x firmware which is very programmable, so it gives you control to every function. However, to some, this feature may seem too much to learn at first. Later on, you would appreciate the control to even the littlest of functions.
You can customize the channels freely, allowing you to assign the switches where you would be comfortable.
You would also appreciate its gimbals ("sticks" on the radio) because you can move them quickly. They are not resistant, so you can navigate your drone (whether virtual or actual) as you wish.
With all these, no wonder why Taranis X9D Plus is a popular choice.
Spektrum DX6i has a selector interface that will surely be appreciated mainly by beginners. With the interface, you can navigate around the menu and change the settings even without the computer. The downside of this interface, however, is that it does not have a backlight.
Other key features also include six channels, 10 model profiles, and six two-way switches. The extra two channels are appreciated by most users (since you would typically need 4) since the additional two channels mean two more switches.
However, the fact that the switches are only two-way and not three-way is a feature that should be improved. Nonetheless, the switches are smooth and good enough for seamless navigation.
The overall feel and grip of this TX are also good on the hands.
Turnigy Evolution is a compact and primary radio transmitter at an affordable price. It may not be as feature-rich as the Taranis X9D Plus, but it contains the basic features that you would need in a TX.
It has the gimbals, arm switch, flight mode switch and beeper switch which are all you will need in a radio transmitter. As a bonus, it even has voltage telemetry which makes it a more practical choice.
It is also comfortable to hold and fits nicely on hands, with soft rubber grips. One observable detail about this TX is that the gimbals are placed maybe a little too close to one another so moving the sticks around fully may pose a little challenge.
Another distinct addition to the essential features of the Turnigy Evolution is the touchscreen to navigate the menu.
Moving forward, for those specifically interested in drone racing, a multiplayer feature is one key factor to consider. It trains you to be competitive and to see how well you fly as compared with other drone pilots.
The Rotor Rush is one good choice if you have the budget since it allows you to compete with a wide range of players online. You also get to experience almost real-life drone racing competition because of the live commentators and access to official tracks.
If you’re just looking to get into drone flying as a hobby, then look to spend no more than $40-$50 on your simulator. However, if you’re very serious about flying and simulators, then look to spend over $100 for something truly amazing.
If you're serious and wants to keep on improving, particularly in drone racing, then the drone flight simulator perfect for you is the Rotor Rush.
Keep these factors in mind and consider which ones are significant for you. Such way, you decide more easily by narrowing down your options, and you should end up with a simulator that you will love.
What are the Advantages of Drone Flight Simulators?
However, why should you buy a drone flight simulator, you might ask. How can these simulators help you or give you an edge over other drone pilots? At this point, we'll be showing how quadcopter simulators, in general, could benefit you.
The first advantage of the drone flight simulators is that you can enter the ‘drone arena' without spending much.
You don't even have to pay anything at all if you don't have a budget yet since there are free simulations (FPV Free Rider).
Test Fly Different Drones
You also don't have to buy any drone yet before trying out a quadcopter simulator. Instead, you could use the simulator as a guide before purchasing one since it lets you feel the physics and even gives you an idea what it takes for you to fly different kinds of popular drone models.
Refine Your Drone Flying Skills
As such, it allows you to refine your drone flying skills without breaking any drone or any furniture that you might pass by.
Later on, you can even practice aerial maneuvers and exhibitions of your drone. FPV simulators even allow you to train for your drone racing in the first-person view and this gives a whole lot better perspective.
Practice Aerial Photography
In aerial photography, the quadcopter simulator can help you gain more confidence in drone flying and steady your hands on the controls so you will be able to capture photos perfectly still.
The simulator can also familiarize you in videography, helping you identify the best angles and the precise maneuvering to have a great shot.
Avoid Losing or Breaking Your Drone
Nevertheless, the main advantage of having drone flight simulators is that you can avoid losing or breaking a precious drone. You won’t even have to spend on repairs or spare parts at all since the simulators are all 100% virtual only.
Undeniably, you will be able to learn so much about drone flying and aerial photography through a quadcopter simulator especially if you will invest time and effort to understand what’s happening.
So it's also perfect even for those people who are still on the last leg of decision making on whether they should go by a drone or not.
Drone Flight Simulators vs. Drone Games
Maybe you're thinking that drone flight simulators are just the same with drone games, especially if you tried searching on Amazon. You might be thinking that drone flight simulators are just a matter of branding so they can ask for a higher price.
They are both just virtual, so you say. To break the ice to you, drone flight simulators or quadcopter simulators differ significantly from drone games. It's not just about wordplay to obtain more profit.
What are drone flight simulators?
Although just a reiteration, drone flight simulators are primarily intended to help you practice flying a real-life drone.
To do this, they replicate the environment and even allow you to use drone models virtually. For drone racers, there are even quadcopter simulators that will enable you to practice on the replicates of tracks being used in actual competitions.
What are drone games?
Drone games, on the other hand, do not care much about replicating any environment, or any actual drone for that matter. They don't intend to help you with your drone racing skills or to help you with your aerial photography.
Drone games are developed by merely making a computer program with drones flying in it. They are a lot simpler and are mainly just for a hobby. To put it just, drone games are just for fun!
Nonetheless, it is worth to say that there are quadcopter simulators that can also serve as drone games. But it does not go the other way around.
Since we've already listed here the best drone flight simulators, next list we'll provide is the best drone games available for your entertainment.
Drone Shadow Strike
Drone Shadow Strike is a military warfare game that lets you fly military-type drones to blow up some virtual enemies of the military.
As a player, you will take the role of a special ops operator, and you have to accomplish some virtual covert operations to level up using high-tech equipment, strategy, and of course, flying skills. Aside from the drones themselves, you also have rockets, missiles, and even canons – full warfare package indeed!
Aside from aiming to go from one rank to the other, you can also connect to the Facebook and Game Center leaderboards of the game, allowing you to compete with your friends or other gamers worldwide. A gentle warning before you do so; this game can get pretty addictive once you get competitive!
The best thing is, you can download this game from Google Play or App Store (yes, it is compatible for both Android and iOS!) for free!
This next game, Arena, can be purchased from Steam (at an affordable price) is to be played on Windows PC.
The arena is a multi-player shooter combat game, only that you shoot using drones, which you can customize according to how you want them to.
There are also various game modes such as Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag. With regards to the environment, you can either fly in a virtual reality or exotic arenas.
RV-7 My Drone
For those who enjoy killing time more on Nintendo 3DS, then RV-7 My Drone is worth considering. Although ordinarily, most people will scroll past this game, this underrated drone game is fun!
RV-7's main subject is a little shooter on a quadcopter that you need to navigate to destroy virtual enemies.
Nonetheless, aside from shooting, the player also needs to accomplish various types of missions such as transportation, construction, and even defense.
Among all other games on Nintendo 3DS, RV-7 is worth giving a try specifically because a drone on a flight makes the game a lot "cuter."
Contrary to what its name may imply, Drone Fight is a racing game on Nintendo 3DS. In general, its graphics and design are bright and funky making it appealing even to younger ages. The fictional drones may also capture their attention since they're pretty cool.
However, this game does not have a multi-player mode. You have to race against AI opponents or compete with yourself in the time attack mode.
Lastly, Liftoff is one perfect example of what we've mentioned earlier about quadcopter simulators that can also be a drone game.
However, compared to other drone games, it may seem to be a bit pricey, but regarding experience, it would be surely standout.
Liftoff translates FPV drone racing experience into a video game with realistic drone physics. As such, this game could also serve as your jumping board into quadcopter racing while also having fun competitively! Best thing perhaps is, it is compatible with VR and FPV goggles for improved FPV flying experience!
If you found this guide useful, please consider sharing it with other flyers. Nonetheless, our personal favorite is still the RealFlight Drone Flight Simulator because of its versatility, realistic simulations, and even free controller!
When it comes to drone racing, in particular, Rotor Rush is an excellent choice because you can compete live in a simulated competition track! If you are on a budget, then the FPV Free Rider always has a free version for beginners.
If you found this guide useful, please consider sharing it with other flyers. If there’s a great simulator we missed, then let us know by leaving a comment below. Good luck and fly safe everyone!