5 Best Drone Flight Simulators for Practicing FPV Flight
Even as an experienced drone pilot, the day you first put on FPV goggles is probably something you won’t forget. Flying in FPV is an experience that is difficult to describe with words – you literally have to experience it yourself to understand why it’s so great.
Still, flying in FPV takes another level of skill and discipline. It can be easy to misjudge just how closely you are flying along and up to obstacles. If you don’t want to crash your drone on your first time flying FPV, here are some flight sims you can practice on.
Liftoff basically has a cult following. As one of the best FPV drone simulators available today, Liftoff has a massive base of active players that comprise of both experienced and beginner drone pilots.
Liftoff is primarily an FPV racing sim, so they hold usual competitive events and leaderboards. However, players can practice without the pressure of competition in their Free Flight and Freestyle modes. The great thing about this drone sim is that it allows you to fail and pick back up at the starting point with a single button.
The variety of experiences in Liftoff is quite satisfying. The sim offers 16 environments to fly in and an array of quadcopter parts that you can mix and match for more than a million different combinations. The flight environments are basically racecourses with a rich density of obstacles so you can refine your flight skills.
One downside of the Liftoff is that it’s still probably a game, which means that many of the drone parts are only accessible once you’ve done specific in-game tasks. This is great if you end up having fun doing these tasks but less so if you just want to build a quadcopter that resembles your real-life drone.
The major area of improvement of Liftoff is probably in its physics. Drones in Liftoff feel a little floaty compared to real-life, which is something you will tend to notice if you fly in FPV both in the game and in the real world. If you’re using Liftoff for FPV practice, keep in mind that this is something you’ll have to compensate for.
Lightweight and inexpensive, FPV Freerider is one of the most popular drone flight sims for beginner drone pilots on account of how cheap it is. This drone flight sim offers both line-of-sight and FPV flight modes, six pre-designed tracks, and an option to fly in a procedurally designed track. Theoretically, this means that you are never going to run out of new environments to play with.
For such a lightweight piece of software, FPV Freerider provides an impressive degree of customization. You can change up how responsive the controls are, how heavy your drone is, and how quickly the camera moves.
FPV Freerider is compatible with a wide range of RC controllers. This helps in developing muscle memory if you can play with the actual controller you’re planning to use with your drone. A benefit of being so lightweight is that FPV Freerider works even on very old computer systems.
As far as criticism goes, a lot of people say that the learning curve of FPV Freerider is very steep. It might even be harder to handle a drone in this flight sim than in the real world. There’s a silver lining in there somewhere, though, as it also means that the transition to flying a real drone would be smoother. It’s better to crash a virtual drone than a real one, after all.
Velocidrone is another drone flight simulator that was designed specifically for FPV drone racing. It’s not a problem at all if that does not appeal to you, as Velocidrone also doubles well as a practice environment for FPV flight.
The experience starts with drone selection. Velocidrone has a lot of options for drones, most of which are facsimiles of drones that you can buy in real life. Each drone comes with pre-set parameters but you’re also free to play around with these values if so desired.
You will then have to choose a track in which to fly. Each track requires you to fly along a prescribed path instead of simply allowing you to roam freely. This is basically the simulator’s way to compel you to practice flying near and around obstacles. The tracks range from large open fields to industrial settings that will have you weaving in and out of scaffoldings, trees, and chimneys.
Despite being labeled an FPV drone racing simulator, Velocidrone is one of those sims that feels like an actual sim and less like a game. Although tracks are timed, they have been smartly designed to really put your flight skills through the wringer. Velocidrone may seem unassuming but it can certainly help you become a better drone pilot.
Popular flight sim franchise is RealFlight is back for another entry in this list. RealFlight has been in the RC flight sim for a long time now and have continuously improved on their product for each iteration they have released through the years.
Our entry for this list is the Trainer Edition of RealFlight. As the name implies, this leaner version of their flight sim was designed specifically for training. It has a somewhat limited selection of aircraft options but makes up for it with virtual flight lessons which were prepared for first-time pilots.
The RealFlight simulator works with many RC or USB controllers, so you should not have a hard time replicating the actual flight experience. A huge advantage of the RealFlight platform is that it’s compatible with many VR headsets. This allows you to mimic the actual experience of flying with FPV goggles.
If you end up really liking the training version of the RealFlight simulator, it can be upgraded to the full RealFlight 9.5 version just by paying the difference. RealFlight 9.5 offers more aircraft, flight environments, and access to multiplayer modes.
The official simulator of the Drone Racing League is surprisingly also a great environment for practicing FPV flight. While it’s not officially a training flight sim, it has some of the best courses and physics out of any drone flight sim out there.
Despite not having real flight lessons, the DRL flight simulator has a very long 54-mission tutorial designed to take you from not knowing how to fly to be able to quickly navigate through their course’s obstacles. The 24 unique maps are packed with detail and have more than enough obstacles for you to practice on over and over again.
Customization is a strong suit of the DRL flight simulator, especially since it has been developed with drone racers in mind. With components that can make more than 100 million combinations, the DRL flight sim might just be your gateway to building DIY drones and getting into real-world drone racing.
The drawback of this drone flight sim is that you may feel like you’re not getting the most of it if you’re into drone racing. There are also features, such as persistent game and event invites, that can get irritating if you’re just using the flight sim primarily for FPV practice.
The cheapest way for you to crash a drone is to do it inside a flight sim. This is sound advice for beginner drone pilots, as well as for those who want to try FPV drone flight for the first time. FPV flight is fun, but it’s not something you can just decide to do one afternoon with zero preparation.
The great thing about drone flight sims is that they’re usually very cheap. Aside from a few high-end titles, you can probably buy a drone flight sim for less than $30. They are well worth the price considering the cost of replacing your propellers (or your drone!) after a crash.