Are you up for some drone flying experience? You may buy a drone for as low as $100 or you can build one for yourself through a drone kit. Then add a first person view (FPV) control gear to see where your drone is headed to. However, you may suffer ugly crashes that will destroy your gizmo if you’re not that skilled with it. Flying an expensive drone for the first time can really be nerve wracking. You might need a simulator to train yourself first. We, Gizmo Snack, will provide here a list of the best drone simulators for you to enjoy. Some of these come for free and some can be bought for a fee. Yet why not use simulators first? These add confidence when you use a real drone. These are now getting better in simulating real life scenarios. Note that they will never replicate all factors faced when you fly a real one, but is this their purpose?
FPV Freerider App
We know you’re getting a little iffy about spending money on a simulator, so here’s an application that costs under ten dollars. Well, do not expect wonders, but it provides the bare essentials of flying a drone. It also comes with a free version, hence, you can just test the waters first before shelling out your bucks.
This simulator features line of sight (LOS) and FPV (first person view) flying. The app also gives options for the user to engage in self-leveling, acro-mode and 3D flight mode. However, it does not come with a controller so you have to buy a separate USB controller or a RC radio. Several improvements were made since its initial launch. Now, you can now manipulate a bit of the drone’s flying environment. Calibration is also fixed, and so are the general aesthetics of the app.
FreeRider App is compatible with Mac, Windows and Linux, albeit the Linux version is still experimental at the moment. Note that it only runs smoothly with PCs that have powerful processors. If you don’t own one of these, you will have to adjust the resolution to get a better frame rate.
The free version is pretty much the dumbed down version of this simulator. It only contains one scenery, limited controls and a quadcopter with sluggish specs. Well, if you simply need the basics of drone simulation, this won’t hurt your purpose that much.
Heli X UAV Flight Simulator
This simulator is originally intended for helicopters but also has drone flight capabilities. The main developer of Heli-X thought of realism in flight so your virtual drone will adhere to physics and mathematical laws. They claim that its preset video engine is written from scratch.
Several effects were incorporated for better realism, such as transitional lift, stall, ground effect and others. There are also several training courses where the player must hurdle in order to learn. Since the main developer of this simulator has an experience in actual flight, he made training session which are designed to be fun. This software is available on Windows, Mac and Linux. Moreover, the firm has a regular interaction with its users so it improves the software during updates.
Heli-X costs $55.00 which is fairly mid-range, but it also comes with a free demo version. You may want to try that first before buying it. However, you might need a USB controller or an interface for your transmitter to make this simulator work. Your keyboard and your mouse will not do.
Phoenix Flight Sim
How about a drone simulator that has a multi-player mode? Actually, Phoenix Flight Sim is one of the oldest and most popular ones in the market today. It was also the one of the first simulators that has actual multi-rotor models that were based on real-life aircraft engines. That goes on to say that you will also experience a realistic flying virtual experience thanks to its physics-based approach.
Moreover, you have 150 drone (or helicopter) models to choose from, many of which replicated the looks of the originals. This simulator also has over 25 gorgeous scenarios thanks to their High Definition Photo-field technology. The company also developed a technology where you can go as far you want to, with the distance being measured. These two say a lot, since Phoenix has years of reputation on its sleeves on drone simulation.
Of course, you can practice taking pictures with this drone simulator. Yet what’s even more exciting about this is its competition mode. There, you can compete with three other real-life pilots. This becomes possible due to its Internet Online Multiplayer system which allows you to meet other users. You may also chat with them using its Chat functionality.
However, this drone simulator is only available in Windows. These grand specifications also come with a high price. Yes, this costs $150, but it comes with a controller. Ultimately, Phoenix Flight Sim has a good value for money despite its price tag.
droneSim Pro Flight Simulator
This drone simulator is perfect for those who are still unsure with a simulator but wants to experience the best of drone flying. For $29.99, it boasts realistic lighting conditions, accurate physics and real flight models. Moreover, this software offers realistic game and sim scenarios. For added bonuses? How about some obstacle courses you have to hurdle through? In its bare basics, it has an open field flight.
Perhaps customizability is its greatest strength. droneSim Pro latest update allows a player to create specific scenarios and pick drone models for their simulation. This could be a game changer, since it gives you the freedom to select a flying environment where you have to adjust your controlling skills. It also uses a custom flight engine that successfully replicates the actual flight. You can simulate flying your virtual drone anywhere in the world and in various altitudes.
The first version includes Phantom 2 and Phantom 3 flight areas. With the update, expect new drone models and flight areas. The firm is also eyeing for remote controllers.
You may download a free version here, but buying the software gives you the full package. It works in most platforms and has also been tested to work in XBOX and Playstation controllers. Again, this software is a good buy in a way that most drone simulators in the market are priced above $ 100.
Our first entries are geared for general quad copter usage. Developed by RC Immersion, Liftoff is specifically aimed for drone racing. Drone racers will surely have fun with this software since it enhances their racing skills without the risk of crashing their drones.
It has pretty visuals and landscape considering its pre-release version price that is just $19.99 on Steam. You can choose to race in various environments like valleys, forests and bales using the drone model of your choice. It is also advised to buy FPV goggles for a more enjoyable experience.
For an added bonus, you may also give suggestions to the developers since this app is still on its earlier phase. RC Immersion notes these updates will synch to the community’s needs. Yet this is not for users who love to take photos or for those who are inclined to general usage. As said earlier, it specializes in drone racing so camera functions are pretty much absent here. Liftoff is compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux, making this an all around simulator in terms of compatibility.
RealFlight Drone Flight Simulator – With Controller
Quality comes with a price, so the best simulator in this list, RealFlight Drone Flight Simulator, also comes off a bit expensive. It sells for $109.99 which comes with an Interlink Elite Controller, hence, batteries and time consuming setups aren’t needed.
You won’t need a keyboard in this case since functions are manipulated using the controller.
If we’re talking about realism, this simulator has the most out of the entries in this list. Through its controller, you will learn camera skills and mastering the camera gimbal operations. You will also have a chance to fly virtual Phantom units and many other prominent drone models. What’s even better with this simulator is you also experience a FPV flight.
You can set the wind conditions and the time you want to simulate drone flying. Of course, it stretches a bit from reality by including game challenges which should leave you excited. The simulator has also a playback feature where you can rewind your flight. It comes off as useful whenever you had a crash, so you can review it to improve your next race. Since you want to improve yourself, you can redo the very instance where your drone crashed (or the spot you missed to take a photo) and correct yourself.
However, this software is not compatible with Apple products. Yet if you’re serious about preparing yourself in drone flying, this is a great buy. That is, once you are willing to pay the price.
How About Some Smartphone Apps?
Assuming you are still hesitant to shell cash for drone simulators, you should probably stick with these smartphone applications. Sure, these aren’t as great the ones above but they still provide a good virtual drone flying experience.
Quadcopter FX Simulator
This comes for free and it prides itself as a simulator than as mobile game. It lets you fly the drone of your choice in your smartphone screen. In fairness to this simulator, it is also based on physics so you’ll still experience realism to some extent. Quadcopter FX Simulator offers FPV, eye level camera, stabilized camera and follow camera. There, you can walk around while flying the virtual drone as if you’re playing Pokemon Go.
Your phone must have at least a resolution of 800 x 400 and a RAM of 1GB to smoothly operate this app. Some users are quite satisfied by this savvy mobile application but they also complain about its difficulty of use. In the end, this is good enough for you to get the gist of a simulator. In fact, it’s quite good for a IOS/Android mobile application.
RC Drone Flight Simulator 3D
From here, our entries become more mobile game-y than simulators. You will just fly a drone in its 3D streets, take photos and annoy the by-passers. Yes – that’s the basic gist of this mobile application. For you to finish the game, you need to get past people who want your drone destroyed.
Delivery Drone Simulator 3D
Delivery Drone Simulator 3D is more of mobile game than a simulator since it throws realism out of the window. The premise goes like this: you will deliver something using your drone and you have to do it in the given time limit. Nonetheless, you are given 20 obstacle course to hurdle for you to finish this game.
These last two mobile applications have no software requirements so you can use this even in your old phone. Honestly, just download them if you only want to skim the surface of drone simulators, since they do not reflect the majority at all. They come for free so you won’t lose anything.
Ask yourself what kind of drone you will get in the future. Are you into racing? Aerial photography? Is this a simple hobby? Also take note if the simulator is compatible with the computer you use. Learn the ropes or maybe buy a cheap drone so you won’t feel bad if it suffers a bad crash. However, you may only use it indoors since small drones aren’t good with strong winds.
Yet in the end, all it matters is your actual experience with your drone. Flying one isn’t easy, especially if it’s your first time. So simulators will really help you succeed in this case.
Do you use a drone simulator? How is it? Voice your thoughts in the comment box and enjoy flying!