There’s a common saying that practice makes perfect. Concise and correct. But, when you’re practicing drone flying, you’ll most likely experience a steep learning curve. Considering that one bad crash will most likely damage your drone beyond repair, the risk far outweighs the reward in this case.
Luckily, there’s a simple way to avoid this, and that’s to practice your skills in a safe and risk-free environment. While flying a drone simulator isn’t quite the same as the real thing, if you choose a top simulator, it’s pretty close. In this article, we’ll discuss the top drone simulators in 2021 and share with you helpful tips on how to pick the best one based on your personal preferences.
What is a Drone Flight Simulator
The name pretty much gives it away. A drone flight simulator is a software program built to simulate the feel and experience of flying a real drone by using an actual drone controller to operate the virtual drone. Most drone simulators are targeted towards desktop users, primarily PC ones. If you plan to purchase and run a drone simulator on a device other than a PC, we thoroughly recommend checking the compatibility specs to make sure it will work on your device.
Today’s drone simulators have come a long way since the early days. Nowadays, you can customize your simulation experience and environment to prepare for any possible situation you might face when taking your drone out for a real fly. There are many different simulators available, focusing on specific aspects of drone flying (e.g., drone racing). With all of this in mind, let’s discuss another vital topic of drone simulators.
How to Pick the Best Drone Flight Simulator
Much like other simulator software, drone flight simulators are often viewed only as games. While this is inherently true, they are games that teach you useful skills that you can apply in real life. With that in mind, when deciding on a drone flight simulator, you have to choose based on your needs and personal preferences. Here are the four most important things to consider when picking the best drone flight simulator:
If you’ve already purchased the drone you want to practice for, consider choosing a simulator that would allow you to hook up your actual remote controller you’ll be using for the drone you bought. This is without a doubt the best way to practice, as you’ll be able to learn precisely how your new drone will react to every move when you take it out for a real flight.
If you don’t have a drone or any specific requirements regarding the controller, you can also use a standard keyboard to fly the simulation drone. This is not as useful as the previous option, but you’ll still get some practice and get a feel for the environment.
If you haven’t yet bought a drone, look for a drone flight simulator that offers a long list of featured models. This will allow you to experiment with many different drones before deciding on a product you like the most.
By comparing lighter and smaller drones to those that are less portable but sturdy, you’ll be able to determine what type of drone flyer you are and which drone fits you best. On the other hand, if you already have a drone, and want to practice flying it in virtual reality, make sure to check whether the simulator you’ve chosen features your model.
Variety of Scenarios
No matter which simulator you choose, you can expect most of them to provide you with an open environment where you can fly around and practice your controller skills. That said, if you want something more than that, you’ll have to pay attention to the specific features a simulator can offer.
We recommend you opt for a drone simulator that offers a well-balanced set of scenarios and environments where you can practice and hone your skills. This includes everything from basic maneuvers for beginners to more challenging scenarios suitable for experienced drone flyers.
Ultimately, all of the above factors are only limited by how much you’re willing to spend on them. Drone flight simulators can range from a couple of bucks to several hundred dollars, so the good news is that you won’t have any shortage of options when choosing.
If you just want to dabble in it, you can choose a simulator closer to the lower price range. But, if you’ve purchased an expensive drone and want to practice all scenarios before you take it outside, it’s always best to spend a bit more to get the necessary peace of mind of flying it comfortably.
The Five Best Drone Simulators
We’ve picked the five best drone simulators based on the four criteria we discussed above. Let’s take a closer look at each of the five best drone simulators on the current market:
The droneSimPro is an excellent low-cost option for those looking for a highly-customizable software. It also includes realistic scenarios, such as house fires, making the flying experience incomparably more exciting. You can customize both areas and the drones themselves and enjoy a custom flight experience with real geological features and terrain.
Considering just how feature-rich it is, it comes at a very affordable price of just $29,99. What’s more, during special sales on their site, you can get it for as low as $9,99. This is a nominal price to pay for how much value you’re getting in return.
DJI Drone Simulator
When it comes to the drone industry, DJI is the absolute and undisputed leader. They can’t afford not to be competitive in such an important market that are drone flight simulators. If you’re interested in purchasing a DJI drone, or you already own one, opting for the DJI drone simulator is the best way to go about learning the ropes of flying one of their drones.
This simulator comes in three versions – free, enterprise, and energy. Although the latter two versions come packed with great features, the free version is more than enough to practice your skills if you’re a casual consumer drone user.
It’s relatively basic but features all DJI consumer drones. Considering that, practicing on the DJI flight simulator can be extremely useful to get a feel of how their drones fly before you try it in the real world.
RealFlight RF9 Drone Flight Simulator
Real Flight Simulator isn’t only a drone simulator but an all-around software suitable for all enthusiastic pilots. The latest RF9.5 version promises to deliver the most realistic experience yet. With more than 170 featured aircraft, including drones, airplanes, and helicopters, this software provides excellent learning value and great entertainment value.
You can browse between 40 different sites and edit your aircraft in near-infinite ways. Plus, with extra game-like features such as challenges, multiplayer more, and VR compatibility, RF9.5 provides you with an authentic drone flying experience.
Of course, all of this comes at a slightly higher price than some other simulators on this page, as the digital version starts at $99. You can also purchase one with a dedicated controller, which will cost you around $180.
Zephyr Drone Flight Simulator
Unlike the previous simulator on our list, the Zephyr drone flight simulator was purposely designed to provide drone pilot training and education. Suitable for both newbies and professionals, Zephyr is more nuanced than other simulators and focuses on teaching its fliers how to operate a drone as close as possible to the rulebook. Even their flight modules are conducted under the latest FAA rules.
Zephyr drone simulator prices range from $15 up to ten times as much. However, you can also try out the simulator for free and enjoy practicing drone flying on a couple of basic scenarios.
DRL Drone Racing Simulator
The Drone Racing Simulator is one of the most affordable ones you’ll find around. Priced around $10 depending on your location, you can find it for even less on Steam if you purchase it during one of their sales. The DRL drone racing simulator offers you a lot of bang for your buck. With 24 unique maps, 18 real-life DRL courses, and 140 obstacles, you’ll have your hands full with weeks worth of flying.
There are also 54 mission tutorials that go from basic to advanced, making this simulator an excellent choice for all drone flyers. If all of this wasn’t enough, you can custom design and optimize your dream drone by going through more than 120 million possible combinations. At its price range, this drone flight simulator is unbeatable.
Best Drone Simulators – A Brief Sum Up
As a beginner drone pilot, flying on your own can be intimidating, especially if you’ve just bought a new drone and want to keep it damage-free. Even if you’re an experienced drone pilot, drone flight simulators offer a risk-free environment to practice complex and challenging maneuvers.
With the detailed information we share with you on this page, you’re now equipped with all of the knowledge you need to pick a suitable drone flight simulator. They are worth every penny, so make sure to get one to practice your skills with zero risks.