In this article we will compare the best simulators for FPV Drone Racing. Quadcopter simulators have been around for decades, but only recently we’ve begun to see decent options designed specifically for drone racing and FPV freestyle flying, some of which are even free!
What’s FPV Simulator?
An FPV simulator helps you learn how to fly racing drones on a computer, any time, any where, regardless the weather, and without damages from crashes.
It’s the best way to practice your flying skills. Whether you are new and still learning how not to crash, or getting the hang of a challenging acrobatic trick, simulators are highly helpful for beginners and advanced pilots alike.
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.
Before Looking into Drone Simulators…
You need a controller for the simulators.
Although you can simply use a gaming console or keyboard for a flight simulator, I strongly recommend using a proper radio transmitter which you will be using to control a drone as well. That’s the best way to build up muscle memory, and get the most benefit from training.
There are two ways of connecting your TX to a computer:
- Some radio transmitters (TX) work with simulation software out of the box, while others might require additional adapter
- Connecting any TX to simulator using a flight controller and radio receiver
Here is a list of popular radio transmitters (TX) for racing drones, some of them are compatible with all the drone simulators directly, while others might require an adapter.
|Radio Transmitter||Adapter for Simulator?|
|Jumper T16||Not Required|
|Taranis Q X7
Taranis X9D Plus
|Turnigy Evolution||Not Required|
Picking a transmitter that has a USB port for computer connection is much more convenient for FPV sim’s. Right now, I think the Frsky QX7, X9D and Flysky Nirvana are all very good radios for mini quad flying. They are also “plug and play” solutions for many computer platforms. When connecting with a USB cable, it simply shows as a game Joystick in Device Manager.
Cheaper TX such as the the Flysky i6 and Turnigy 9X don’t have a USB port and might require a trainer port to USB adapter to work with simulators.
Does Quadcopter Simulator Physics Matter?
Yes, and no.
The physics of a drone simulator is highly a personal opinion. Simulators are getting better and better in terms of how close it is to real life experience, but it will never feel the same.
The point of a simulator is to help the pilots learn how to fly and build muscle memory of certain moves. Just pick a simulator that feel real enough for you with graphics that you like and runs smoothly on your computer. Spend your time on actually practicing and rather than worrying about the physics. :)
Popular FPV Simulators for Racing
Here are some of the most popular flight simulators designed specifically for FPV Drone Racing and Acro Freestyle flying.
|Price||Changeable Physics||Multi-player||Track Editor||Platform||Available on Steam * ?|
|FPV Air 2||$5||Yes||Yes||No||Windows||Yes|
|FPV FreeRider||$5||Yes||No||No||Windows, Mac, Linux||Yes|
|Liftoff||$20||No||Yes||Yes||Windows, Mac, Linux||Yes|
|VelociDrone||$25||Yes||Yes||Yes||Windows, Mac, Linux||No – Website|
|DRL Racing||$20||No||Yes||No||Windows, Mac, Linux||Yes|
|AccuRC 2||n/a||/||/||/||Windows, Mac, Linux||Yes|
* “Steam” is a platform where you can purchase, download and manage games. You can download the software by searching “download steam” on google.
tltr: Pick One of These Sims!
I’ve tried these sims, and for now, my personal favourites are FPV Air 2, Velocidrone and Liftoff.
Let’s dive into each FPV simulator about their features, pro’s and con’s.
FPV Air 2 Simulator
For complete beginners, FPV Air 2 is my recommendation. It’s one of the cheapest simulators out there. The physics is good enough for beginners to get into FPV flying, and learning tricks.
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.
A more polished product with the frequent update and rich content, but takes a decent gaming PC to run
For more advanced pilots, check out Liftoff. It has one of the greatest in terms of graphics and features. 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 change components and settings just like in real life. Although there is still a long way to go to simulate the effects of different drone parts.
You can adjust rates and PID similar to that what you would do with Betaflight in real life. The physics has improved significantly over the years. The developers claim to have invested a great amount of money on developing the code with input from “top pilots”, “flight engineers” and “aerodynamic specialists”.
Liftoff is also the most graphically intensive simulator in the list and 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 simplified the process of binding your transmitter, and 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.
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
If your PC or laptop isn’t great for gaming, consider Velocidrone.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The DRL Simulator
The DRL (Drone Racing League) simulator is interesting – they host online tryout events in the game, and the top pilots can win a paid contract to race real quads professionally in the offline events.
The physics isn’t the best among the list, but it has improved significantly from the previous free versions. One of the main improvements is the modeling of cornering, but the quad still feels under-powered. It feels like flying a really heavy quadcopter powered by tiny motors. (Edit: apparently DRL does 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 a switch on your radio.
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.
Look here I was having fun diving buildings, and trying one of the race tracks…
Too Expensive for an FPV simulator.
Previously known as FPV Event, Rotor Rush is another well known FPV simulator. I have heard good things about it, 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 even more expensive overall. I haven’t tried it for this reason.
Other FPV Simulators
DCL The Game
DCL is a racing drone league and they are developing their own version of racing simulator. I will try this out in the near future.
A new simulator that is being developed. I have been test this for the developer and giving them 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.
LOS Quadcopter Simulator (Line of Sight)
The majority of racing drone pilots can fly FPV very well but lack the skills to fly line of sight, aka LOS. While it might help practicing LOS skills in a sim, it’s might not be as beneficial as learning it in real life.
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
Almost all the FPV simulators allow you to “tune” them like a real quad, PID, rate, physics etc… The goal is to make the drone in the simulator perform more similar to the real thing. However I do think this is a feature for the experienced pilots, since new pilots probably don’t have 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 things you should change are rates and expo, which are the sensitivity of your quadcopter responding to the radio controller sticks. See this post for more detail.
Wearing FPV Goggles in Simulators
Some might ask, would we get the most benefit from simulator practice by wearing FPV goggles. I personally don’t think it makes much of a difference, perhaps you can concentrate better wearing goggles, I normally just fly with my computer monitor for the convenience.
Most high end FPV goggles, such as the Fatshark, have an built-in HDMI input. It allows you to duplicate or extent your computer desktop like an external monitor.
Give it a try and see what you like better.
If you can fly fast in a simulator doesn’t mean you can do the same in real life, you still need a lot of stick times in real life.
One has to recognize the purpose of FPV simulator is to build up muscle memory of controlling a quad with transmitter sticks, and learning new tricks :) Simulators are always getting better all the time, but flying virtually will never replace 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 :)
- 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
- May 2019 – Updated sim reviews, added T16 radio, added section “Wearing FPV Goggles in Simulators”