As the popularity of FPV drones rises, numerous simulators have emerged. I’ve done some research to find out the best FPV drone simulator so that you don’t have to. Here are the 7 most promising FPV simulators available in the market.
What is an FPV Simulator?
An FPV simulator is basically a software that allows you to fly an FPV drone, as if you are flying one in real-life. Most of the simulators run on a PC.
Why Should I Use An FPV Simulator?
If you are new to drones, especially FPV drones, using a simulator can save you a lot of money! Why is that so?
FPV racing and freestyle drones are very different from the conventional drones in a sense that you will be using acro or manual mode. You will definitely crash, a lot. Each crash adds damages to your drone, and you will have to replace or repair your drone very often, which can cost you a fortune!
In contrast, a drone simulator costs you as low as $10. Some are even free! Investing some money and time on a good simulator helps you to pick up some skills and reduces the likelihood of crashes.
Even if you are not flying in acro mode, you will definitely benefit from the simulator by flying in a safe and virtual environment.
Many professional FPV pilots are also using simulators to improve their skill. While flying on the real-life drone is always preferred, it is impractical to train for long hours using the real drone. That is due to the cost and efforts associated with maintaining multiple batteries (since each battery lasts only about 5 minutes) and replacing wear and tear that will happen faster.
With a simulator, you can train at any time and anywhere you want. You can do that on a rainy night on your comfortable coach when you are back from work. Trust me, you don’t want to do that with your real drone!
If you are racing, sometimes it is difficult to find someone to compete with. With a simulator, you can always find someone to race with you, without the need to secure a suitable venue and enough participants.
You can also test out your build or try a drone that you plan to buy using a simulator. That will give you a feel on its performance before you proceed to buy it.
What Should I Consider When Choosing An FPV Simulator?
If you want to buy a simulator for training, there are 5 things to consider:
Why do you need a drone simulator? Do you need it to hone your skill to win races? Do you need it to learn basic maneuvering? Or, do you want to learn specific applications, such as cable inspection or mapping?
Each simulator has a different target audience. For instance, some are specific for racing where it incorporates real-life racing tracks and allow you to compete with other pilots through multiplayer mode.
Meanwhile, some are for commercial training, which offer scenarios and application-based training. Make sure you get one that is tailored for your needs.
The main purpose of simulation is to improve your skill. And for that, you should choose a realistic simulator.
Many reputable simulators out there are made to be as realistic as possible, using the data collected from each quadcopter or component. Some simulators even incorporate the effect of wind so that you are more ready to fly your drone outdoors, especially for commercial purposes.
Bear in mind that none of the simulators can give you a 100 % “real” experience. The point of using a simulator is to learn the skill so that you can handle a real drone better. So, just pick any of the reasonably realistic simulator listed here and use it.
Radio transmitter Support
A good drone simulator must allow you to use a real-life radio transmitter to control your drone virtually. That allows you to build muscle memory that can be translated to real-life application.
If the simulator allows you to use only the keyboard and gamepad, forget about it. You can’t bring over whatever you’ve learnt from keyboard and gamepad to real FPV drone. Such simulator serves as a game, and it is not worth your time unless you just want to play games.
Always use a radio transmitter when you practice in simulators! Check out my guide if you need help finding the best radio transmitter.
Drone choices and level of customization
The good thing about simulation is you can try a lot of different drones or components without owning it.
Certain simulators allow you to virtually build your drones based on real-life components. In those simulators, you can build an identical clone of a drone that you own. This can make your training even more realistic, since different components behave differently.
Some simulators, however, offer only very limited drones and level of customization. These are usually RTF drones.
If everything else is equal, I would definitely go for the 1 with higher levels of drone varieties and customization. However, if you are only looking at RTF drones, such as DJI, or if you are only interested in industrial applications, then this shouldn’t be a big concern for you.
The cost of a drone simulator can be as cheap as $10. Some are even free. Simulators for commercial use would definitely be more expensive.
The indirect cost that most people often not notice, is the cost of your device used to run the simulator.
I am sure that everyone has a phone (or 2), but not everyone has a computer. Even if you have a computer, it might not be Windows or Mac. And even if it is on Windows or Mac, it might lack the required spec to run simulators.
Some of the simulators are graphic heavy. You will need a decent graphic processing unit and enough memory and space to run them smoothly. If you have an office-purpose laptop, you probably need to upgrade it to run those simulators. Or, choose a simulator that is not so graphic heavy.
7 Best FPV Simulators for 2023
|Racing/ Freestyle||Racing/ Freestyle||Racing/ Freestyle||Racing/ Freestyle||Racing/ Freestyle||Racing/ Freestyle|
|Price as low as||$20||$10||$30||$17||Free||$20||$5|
|Platform||PC, PS, XBOX||PC, PS, XBOX||PC, PS, XBOX||PC||PC||PC||PC|
Liftoff – Best FPV Drone Simulator for Beginners
Liftoff is one of the most popular drone flight simulators and games. It runs on PC, PS, and XBOX.
Liftoff costs only $20 on Steam and supports radio transmitters on PC. The developer is currently working on transmitter support on console. If you want to run the simulation on console, wait till the transmitter support goes live.
In Liftoff, you can race with other players using your customized drones on thousands of real-life and customized tracks to hone your skills. The performance of every component available in the Liftoff is simulated based on both real life test results and/or calculated through computational fluid dynamics. Even the video signal strength and battery performance are simulated in the game.
There are 4 Liftoff products at the moment: the FPV Drone Racing for PC, Drone Racing for console, Liftoff Academy for industrial application (which is priced differently), and Liftoff: Micro Drones, featuring indoors simulation with micro drones.
If you are a total beginner in FPV drone, Liftoff’s tutorial can definitely help you to start from 0.
Visit Liftoff’s website to learn more.
The Drone Racing League Simulator – A Real-Life Career-Building FPV Simulator
The DRL simulator is yet another popular drone simulator and game. It is also one of the 2 simulators that can offer you an FPV racing career, if you are really good. Join the game, score the highest, and get drafted to the real life competition.
Available on Steam at only $10, the DRL simulator supports radio transmitter input. It recently made its way to PS and XBOX, without transmitter support though. If you want to be serious, buy the PC version.
The DRL simulator boasts the most realistic physics. The developer uses the real data from their bench test and transforms that to in-game/simulator performance.
In terms of customization, you are able to build your own drone from various parts, which you can then copy in the real world. This simulator is also the only place where you can fly the DRL exclusive drones.
Much like Liftoff, DRL simulator offers thousands of downloadable real-life and community-designed tracks. You can also create your own track. That allows you to prepare yourself by practicing on the tracks used in races that you are participating in.
If you are totally new in FPV, DRL simulator has a series of step by step tutorials to guide you operating the drone.
Here’s the link to the DRL simulator website.
Drone Champions League the Game – The Best FPV Simulator on Console
Overall, DCL the Game is not as popular as DRL or Liftoff. But it is a great alternative if you want to get a chance to start a career in FPV racing. Similar to the DRL simulator, you can compete in the DCL game, score the highest, and get drafted for real life competition!
The best part about DCL is, you can run it on your PS with a radio transmitter! This is very useful for PS owners who don’t own a high spec computer!
DCL, the game is available on Steam and consoles. Both platforms support radio transmitter input without expensive third party hardware. It is slightly more expensive than DRL Simulator and Liftoff though.
The level of customization in DCL is very limited. In fact, you are limited to DCL-specific tracks and drones. That means you can’t train on the track used in MultiGP, for example.
The Game lacks a systematic step by step tutorial. If you are a total beginner, you might want to consider Liftoff or DRL simulator instead.
Visit DCL’s homepage for more information.
Velocidrone – Best Drone Simulator for Community Races
Velocidrone is a realistic FPV simulator for PC. All the quadcopters available in the simulator are tested so that they behave as realistic as possible in simulation.
There isn’t much that you can customize in Velocidrone. The choices of drones you can use are rather limited. You can download various tracks from the website though.
The Velocidrone supports radio transmitter input. It is not graphically demanding compared to Liftoff/DRL/DCL, and hence you don’t need a beast to run it. Obviously, you shouldn’t expect graphics comparable to those 3 simulators.
The Velocidrone community often organizes races that you can participate in and test your skill. That should keep you occupied, especially if there isn’t any races nearby.
You can buy Velocidrone from its website.
Orqa FPV.SkyDive – Best FPV Drone Simulator for FREE
The list isn’t complete without FPV.SkyDive from Orqa, the best analog FPV goggle manufacturer.
FPV.SkyDive is rather new. It runs on PC and is downloadable on Steam, for free. At this stage, this simulator doesn’t offer much in terms of customization. If you want, you can buy its DLC to unlock more tracks.
Having said that, you would definitely learn how to fly a drone from this simulator. What is more important than that, especially from a free simulator?
It is worth noting that FPV.SkyDive is an early access simulator. The developer relies on users’ feedback to further improve it and build more features. I am sure that FPV.SkyDive has more to offer in the future.
FPV.SkyDive can be downloaded here.
AI Drone Simulator – The Only Drone Simulator that Reads Your Black Box
AI Drone Simulator was released in 2021, and it quickly attracts a lot of pilots. Thanks to the level of customization in the simulator, you can simulate as if you are flying a real drone. It even allows you to upload the data from your black box to make the simulation more realistic!
At the moment, AI Drone Simulator only allows single player. I understand that multiplayer is in the development road map, without a definitive timeline though. Let’s look forward for that.
Note that there is no step by step tutorial for beginners who are totally new in FPV drone. You’ll have to explore how to operate the drone by yourself.
FPV Freerider – Best FPV Drone Simulator for Low Spec PC
If you are running an old PC with a meagre Graphic Processing Unit, the FPV Freerider is definitely your go-to option. FPV Freerider is a simple drone simulator which allows you to get into simulation quickly. The interface is simple with limited tracks, and there is no fancy stuff. But it gets its job done.
If you have a high end PC, don’t get this! You will be disappointed with its graphic!
The Bottom line
No single simulator is truly realistic. In terms of the flight physics, some people swear that Liftoff is the best simulator, while some say DRL is the best. Some describe Liftoff as trash, and some claim Velocidrone is the best simulator. It all boils down to personal preference.
The simulators listed here are, in my opinion, pretty realistic in their own perspective. You will need time to adjust to the physics in the simulator to get used to it.
Each simulator also has its strengths and weaknesses. I hope this guide helped you to make a better decision in choosing your drone simulator.
With the latest EdgeTX update, there is an improvement in USB connection latency. To better enjoy the simulator, make sure you upgrade your radio transmitter with the latest EdgeTX firmware.