Best Quadcopter Flight Simulator | Drone Multirotor Trainer

In this article we will talk about some of the best flight simulators for practising flying an FPV quadcopter. Computer flight simulators have been around for decades, but recently we’ve begun to see more and more sims designed specifically for drone racing and FPV freestyle, some of which are even free!

FPV simulators allow you to practice flying on a computer 24/7 regardless of the weather, and without damaging your quadcopter. Whether you are still learning how not to crash, or getting the hang of a challenging acrobatic trick, simulators are perfect for beginners and advanced pilots alike.

Featured image is from “Unreal FPV” simulator.

Before Looking for Best Drone Flight Simulator…

But before searching for your ideal drone flight simulator, you need to make sure you have a radio transmitter (TX) that is compatible with the simulation software. Alternatively you might be able to use other means of control, such as a gaming console, or even just a keyboard! I strongly recommend using a proper radio controller however, that’s the best way to build up muscle memory, and get the most benefit from the training.

Connect your TX to Computer

Picking a transmitter that has a USB port for computer connection is a huge advantage with FPV sim’s. For example both the Frsky Taranis X9D and QX7 are “plug and play” solutions for many computer platforms. When connecting with a USB cable, it simply shows as a game Joystick in Device Manager.

Some  TX such as the the Flysky i6 and Turnigy 9X don’t have a USB port and might require a USB simulator adapter which connects to the trainer port. Do the research for the particular transmitter you have, google is your friend :)

transmitter-usb-adapter

There is also a “universal” solution using this “radio receiver to USB” adapter. It receives the RX output on a USB device which connects to your computer, there is no direct connection between the TX and computer. This works on all TX that has a pairing receiver with PWM outputs.

Popular FPV Simulators for Racing

There are more and more FPV Drone simulators emerging in the market. I’m listing the most popular FPV Racing Sim’s here, which are designed specifically for FPV Drone Racing and Acro Freestyle flying.

  Price Changeable Physics Multi-player Track Editor Platform Link
FPV FreeRider $5 Yes No No Windows, Mac, Linux Purchase
Liftoff $20 No Yes Yes Windows, Mac, Linux Purchase
Hot Props Free Yes Yes No Windows, Mac Website
VelociDrone $25 Yes Yes Yes Windows, Mac, Linux Website
DRL Racing Simulator Free No Yes No Windows, Mac Download
RotorRush £4/month Yes Yes No Windows, Mac Website
AccuRC 2 n/a / / / / Group

Read on to learn more about these FPV sims.

FPV FreeRider

Cheap and basic Sim, okay for beginners, but outdated.

This is probably one of the earliest FPV simulators specifically designed for multicopter racing.

It’s a cheap simulator and it allows 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 with Freerider, which isn’t  a massive problem, but it’s noticeable for me.

This sim is okay for complete beginners to get into FPV flying, but you will quickly outgrow it with all the limitations.

Update (16/Apr/2016): FPV FreeRider released a new version called “Recharged”. Check out the discussion thread: http://intofpv.com/t-fpv-freerider-recharged-new-version

LiftOff

Great configurator and part system, but it feels “floaty” and needs a very good computer to run it well.

Liftoff is designed specifically for mini quad FPV, and is backed by ImmersionRC. Liftoff is the first to implement a “parts system” that allows you to change components and settings just like a real quad.

They have created rate/expo algorithms which make the sim behave very much like a real quad. Liftoff also implemented a PID system similar to that found in Betaflight, theoretically that’s a great idea but it doesn’t work as well as we had hoped. Changing PID values in Liftoff can produce some unexpected results and I usually just use the defaults.

The physics has improved significantly over the years, and the developers claim to have spent over $200,000 on developing the code with input from “top pilots”, “flight engineers” and “aerodynamic specialists”. Despite of this, the behaviour still feels more “floaty” than the real quad I fly.

Unfortunately you cannot change any of the physics in the game, and Liftoff doesn’t detect crashes very well, which means you 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 is also the most graphically intensive sim in the list. Many people complain about the performance being “choppy” and “slow”.

Lastly I found Liftoff to have the most frequent updates of the sims I have tested. I recently had to wait 10 mins for an update to download and install, frustrating when I just wanted practice for 20 mins during my lunch break. It’s good to see development is continuing but it would be nice if they could go with fewer “big updates” rather than frequent “small updates”.

Update (Oct 2017) – Liftoff has recently introduced ‘Freestyle Mode’ which shows some real consideration for those who just love the aerial ballet.

liftoff-fatshark-goggles-taranis-connected-pc-computer

Here is a video I captured using the DVR in my FPV Goggles which is connected to my computer as an external monitor.

VelociDrones

Great FPV sim, with one of the most realistic physics.

VelociDrone offers pilots many well known, real-life drone models to choose from. You are able to adjust the physics of the game, such as gravity, drag, quadcopter power etc.

I have to say this sim feels very realistic to me, it’s probably one of the best on this list for truly mimicking the feel of a real life racing quad.

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 computer requirements are more forgiving than Liftoff, the menus and tracks all load relatively quickly and it has a great track editor too. In multiplayer you can jump between races and freestyle, have voice chats and changes courses, all in the same session.

DRL Racing Simulator

A fun computer game for FPV pilots, but not real enough to be a simulator.

DRL is free and it allows multiplayer, but it’s more of a game than an actual simulator. The physics is probably one of the worst of the sim’s we have tested, it feels like the drag is set much too high and the quads are very under-powered. It feels like flying a really heavy quadcopter powered by tiny motors. (Edit: apparently DRL did base their simulator model on the real quads used in the DRL events, which weigh 1Kg+ each)

Anyway, the maps and scenery are extraordinary, you get tall buildings, abandoned factories and a shipyard, all in a single map! Another great feature which I think should be included in other sims is that DRL allows you to reset the race or the quad’s position using switches on your TX.

DRL Racing simulator is not ideal for practicing tricks and honing your FPV skills, but I did have good fun playing it and you should definitely give it a try since it’s free :)

Look here I was having fun diving buildings, and trying one of the race tracks…

Update (Nov 2017) – DRL simulator is no longer free. It’s now available on Steam and costs $15. Therefore we can no longer recommend it as there are other better sims out there that costs about the same.

RotorRush

Expensive – from someone who hasn’t tried it.

Previously known as FPV Event, Rotor Rush is another well known FPV simulator. I’ve heard it’s a great sim, and it has some real life tracks from past racing events. It was originally retailing for £40, later on they changed the pricing structure to a £4 monthly subscription model which makes it even more expensive overall. I haven’t tried it for this reason.

Heli-X Simulator

Don’t bother.

The graphics is not the best, I easily lose in orientation after a roll, because the landscapes is over simplified and lacking reference points.

This software is built specifically with multicopters in mind, but I find it lacking basic functionality, such as PID tuning.

It offers self-level mode and acro mode, however the only available quadcopter model, in the free version is a Phantom, which is not really geared towards acro mode. You can practice FPV with it, even though it’s not that realistic.

The Phantom in the free demo of Heli-X feels powerless, like I was powerless to stop myself from turning this sim off!

heli-x multirotor simulator heli-x flight-simulator heli-x quadcopter flight simulator

AeroSim RC

Outdated.

The graphics looks quite good in this sim, however like most other sim’s, you can’t use full resolution on your TX as it only takes 0 to 127 as range (where the Taranis uses -127 to 127).

pros:

  1. Big variety of models
  2. Allows FPV
  3. Ability to create FPV tracks and scenes based on satellite images and geo-referenced by two sets of coordinates. Also the ability to load terrain elevation data from a .hgt file
  4. Training mode for beginners with progress tracking and helpful exercises
  5. OSD plugins for FPV mode with the ability to load external OSD plugins and to change settings like a real OSD system
  6. Amazing control over model settings and physics that enable you to get a very close simulation of the characteristics of your real model, even flight times are calculated from weight and battery capacity
  7. Large variety of flight modes available including ALT (altitude) hold, heading hold, course lock, auto stable and more.
  8. Control over wind settings.
  9. Realistic Physics

cons:

  1. Built-in scenes get really boring after a while
  2. Price is really expensive (about 90$)
  3. Rare updates and slow development, for such an expensive product
  4. Lacks the ability to create detailed scenarios with trees and other obstacles (again- for that price seems reasonable to have that feature).

To sum up:

It’s a serious simulator with nice graphics and wide variety of features to play with, but it does feel like it’s more for basic flying and aerial photography training. For those who want an all out racing sim, AeroSimRC might not be the best choice.

Finally… Build/Buy a Tiny Whoop to learn FPV on :D

Simulators are getting better all the time, but flying virtually will never beat the real thing. Getting out there and flying is the best way to learn, meet people and have the best fun! Another cheap way to get into the air and learn FPV is by building a Tiny Whoop :)

Edit History

  • March 2015 – Article created
  • Feb 2017 – updated, added Velocity Drone and FPV Event
  • June 2017 – updated and edited FPV Event name/price change
  • Oct 2017 – edited

56 thoughts on “Best Quadcopter Flight Simulator | Drone Multirotor Trainer

  1. JoeMama

    My Son and I are using the latest VelociDrone and using the HDMI mini plug on our Fatshark Quantum headset to run it on. We look really silly but we are more familiar with out headset when we are out in the real world.

    Reply
  2. Dan

    Why do they all have to be for racing. Being new to drone flying, it would be nice to have some area to practice in. I’m not a racer yet.

    Reply
    1. Oscar Post author

      Often we don’t race with our “racing” drone, we just cruise around doing “freestyle” moves…
      I guess calling it “racing drone” separates them from drones that are used for aerial filming like a DJI phantom.

      Reply
  3. Nick

    Useful review but I’d second quadcopter FX simulator on Android. 1. You can use a transmitter providing your phone / tablet supports OTG (USB controller). 2. It seems very realistic to me. 3. It is very configurable. I’d say it’s a mistake to write-off Android devices – these days they are very powerful and the screens are excellent – look at the number of games that run on them.

    Reply
  4. Chase

    “There is also an “universal” solution by using this “radio receiver to USB” adapter. It connects the RX output to this USB adapter which goes into your computer, and there is no direct connection between the TX and computer.”

    I’m interested in being able to interface multiple transceivers with my computer but the link in your article broken. Do you have an updated link or a suggestion on other “universal radio receiver to USB” options?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Oscar Post author

      Yes you are right the product has been withdrawn by the shop. I can’t find it anywhere else at the moment. When I do i will update the link again.
      For your info, you can try to search for “FPV Simulator adapter for PPM”

      Reply
  5. BRquad

    Nice update Oscar! I own many of these and oddly enough I agree with all your comments about them. I enjoy Liftoff because it is very “polished”. I like DRL because of the large map. I play Velocidrone mostly because I can change the graphics to match how my real quad flies and it is the best racing practice in my opinion.

    Reply
  6. FullThottle

    Could you credit the image you used for your article please ?….
    I know the development of UPV is pending , but it would be nice to support them.
    facebook.com/unrealfpv/
    Thanks.

    Reply
  7. Eric

    FPV Freerider Recharged is the new version. You really should update that list.
    It’s my absolute go to sim in terms of realism. Tweaking the settings a bit and it feels nearly 100% like my quad.
    RotorRush is just too expensive. It feels and looks great but due to the price there are no players to race with. I mean the top 500 highscores are not even filled yet that few people play it.
    LiftOff has a bunch of cocks as programmers, so don’t expect any nice support. Otherwise it could be a nice sim one day.
    And of course I do feel the urge to mention the ripoff RealFlightX is where you not only need to buy the software, but also a stupid dongle, cause it doesn’t recognize any remote otherwise. Blatant rip off.

    Reply
    1. Oscar Post author

      Yes I have tried Recharged, I feel like it has the same flight characteristics, apart from the new maps, which IMO are worst than the original maps…

      Reply
  8. Robin

    Hi Oscar,
    you have a amazing site full of invaluable information for quad lovers! Thank you for putting this together.
    The only thing that I would improve related to the site is to have the article post date above (on top) of the article so that it is straight away visible how up to date a certain article is. You if anybody knows how fast this hobby is developing and I find myself always scrolling to the bottom of the article to find the date before scrolling back up and starting to read.
    Happy tinkering, testing, learning and flying!

    BR,
    Robin

    Reply
    1. Oscar Post author

      thanks Robin, I am trying my best to update the articles :)
      hopefully keeping the site up to date :)

      Reply
  9. BlubberYeti

    I’ve been flying Lift Off since its early days. It was crucial in helping me get my level-mode “training wheels” off when I first got into the hobby, and I still brush up on it regularly. I find it especially handy when I’m ready to increase my FPV cam angle, saving me precious rebuild time (and $$).

    I definitely recommend Lift Off!

    Reply
    1. Doug Abel

      Agreed, Liftoff has recently come a long way with its latest update to 0.10.0.

      They’ve added a PID system that’s almost straight out of Betaflight (sadly, it’s not the most recent 3.0+) BUT!!! It is almost spot on now for flying in the real world.

      How do I know this?

      Because I tuned my Blade Conspiracy to the same identical settings that I had in game. One of the instructors at my RC airfield took it out for a spin, and said, “Wow! Not bad! A TINY bit of oscillation when you punch it through a tight turn, but the rolls and flips? It’s fairly accurate and snappy!”

      I tried Velocidrone, and the free trial is ok, but I’m stuck doing just racing. Liftoff, so far, has some fun locations, like the Shipyard (flying over and around some fallen shipping crates is a blast), but my favorite is flying Hannover, Germany, where I can cut through the guy wires over their buildings, dive an observation tower, and fly through a spinning logo sign on top of one of the buildings.

      The “trees” aren’t entirely accurate, unfortunately; flying by them and obviously hitting tiny branches that would bring down any other drone, you just kind of fly through them with minimal damage, but if you’re like me, you tend to avoid trees (at least at the beginning, while you’re learning Acro).

      Reply
  10. Cory

    A new simulator called Zephyr came out recently. It seems awesome so far, they have a bunch of training challenges and a screen pops up after each challenge that shows you where you can improve. It looks like it was primarily made to teach new pilots how to fly, but it could also be a good tool for experienced pilots to stay fresh on the sticks. They have a lot more info on their website: zephyr-sim.com

    Reply
  11. joan

    CGM Next is better,

    rc-aerobatics.eu/cgm-rc-heli-simulator_e.html

    mac/pc… with gimbal option. 2 RC for drone + gimbal control…

    Reply
    1. Steff

      I also fly CGM Next on OS-X mostly with helicopters. Graphics is not very fancy, but for helicopter sim this does not matter. FPV experience is quiet good in my opinion with multiroter and helicopters, too. Btw, thanks Oscar for your great articles on multi rotors, i learned a lot!

      Reply
  12. mike

    hi ive tried most sims but im loving the demo of fpv freerider recharged…took me a little while to get my cheap banggood usb controller setup but it really feels like fpv, physics and speed seem good.
    well worth the £12 for the original and the recharged!
    thanks for the link

    Reply
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  17. Andrew I.

    Did you try some new sims?

    – Liftoff (steam): http://store.steampowered.com/app/410340/ . I’ve tried it yesterday and must say that it is GREAT. It has beatiful graphics, real-like FPV noize, good physics etc. Need to add, that before I was flying in Phoenix RC, RealFlight 7.5 and FPVFreerider. I’d recommend to take a look at it!

    -HotProps (beta): http://hotprops-fpv-race.com/home/ . Not so impressive as previous, but I must say that it requires your attention.

    Reply
    1. Oscar Post author

      HI Andrew, thanks :) yes i tried them both already actually i have a video on my channel flying liftoff :)
      Same here not impressed by hotprops but liftoff is pretty good :)

      lastly, i would really appreciate it if you could join the forum: http://intoFPV.com … I don’t want to miss your comment, because I only check my blog comments only once a week, but I use the forum daily!

      Reply
  18. OWLPIC

    Hi Oscar
    We have taught a lot of people how to fly and the simulator the best start for maybe 1/4 of them. 15 minutes is all most need to get use to the altitude and yaw controls.

    Many good experienced flyers have no use for them because of the experience and physics.
    I have them all including Realflight 7.5+.

    The trick is to learn on a cheap ($20) quad – that flies realistically – , CX 10 is my current choice,
    Amazon: amazon.com/gp/product/B00QDZ8D9G is one, it includes the blade guard, crazy not to have it.

    Reply
  19. Darren

    Hi Oscar, thanks for the review. I have Aeroflot 7 with Taranis and it’s an awesome combo. One question; how did you adjust the tilt angle in FPV mode (or cockpit mode as they refer to it) ?
    There are only a limited number of scenes you can use for FPV as it has to be a 4D scene which is a bit of a pity.
    Great training tool though.

    Reply
  20. TubeRider

    Hi Oscar
    FPV FreeRider is awesome, i went from horizon straight into Acro on my quad with no problems after a couple of goes on this.
    After changing the presets and using a controller plugged into the pc to make it feel real.
    I now use this for training for flying though woods etc.

    If this was multiplayer, a few more courses and maybe a way of building your own I’d play nothing else when its raining.

    Reply
    1. Oscar Post author

      Hi TubeRider
      yes it’s pretty good :)
      if it’s got more features, and better improved physics… i don’t see why we still fly the real things :D LOL

      Reply
  21. Tony

    Hi Oscar
    There is new release for Quadcopter FX simulator on android which supports Google Cardboard VR where you can Look around in 3D environment and see your quad flying as in real life. Also the FPV experience with google cardboard is simply amazing. You guys will forget PC simulators after trying that.

    Reply
  22. yokota

    nice review!I just worried about flight-simulator for multicopter.
    I wanna translate this into Japanese.
    I’ll try heli-x have free version. thank you.

    Reply
  23. Prebster

    Have you had a look at this one??
    fpv-freerider.itch.io/fpv-freerider

    Haven’t tried it myself yet, but it looks good! :-)

    Reply
    1. vbalko

      I have bought freerider FPV and have to say, that its AWESOME. Very realistic (not ultimately, but its simulator no real life). It costs few bucks and you get updates every other day. I really recommend it.

      Reply
  24. sipa

    AerosimRC can be made to work with tweaking config files manually

    C:ProgramDataAeroSIM_RCConfig.txt

    Here’s example of my Elev and Ail channels for thrustmaster T,16000

    .TX_CAL_CONTROL_TYPE_0 5
    .TX_CAL_VAL_MIN_0 0
    .TX_CAL_VAL_MED_0 8192
    .TX_CAL_VAL_MAX_0 16383

    .TX_CAL_CONTROL_TYPE_1 5
    .TX_CAL_VAL_MIN_1 0
    .TX_CAL_VAL_MED_1 8192
    .TX_CAL_VAL_MAX_1 16383

    To figure out which channels is which I calibrated the channels with say Elev middle 142, Ail middle 176, and then looked them up in the config file, and edited the values to match what the joystick is actually doing.

    Reply
  25. John Savelli Jr.

    good review, I have been practicing with clearviewSE version using a Sky Surfer 54in wingspan and followed mods in youtube it flys great for the price. best money I ever spent. I’m sold on simulators and thanks for pointing me in the direction to save me time.

    Reply
  26. Chiggz

    Real Flight 7.5 is great. The quads in it feel good to fly, and it really helps with the muscle memory. You can even download the CY Stingray a collective pitch quadcopter. Owners of the real thing who have used the sim say its pretty much spot on to how it feels in real life. I’ve flown it in the sim (and I have one IRL, but haven’t flown it yet) and if it really does handle like it does in the sim, I’m going to have a lot of fun. :D

    Using the sim helped me go from auto leveling mode to rate/acro modes when flying, just helped with how the quad handles and such and improved my reactions to certain situations.

    You’ll still need to compliment real flying with it to be truly good, but its handy having a good sim there to quickly fly for 10mins here and there in-between dinner or heading out.

    Reply
  27. Benjamin

    What about picasim I use it and it is great? I have never flown outside this sim it has a quad in it rowlhouse.co.uk/PicaSim/
    There is also smartpropoplus.com/site/ for controllers that use an aux port like headphones can be used like a regular controller

    Reply
  28. Travis

    How about Quadcopter FX for andriod?
    play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.Creativeworld.QuadcopterFX&hl=en

    Can pair with a ps3 dualshock

    Reply
  29. Ray

    I think Sims are crap and total waste of time.

    1.- Buy a micro/nano quad… I have the Nano QX FPV, it’s pricey SPECIALLY in my neck of the woods. Oh and it only flew well for the first week, I replaced the props and motors ($$$) but it still flies wrong so I sent it for repair 3 weeks ago but they say there’s nothing wrong with it.

    2.- Build a strong basher quad. I have an Armattan 355 frame + Naze + Scorpion 2208 kv1050/8×4.5 props (old GAUI 330X) and this thing is virtually indestructible. I’ve had to yank it out of the ground and the props bent all the back… straightened them out and it flew again… best RC toy ever!

    Reply
    1. Ummmmm

      Ummmmm…. I don’t really see the point in your comment and couldn’t disagree more with the little you elaborate… I think a simulator gives a lot of good times and helps you a lot to get into Acro mode WITHOUT spending tons of dollars into props.

      I do agree in buying a nano, and don’t understand your complains. It sounds like you didn’t spend enough time setting up your controller properly, or trying to understand the quad.

      I made the mistake of going directly with a big quad. I enjoy smaller quads better and the sim takes a lot of time, when it’s late and I just want to fly. The sim lets you play with configurations on the quads much faster, so when you want to adjust a real quad it doesn’t take you as long either.

      Reply
    2. fl0PPsy

      I completely disagree that Sims are a waste of time. A sim is a very good way to start learning without constantly having to buy spare parts.

      I learned the basics of flying a Heli way back when Realflight 3.5 was the latest. It teaches you orientation and the basics of throttle control.

      I think a Sim and Real life practice will help someone progress much faster than just real life flight time on its own.

      Reply

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