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Whether you’re new to drone flying or you’re a professional FPV racer, drone simulators are a great tool for maintaining muscle memory and improving your flying skills.
Over the last few years drone simulators, and in particular, FPV drone simulators, have made some strong developments in flight physics.
Here, we’ll take a look at five FPV drone simulators that you can use to keep flying during those long winter nights or add to your flight practice routine. They won’t break the bank either, as some of them are even free!
1. The Drone Racing League (DRL) #
The Drone Racing League (DRL) and its simulator have been around for a number of years now but as the league has evolved so has the simulator.
The DRL simulator is currently one of the cheapest simulators available and is a bargain if you consider the features packed into it. The simulator allows you to select various levels depending on your ability. It also has a range of FPV drones to choose from.
I’ve used this simulator to pilot their DRL Racer 4, and I must say, the physics in the DRL simulator are tough to get your head around, especially coming from using other drone simulators for extended periods. The heavy DRL Racer 4 really struggles to respond to throttle inputs.
However, it does seem to reward smooth flying, which is a great tool for improving flying skills and steady hands.
The graphics on the DRL simulator are very good, and my ASUS TUF Gaming Laptop with Nvidia RTX 3050 GPU doesn’t struggle with maintaining the high frame rates in the DRL simulator.
The DRL Simulator also has one of the friendliest user interfaces of the simulators available today, helping you to set up your radio inputs and get you started easily. It’s great for beginners in that respect.
2. Drone Champions League (DCL) #
Not to be confused with DRL, the Drone Champions League (DCL) is Europe’s premier drone racing series where teams of four take on each other in a mix of team and individual head-to-head races.
A few years ago, DCL partnered with game developer THQ to create DCL The Game. DCL has since used this platform to host several seasons of virtual racing online during the pandemic.
This game is one of the less power-hungry simulators out there, despite generating excellent graphics. My laptop could comfortably churn this simulator out at 165Hz in 1080p, although I did have perceivable lag at 4K.
The frame rate can have an impact on latency in many simulators. However, I haven’t experienced latency quite this bad from other simulators. That being said, at lower resolutions and higher frame rates, the latency is fine in DCL The Game.
This simulator is very much racing-focused, with regular trials being set for pilots to take a chance at joining a professional team.
There are also free flight modes, and the maps are quite large and visually beautiful. However, this simulator has the highest price tag of any of the simulators discussed here.
3. Velocidrone #
Velocidrone is an FPV drone simulator that is highly regarded and very popular among drone racing pilots.
The graphics style in Velocidrone is a bit different from other simulators and games you might have played. However, the drone physics in Velocidrone is arguably the best.
A caveat to that though is that in order to experience low latency and accurate physics in Velocidrone, you will need a high-performance computer, as you need to be running this game at high frame rates for it to provide the best experience.
It could also do with a more beginner-friendly UI. Many features in the game rely on keyboard shortcuts, which can be difficult to remember, and there are no warnings about setting up a controller for first-time users.
However, there are a plethora of tutorials provided by the developer on YouTube and a good community on Facebook and Discord to help new pilots.
Like with DRL and DCL, Velocidrone is quite racing-focused but does provide large maps for freestyle flying. Velocidrone also has a built-in track editor so you can edit scenery and add in a new landscape or racing features.
Velocidrone is the only one of these simulators to offer this feature.
4. TRYP #
TRYP is a relatively new simulator that is more focused on freestyle flying but does offer some racing features.
Being built on Unreal Engine 5, TRYP has stunning visuals and is probably the most feature-rich simulator available today.
TRYP has a number of large expansive maps and even offers pilots opportunities to chase non-playable characters doing action sports.
However, the physics in TRYP is on the fast end of the spectrum. That is to say, the drone acceleration in TRYP doesn’t feel that realistic, especially at higher camera tilts like 50 degrees, which is where I have my camera tilt for racing.
At lower camera tilts, the physics felt OK and make TRYP a great simulator for practicing freestyle moves.
5. Tiny Whoop GO (TWGO) #
Based on the Rotor Rush Simulator, Tiny Woop GO is a free simulator designed to simulate flying small 65-millimeter FPV drones, aka Tiny Whoops.
This is a great simulator for beginners as it starts you off in stabilized mode and allows you to set up your controller straight away.
There are only a few maps but they are interesting to fly around. This simulator also isn’t too intensive on computing power.
There are some racing obstacles set up as well and you can set times to upload to their leaderboard.
The benefits of using a drone simulator #
In a simulator, you can try out new moves, take risks, and become familiar with how a drone will react in some pretty extreme conditions.
You can do this because crashing in the simulator isn’t going to hurt you or your favorite drone. You can then use your simulator skills to fly for real and reduce the risk of crashing your drone on your first flight.
Flying in the simulator may still bruise your ego though. Many simulators encourage racing and other leaderboard-style systems, which have bred some seriously fast racing pilots.
That being said, even if racing isn’t for you, the drone racing simulators we’ve identified here have good options for free flight or freestyle flying.
However, not everyone gets on well with simulators. Even some experienced pilots really struggle with motion sickness from using simulators, so it’s worth testing the waters to see if a simulator is compatible with both your brain and your computer.
There are some tutorials online on how to set up certain simulators to reduce the effects of motion sickness.
This author has been using drone simulators for over five years and has not once suffered from motion sickness from flying in simulators.
» MORE: Best Drone Simulators for Android (with Screenshots)
What you will need to get started #
A gaming controller and a computer will allow you to get started with running drone simulators.
Some of the simulators listed are available on consoles but some consoles only support console controllers rather than the radio controllers that would normally be used for drone flying.
A radio controller will offer a better experience and can be acquired for a small fee.
Your computer will need to have a good CPU at the very least to run some of these simulators. A computer with a relatively recent CPU and dedicated GPU is optimal.
There are simulators available for some mobile devices as well, such as DJI’s Simulator. In that case, you need a newer smartphone model.
Velocidrone and TRYP are probably the better drone simulators of the options discussed here. They provide the closest simulation to the types of drones that most pilots typically fly in real life.
DRL and DCL are based around larger and heavier drones that are specific to their racing leagues, although DRL does offer some other drone options in-game.
On the other hand, TRYP and Velocidrone offer a good range of drones with flight physics to suit each class of drone.
Velocidrone and TRYP also allow users to adjust physics parameters to make the drones feel as similar to your real FPV drone as possible.
Both Velocidrone and TRYP are relatively cheap simulators as well, but if you really just want to test whether your systems can run a simulator then TWGO is an excellent option for doing that. Being free, TWGO is also a good way for educators to bring drone flying to young people.