In this article we will compare all the FPV Drone simulators and decide which is the best for you. Quadcopter simulators have been around for decades, but only recently we’ve begun to see decent options designed specifically for FPV freestyle, some are even free!
What’re FPV Drone Simulators?
They are basically games where you can control a simulated FPV drone with a radio. You can learn how to fly FPV drones on a computer FPV simulator.
Honestly it’s the best way to get started for beginners and to improve flying skills. Whether you are totally new or someone experienced learning a challenging acrobatic trick, simulators can be highly effective for beginners and advanced pilots alike.
Only in simulators you are practice tricks that are almost impossible in real life :D
if you are new, here is an article to show you some insight of racing drones and how to get started. Featured image is from “Unreal FPV” simulator.
What You Need to Fly FPV Simulators
Before picking an FPV simulator, you should get a radio controller first.
I don’t recommend using gaming console or keyboard. Using a proper radio is the best way to build up muscle memory, and get the most benefit from training. You can continue to use the same radio to fly the real drones later, so it’s a worthy long term investment.
All the radios I recommend are plug and play – just connect the USB cable and it will show up as a gaming joystick on your computer. Then you should be able to use the radio in the simulator, it’s that simple.
If you have a radio that don’t support that, there are work-arounds, such as using a flight controller and radio receiver.
Does Quadcopter Simulator Physics Matter?
Yes, and no.
The physics of a drone simulator is highly subjective. They are getting closer and closer to real life, but it will never feel the same.
The point of a simulator is to help you learn how to fly and build up muscle memory. Just pick a simulator that feel real enough for you with graphics that you like (and runs smoothly on your computer).
Spend time on actually practicing rather than worrying about the physics.
tldr: Here’re My Favourites
- For fun: DRL
- For racing and slow PC: VelociDrone
- For content (needs good gaming PC): Liftoff
- Low budget (free sim): FlowState
Let’s dive into each FPV simulator about their features, pro’s and con’s.
One of the most complete simulators with regular content updates, but takes a decent gaming PC to run smoothly. Large online community.
Liftoff is one of the greatest in terms of graphics, features and content. The amount of content is simply impressive, nothing comes close in terms of selection of hundreds of models and thousands of tracks created by the community. Liftoff is the first to implement a “parts system” that allows you to customize your drone by changing components just like in real life.
It’s one of the few sims that accounts for propeller damage (can be disabled too). It forces you to be more aware of obstacles and fly more carefully, hence offering a more realistic flying experience.
Liftoff is also the most graphically intensive simulator in the list, it takes a decent spec gaming PC to run smoothly. Many people with slow computers complain about the performance being sluggish, floaty and choppy.
Unfortunately you cannot change any of the physics in Liftoff . And the game doesn’t detect crashes very well, which means you sometimes have to take your goggles off and lean over to the keyboard to reset the game manually. It’s a minor point but an irritation all the same.
Liftoff has more recently introduced ‘Freestyle Mode’ which rates your moves and tricks as you was in a competition. That really shows some real consideration for those who just love the aerial ballet.
Liftoff is the only sim that supports 3D mode (reversing motors in flight).
It’s available on Steam – a platform where you can purchase and download games, it helps you manage games and makes updating much easier. Just google “download steam” and you will find it.
Here is a video I captured using the DVR in my FPV Goggles which I used as an external monitor with my computer via HDMI cable.
Great physics, probably one of the most realistic sims. Graphics doesn’t look the prettiest but runs better on slower PC’s. Racers love it.
If your PC or laptop isn’t great for gaming, consider Velocidrone.
The game has one of the best physics with a high degree of customizability. Through physics adjustments and rate tuning, I easily tuned Velocidrone to feel like my own quad. I have to say this sim feels very realistic to me. It’s probably one of the best on this list for highly mimicking the feel of a real life racing quad.
It has a great selection of racing tracks and is an incredible tool for practice racing. In fact many MultiGP Racers use Velocidrone exclusively to train.
Apparently the software uses Betaflight firmware codes, and just like Betaflight you can make adjustments to your PIDs and rates. The camera FOV and angle can be set to your preference, and that it uses your TX’s full range of motion without having to use offsets speaks volumes in my opinion.
The graphics aren’t as good as other simulators however this game is more performance based. You can practice flying all the same, and the game runs better on slower machines. There is a great track editor, and multiplayer mode where you can jump between races and freestyle, have voice chats and changes courses, all in the same session.
However it’s not on Steam, so updating takes slightly more effort, but it’s also a good thing at least you are not forced to update if you don’t want to.
The DRL Simulator
The DRL (Drone Racing League) simulator is interesting – they use the game to host online tryout events, and the top pilots can win a paid contract to race real quads professionally in the offline events.
As a gamer, I find DRL the most additive FPV sim of all.
The physics isn’t the best among the list, but the maps and scenery are extraordinary, you get tall buildings, abandoned factories and a shipyard, all in a single map!
I really like the new system where you can race with the ghosts of pilots similar to your ranking. This system can motivate you to play, improve and move up your racking too. DRL is the online simulator that allows pilots on different platform to play together which is fun.
Look here I was having fun diving buildings, and trying one of the race tracks…
Cheap and basic Sim, okay for beginners, but kind of outdated.
This is probably one of the earliest FPV simulators specifically designed for multirotor racing.
It’s a cheap simulator and it has free trial. You are able to change some basic physics in the game, such as gravity, drag, quadcopter power etc. You can also change camera tilt angle, and FOV (field of view). In the free version you can’t change any settings, and are limited to only one map.
FPV Freerider used to be one of my favorite quadcopter simulators, the physics is acceptably realistic. However, the rate system has always seem a bit too slow for my taste. It doesn’t have “super rate” which makes the quad feel like it spins too slow for flying acro. Also the lack of support for multiplayer lets a lot of people down.
Furthermore I always feel like there is more delay to the stick inputs. It isn’t a massive problem, but it’s noticeable for me.
This sim is okay for complete beginners to get into FPV flying, but with all the limitations you will quickly outgrow it.
FPV Air 2 Simulator
FPV Air 2 is one of the cheapest simulators out there. It’s very basic, and the physics is decent for beginners to get into FPV flying and learning tricks. But I dislike the fact that additional maps have to be purchased separately. If you have a tight budget, there are free options.
The graphics is decent and there are many settings you can play with, including customizable physics, Betaflight-like GUI and multiplayer mode. It packs most of the features you want in an FPV sim It’s not as polished as other better established simulators, and it lacks track selection. But again, it’s only $5.
It runs pretty smooth on a slow PC because it has an “ultra-low” graphics mode. Overall the graphics aren’t the prettiest, the trees look like wall paper and there is a lot of motion blur. But that’s not what we are here for, to look at the trees :) The affordability and flexibility make up for it. And I can’t wait to see what the developer has to bring to the sim in the future since it’s only at its early stage of development.
It’s available on Steam so updating is very convenient.
Here is the review from Kaity, a member of IntoFPV.com:
I purchased FPV Air 2 to replace my aged copy of FreeRider Revamped and was truly surprised at how close it comes to the way my flying feels! The physics feel accurate, the ability to tune PID and rates is awesome and the ease of calibrating my QX7 really make me happy.
I plugged in my Taranis, selected Taranis from the CONTROL menu and then clicked calibrate. Moved the sticks around and that was all that was needed. The flight area are tracks more inclined to racing style than freestyle, but if you ignore the track there is a lot of practice to be had proximity flying the obstacles.
I have this sim tuned to pretty close to the way my 3″ Japalura flies and when I step outside to rip through a real life pack, it is close enough that it feels easy to switch between them. It is a lot easier on the equipment to figure out a maneuver in the sim and crash electrons instead of carbon fiber.
DCL – The Game
DCL – The Game is developed by Drone Champions League, available on both console and PC. Due to the nature of the organization, DCL is a racing oriented sim, and it actually feels to be the most game-like of the group.
It offers 3 classes of drone frame offering different flight characteristics, but no customization rather than skins.
Flowstate is available on Steam, and it’s the only free option on this list. It’s tailored more towards racing, and lacking a lot of features on other paid sims.
But hey, it’s free! Who doesn’t like free?
Other FPV Simulators
A new FPV drone simulator that is being developed. I had a go with this sim and gave the developers feedback. It’s available on Steam already.
Unfortunately, support and development of Hot Props FPV Simulator have been discontinued, therefore we have removed it form our list. It’s very sad as it is one of the very few free sims that are left.
Previously known as FPV Event. I have heard good things about Rotor Rush, and it has some real life tracks from past racing events. It was originally retailing for £40, later on they changed the pricing model to a £4 monthly subscription which makes it one of the most expensive sims out there.
Most FPV simulators allow you to “tune” them like a real quad: PID, rate, physics etc… The goal is to make the virtual drone perform more like the real thing. However I do think this is a feature for the experienced pilots, since new pilots probably don’t have a good enough idea how a real quad should fly like.
If you are just starting out, I would suggest leaving everything at default, unless something is seriously off. The only thing you should change should be rates, which controls the sensitivity of your quadcopter. See this post for more detail.
Wearing FPV Goggles
FPV Goggles with HDMI input can be connected to the computer as an external monitor, and you can play FPV sim while wearing your goggles. This might help you get used to flying with your goggles earlier if you are just starting out.
LOS Drone Simulator (Line of Sight)
Most pilots can fly FPV well but lack the skill to fly line of sight (LOS). While it might help practicing LOS skills in a sim, it’s probably not the best way.
First of all, you don’t get the depth perception in a simulator as you would normally get in real life – it’s very difficult to judge how far your quad really is on the screen. Also it’s harder to tell the orientation in a sim because of the low resolution.
If you want to give it a shot anyway, the following sims offers LOS feature:
- In Velocidrone you can zoom into LOS mode by scrolling the mouse wheel
- In FPV Freerider, there is a LOS mode
FPV drone simulators can boost your flying skills, but they cannot replace real flying.
For a beginner, a simulator can be used almost entirely for practice to build up muscle memory and learning. As you progress however, real world practice becomes more and more important to achieve peak performance.
- Mar 2015 – Article created
- Feb 2017 – Updated, added Velocity Drone and FPV Event
- Jun 2017 – Updated and edited FPV Event name/price change
- Oct 2017 – Updated reviews
- Jun 2018 – Tried all sims again and updated reviews; Removed sims that are no longer relevant
- Sep 2018 – Added new sim – FPV Air 2 and DCL
- May 2019 – Updated reviews, added “Wearing FPV Goggles in Sims”
- May 2021 – Shortened URL, added Flow State, adjusted recommendations/reviews