Best Quadcopter Flight Simulators | Drone Multirotor Trainer

In this article we will compare the best FPV simulators. Computer flight simulators have been around for decades, but only recently we’ve begun to see more options 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 without damaging your quadcopter. Whether you are 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 Flight 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.

Some radio radio transmitters (TX) work with simulation software out of the box, while others might requires additional adapter or hardware.

Here are a list of popular radio transmitter (TX) for racing drones, which are also compatible with all the drone simulators we mentioned in this article.

Radio Transmitter Cable/Adapter for Simulator
Taranis Q X7
Taranis X9D Plus
X-Lite
Horus X10
USB Cable
Turnigy Evolution USB Cable
Flysky SM100 Cable
or “Flight Controller Pass Through
Spektrum
Futaba
Simulator Cable
or “Flight Controller Pass Through

Picking a transmitter that has a USB port for computer connection is much more convenient for FPV sim’s.

I recommend the Frsky Taranis X9D and QX7 not only for being the most popular TX models for mini quad flying, but 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.

Some 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.

You can also connect any TX to simulator using a flight controller and radio receiver.

Does 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, but it will never feel the same.

The point of a simulator is to help one build muscle memory and learn how to fly. 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 not on worrying about the physics. :)

Popular FPV Simulators for Racing

These listed flight simulators are the most popular ones, and they are designed specifically for 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
VelociDrone $25 Yes Yes Yes Windows, Mac, Linux Website
DRL Racing Simulator $20 No Yes No Windows, Mac, Linux Download
RotorRush £4/month Yes Yes No Windows, Mac Website
AccuRC 2 n/a / / / Windows, Mac, Linux Group

tltr: Only these Sims!

I’ve tried most of the sims on the market and I think the choices are down to Velocidrone, Liftoff and DRL.

For features and graphics, Liftoff is the way to go. But it’s also more resource intensive.

If you have an older laptop, you might want to get Velocidrone. You can practice all the same, but the game just runs a bit smoother on slower computers.

These two probably have the best physics and the closest to how a quad would fly in real life. But of course that’s very much subjective and your computer performance can have impact on that too.

DRL has the best graphics IMO, it’s very fun to fly and I really like the ghost lap racing feature in it. The physics isn’t terrible but overall it feels more like a game than a sim.

Here I will dive into a bit more detail about each one.

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. 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.

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

A more polished product with the most frequent update and most content, but takes a decent gaming PC to run

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 in real life.

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. 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 slightly more “floaty” than the real quad I fly.

Unfortunately you cannot change any of the physics in Liftoff . And the game 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. It’s 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”.

Liftoff has recently simplified the process of binding your transmiter, 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.

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

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.

VelociDrones

Great physics, probably one of the most realistic sims. Graphics doesn’t look the prettiest but at least it runs okay on slower PC’s

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 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 is not as good as Liftoff, but the benefit is the more forgiving computer requirements, the menus and tracks all load relatively more quickly. 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.

The Drone Racing League Simulator

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

The Drone Racing League simulator used to be free, but it’s now available on Steam and costs $20. The new Steam version is definitely better than the old free one.

The physics isn’t the best, but it has improved a lot from the old version and it at least doesn’t feel “weird”.

They have improved the modeling of cornering, but the quads still feel 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.

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…

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.

HOT Props

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.

Conclusion

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 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 – Updated reviews
  • Jun 2018 – Tried all sims again and updated reviews; Removed sims that are no longer relevant

58 thoughts on “Best Quadcopter Flight Simulators | Drone Multirotor Trainer

  1. Ollie

    Hi,
    I’ve got an FS-i6 and this simulator cable gearbest.com/radios-receiver/pp_704292.html It’s downloaded all the drivers and shows up on the system and in the sims. The sims (velocidrone and liftoff) aren’t detecting any inputs from the Tx despite the fact it shows up on them. Not really sure where to go from here. Thanks in advance

    Reply
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. 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
  11. 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
  12. 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
  13. 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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  18. 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
  19. 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
  20. 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
  21. 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
  22. 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
  23. 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
  24. 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
  25. 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
  26. 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
  27. 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
  28. 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
  29. 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
  30. 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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