In this article we will talk about some of the best flight simulators for quadcopter FPV. There are already many simulators for heli, fixed wing and glider, and we’ve begun to see more and more multirotor FPV Sim designed specifically for Drone Racing and FPV Free-style, some of which are even free!
FPV Simulators allows you to practice flying on a computer 24/7 under any weather condition, without damaging your quadcopter. Either 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 drone flight simulator, you need to make sure to have a radio transmitter 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! However, I strongly recommend using a proper TX, that’s how you get the most benefits from the training and build up muscle memory.
Connect your TX to Computer
Picking a transmitter that has an 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 it to a computer with a mini USB cable, it would simply show up as a game Joystick in Device Manager.
Some TX such as the Turnigy 9X doesn’t have an USB port. They might require an USB simulator adapter. The USB end goes into your computer and the 1/8″ stereo/mono jack into the training port in the transmitter. Do your research for the particular transmitter you have.
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. 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|
|Hot Props||Free||Yes||Yes||No||Windows, Mac||Website|
|DRL Racing Simulator||Free||No||Yes||No||Windows, Mac||Download|
Read on to learn more about these FPV sims.
Cheap 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 the physics in the game, such as gravity, drag, quadcopter power etc. You can also change camera tilt angle, and FOV. In the free version you can’t change any settings, and only limited to one map.
FPV Freerider used to be one of my favorite quadcopter simulators. The physics is acceptably realistic and it’s good for beginner practicing. However, the rate system has always seem a bit slow to my taste. It doesn’t have “super rate” which I feel the quad always spins too slow in acro flying. Also the lack of support for multiplayer lets a lot of people down.
Furthermore I always feel like there is more delay in the stick input with Free-rider. It’s not a massive problem, but I can just feel it.
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
Great configurator and part system, but feels “floaty” and needs a very good computer to run it.
Liftoff is backed by ImmersionRC, and it’s designed specifically for mini quad FPV. Liftoff is the first to come up with the “parts system” that allows you to change components and settings just like in the real world.
They have also made the rate/expo behave so much like a real quad does. Liftoff also tried to implement the PID system like the one in Cleanflight or Betaflight. It’s a good idea but it’s a fail because it just doesn’t work like the real one and they seem to have unexpected results. In the end you are better off to just leave them at default.
It has improved significantly in terms of physics over the years. But still, I found it to be really “floaty”, and I can’t say it’s most realistic sim out there. You cannot change any of the physics in the game. Also it doesn’t detect crashes very well, most of the times I have to lean over to the keyboard and reset the game manually.
Liftoff is also the most graphically intense sim in the list. Many people complain about the performance to be “choppy” and “slow”.
Lastly I found Liftoff to have the most frequent updates in all FPV sims. When I wanted to have my weekly 20-min practice, and there was a new update and had to wait 10 mins for it.
Here is an video of me flying this Sim recorded on my FPV goggles’ DVR. I had my Taranis and FPV Goggles connected to the computer.
My Go-To FPV sim at the moment. Hands down.
In VelociDrone there are many known real-life drone models you can choose to fly. You are able to change the physics of the game, such as gravity, drag, quadcopter power etc.
I got to say this sim feels very realistic to me, probably one of the best in that aspect. (Apparently it uses Betaflight codes)
The fact that you can make adjustments to your PIDs and rate just like in Betaflight, changeable FOV and camera angle, and that it uses your TX’s full range of motion without having to use offsets speaks volumes in my opinion. Great track editor too, tracks load fast, in multiplayer you can jump between races and freestyle in one session, have voice chats, even changes courses.
DRL Racing Simulator
Fun game for FPV pilots, but not real enough to be a simulator.
DRL is free and allows multiplayer. But physics is probably the worse in all the Sim’s we have mentioned. Way too much drag and under-power. It feels like flying a quad that weighs 1kg with tiny motors on. (Edit: apparently they based their simulator model on the real quads used in the DRL events, which indeed weigh 1KG each, which I think is a mistake)
Anyway, the maps and scenery is probably the best out of all Sim’s I have tried. You get tall buildings, shipyard, abandon factories etc all in one single map! It allows you to reset the quad’s position, or race with your TX switches and it’s really handy.
Not the best sim, but It’s a fun game… Definitely give it a try since it’s free :)
Here I am having fun diving buildings, and trying one of the race tracks…
Expensive – from someone who hasn’t tried it.
Previously known as FPV Event, is another known FPV simulator. I’ve heard it’s a great sim, and has some of the tracks in past racing events. Originally they were selling it for £40, later on they changed the pricing to the £4 monthly subscription model which makes it even more expensive IMO. I haven’t tried it due to this reason.
The graphics is not the best, and I often get lost in orientation easily after a roll, because the landscape is over simplified.
It offers self-level mode and acro mode. The only available quadcopter model is a Phantom in the free version. But it’s all good, you can do FPV and practice with it. It’s not that realistic, but I still prefer the physics in this game over the Phoenix. The Phantom in Heli-X feels powerless, doesn’t have the punch like the mini quad in real life.
This software is built specifically with multicopters in mind. But I still finding it lacking basic functionality, such as PID tuning etc.
Graphics looks quite good, however like most of 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).
- Big variety of models.
- Allow FPV
- Ability to create FPV tracks/scene based on satellite image and geo-referenced it by two sets of coordinates. Also the ability to load terrain elevation data from .hgt file.
- Training mode for beginners with progress tracking and nice exercises.
- OSD plugins for FPV mode with the ability to load external OSD plugins and to change OSD settings as they are in the real OSD system that’s being modelled in the plugin.
- amazing control over model characteristics in a way that imo enables u to get real close to your real model behaviour including flight time based on weight and battery capacity.
- Big variety of flight modes available including ALT hold, heading hold, course lock, auto stable and more.
- Control over wind settings.
- Realistic Physics
- Built-in scenes get really boring after a while
- Price is really expensive (about 90$)
- Rare updates and slow development, for such an expensive product
- 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 big variety of features to play with. It feels like its more for basic flying skills and aerial photography training, for those who do racing might find it boring after a while.
Finally… Build/Buy a Tiny Whoop to learn FPV on :D
Simulation are getting better, but it is different from the real thing. Getting out there and fly is the best way to learn and enjoy! Another cheap way to learn FPV is building a Tiny Whoop :)
Article created in March 2015, last updated 19 Feb 2017.
- March 2015 – Article created
- Feb 2017 – updated, added Velocity Drone and FPV Event
- June 2017 – updated and edited FPV Event name/price change