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Top Drone Flight Simulators

Your Guide to the Top Drone Simulators on the Market for 2020

Looking for a drone flight simulator? Or just wondering what drone simulators can do to help you learn how to fly a drone?

The main reason you might want to use a simulator is to improve your flying chops before investing in a more expensive model of drone. Some of the top drones on the market can run from a few hundred to over a thousand dollars, so the last thing you’d want to do is buy an expensive drone only to crash it because you needed to put in more time on the sticks.

In this guide, we’ll cover some basics about how a simulator can help you learn how to fly, and then share our list of the top drone flight simulators on the market.

What Is a Drone Flight Simulator?

A drone flight simulator is exactly what it sounds like: it’s a software program built to simulate the experience of flying a drone by using a real drone controller connected to the compatible device of your choice.

Most drone simulators can run on either a PC or a Mac. It’s important to look at the specs for the simulator you’re considering before making a purchase, so you can make sure it will work on your device.

Some drone flight simulators allow you to customize them for specific flying scenarios, so you can prepare for the exact situations you might face in your drone pilot work. Customizations can include the option to change the drone simulation environment as well as to change the type of drone being used in the drone simulator.

It’s important to note that different simulators will help you learn different types of flying. Drone simulators basically fall into two categories—simulators for learning how to fly drones commercially and simulators for learning how to fly FPV drones for drone racing. All of these simulators can be used by people who are just interested in flying for fun (i.e., recreational drone pilots).

How Much Do Drone Flight Simulators Cost?

Drone flight simulators can be anywhere from $5 to $250. Price really comes down to how robust you want your drone simulator to be.

If you’re just trying to get your feet wet, you don’t need to invest in an expensive simulator. On the other hand, if you’re trying to learn how to fly in specific scenarios for commercial drone operations, spending more on a professional simulator might make sense because it’s a business investment.

Note: In covering prices below, “$” indicates a price range of $50 or less; “$$” indicates a price range of $50 to $100; and $$$ indicates a price range of $100+.

Best Drone Flight Simulators on the Market for 2020

Here are our picks for the best drone simulators on the market. You can use the list below to jump around or scroll down to see the full list.

1. DJI Drone Simulator
2. Zephyr Drone Simulator
3. droneSimPro Drone Flight Simulator
4. Phoenix R/C Pro Flight Simulator
5. Realflight RF9 Drone Simulator
6. Quadcopter FX Simulator
7. DRL SIM 3.0 Drone Racing Simulator
8. Hotprops FPV Drone Flight Simulator

01

DJI Drone Simulator

best for

Professionals, Hobbyists

If you’re interested in learning how to fly a DJI drone then the DJI drone simulator may be your best option.

The DJI simulator comes with multiple POVs, three flight modes, and what DJI calls a “comprehensive physics engine” to replicate the feeling of real flight.

DJI’s drone flight simulator has a robust set of flight scenarios, allowing pilots to practice flying in different commercial situations, such as while conducting a powerline inspection.

The DJI simulator also lets you practice flying several different models of its drones—see the ‘Customizable Drone’ entry below for a full list.

DJI - Introducing DJI Flight Simulator

Overview

  • Devices: Windows PC
  • Customizable Environment: Yes
  • Customizable Drone Type: Yes (Mavic Series, Spark Series, Phantom Series, Inspire Series, Matrice 200 Series)
  • Price: $$$*

*Note: Pricing for both the Enterprise Version and Energy Version of DJI drone flight simulator is not publicly listed on the DJI site, so we are providing our best educated guess about the price range here.

Specs & Details

  • High-quality visuals
  • Multipe POVs
  • Realistic flight experience—wind effects, ground effects, and simulated crashes
  • Three types of training modules—skills training, free flight, and application training
  • Three versions—free trial, enterprise version, and energy version

Supported Controllers

  • Mavic Air
  • DJI Smart Controller
  • Phantom 4
  • Phantom 4 Advanced
  • Phantom 4 Pro
  • Phantom 4 Pro V2.0
  • Matrice 100
  • Matrice 600
  • Matrice 600 Pro
  • Inspire 1 Series
  • Lightbridge 2

Learn more about the DJI drone flight simulator here. If you’d like to download a more limited free trial of DJI’s simulator, here is the link.

02

Zephyr Drone Flight Simulator

best for

Professionals, Hobbyists

The Zephyr drone simulator was purposefully designed around drone pilot education and training.

This means that it comes with built-in classroom management and student progress tracking tools, which allow educators to track the progress that their students make while they use the simulator. An instructor can leverage these tools to see how often a student crashes his or her drone, and to track student progress in order to know whether students have improved over time or if they need more instruction.

The Zephyr drone flight simulator also comes with a constantly expanding library of both training modules and drone platforms, each carefully created with accurate flight characteristics.

Zephyr Drone Simulator Official Trailer 2

Overview

  • Devices: Windows PC or Mac
  • Customizable Environment: Yes
  • Customizable Drone Type: Yes (DJI Phantom 3, DJI Inspire 1, 3DR Solo, Syma X5C, Autel X-Star, Parrot Bebop 2, DJI Mavic Pro)
  • Price: $$$

Specs & Details

  • Comes with a Learning Management System, making it perfect for educators teaching students how to fly drones in a classroom environment
  • Accurate physics, carefully created to reflect the real experience of flying
    Both FPV and VLOS flight modes are available
  • Different modes and styles of flying available
  • Controller/transmitter can be set to any configuration
  • Includes FAA regulations in flying, so pilots are warned for regulation violations while training on the simulator

Supported Controllers

  • Popular game controllers, including XBox 360, XBox One, and Playstation controllers
  • Hobby King 6-CH RC Flight Simulator Controller
  • And several others—see the full list here

Learn more about the Zephyr Drone Simulator or sign up for a free 30 day trial.

03

droneSimPro Drone Flight Simulator

best for

Professionals, Hobbyists

A highlight of the droneSimPro simulator is its custom-built flight engine, which allows the simulator to replicate the real-world physics of drone flight.

droneSimPro also comes with customizable environments and the ability to choose between two drone models, the Phantom 2 or the Phantom 3.

Overview

  • Devices: Windows PC or Mac
  • Customizable Environment: Yes
  • Customizable Drone Type: Yes (Phantom 2 and Phantom 3)
  • Price: $

Specs & Details

  • Realistic lighting conditions/scenarios, including real geological features and terrain
  • Accurate physics and flight models
  • Realistic game and SIM scenarios
  • Software supports USB controllers, including with Xbox and Playstation controllers
  • Drone and pilot views
  • Warnings for loss of VLOS and altitude restrictions

Supported Controllers

  • Xbox One
  • Xbox 360
  • Xbox 360 (Gamestop brand)
  • Playstation 3

Note: The above list is only of those controllers that have already been tested but other controllers may also work. To learn more about controllers for the droneSimPro drone flight simulator visit this page on the droneSimPro website.

Learn more about the SimPro Drone Flight Simulator now or download a demo to try it out.

04

Phoenix R/C Pro Flight Simulator

best for

Professionals, Hobbyists

The Phoenix R/C Pro Flight Simulator has been on the market for some time and has become a trusted brand among drone pilots.

As you’d expect, the Phoenix simulator provides simulations for drones but it also comes with simulations for other remote control aircraft, including planes and helicopters.

The Phoenix drone flight simulator is one of the most expensive on this list, but it’s important to note that the price includes a Spektrum DX6i flight controller.

Overview

  • Devices: Windows PC
  • Customizable Environment: Yes
  • Customizable Drone Type: Yes (over 200 drones, planes, and helicopters)
  • Price: $$$

Specs & Details

  • Interactive flight challenges
  • Fully functional instruments in all cockpits
  • Purchase comes with 2 CDs, 1 Spektrum DX6icontroller, and a 20-page instruction booklet
  • Customizable wind, view, cloud cover, and heat settings
  • All-new airplane physics rebuilt from the ground up and industry-leading heli physics for the ultimate in realism and accuracy
  • Comes with a controller—fully-functional Spektrum™ DX6i 6-channel DSMX® programmable transmitter included with purchase
  • Over 200 accurately modeled and detailed helis, planes, float planes, autogyros and more
  • In-cockpit and chase camera views
  • All-new tutorial videos taught by world-class champion pilots
  • Realistic sounds recorded from actual model engines
  • Dozens of stunning, photo-panoramic club, slope soaring and waterfront flying sites

Supported Controllers

  • Comes with its own controller. Learn more about controller information for the Phoenix Pro Flight Simulator by scrolling down on this page.

Learn more about the Phoenix R/C Pro Flight Simulator here.

05

RealFlight RF9 Drone Flight Simulator

best for

Professionals, Hobbyists

RealFlight makes some of the most practical, detail-oriented drone simulators on the market for helping drone pilots learn how to fly in commercial scenarios. The RF9 is the latest version of RealFlight’s drone simulator, and is touted by the company as “the most realistic flight simulator yet.”

Like the Phoenix simulator, RealFlight’s RF9 provides flying simulation for a variety of aircraft, including not just drones but also planes and helicopters.

You can purchase both the drone flight simulator software and a controller for $179.99, or just the simulator for $99.99 right now on the RealFlight website.

RealFlight® 9 RC Flight Simulator

Overview

  • Devices: Windows PC
  • Customizable Environment: Yes
  • Customizable Drone Type: Yes (over 160 drones, planes, and helicopters)
  • Price: $$$

Specs & Details

  • “True-To-Life” physics that make every flight more lifelike than any other sim
  • Simple and intuitive interface for zero learning curve, zero hassle, and more fun
  • More than 160 aircraft including airplanes, helicopters, drones, and more
  • Over 40 different flying sites including 3D fields and PhotoFields
  • FlexiField™ Site Editor so you can make fields your own
  • The ability to edit aircraft and to import custom aircraft
  • Game-like challenges that make flight training fun and interactive
  • Multiplayer options so you can fly or compete with other pilots online
  • Practice scenarios for various real-world conditions, including day/night, varying wind speed, and varying direction settings
  • Virtual Reality functionality
  • Lessons that develop photography skills in addition to flight skills

Supported Controllers

  • USB 2.0 Port
  • Compatible FM or FM-selectable transmitter

For more information on controller compatibility visit this page on the RealFlight website.

Learn more about the Realflight Drone Simulator here.

06

Quadcopter FX Simulator

best for

Professionals, Hobbyists

The Quadcopter FX drone flight simulator is the least expensive on this list—the app is currently for sale for just $4.99. You can also try a more limited version of the app for free to see if you like it.

Although the Quadcopter FX simulator doesn’t have the same versatility as other simulators, it has been well reviewed by users on Googe Play and could make a good beginner simulator for those just starting out with learning how to fly (or simulate flying) a drone.

Overview

  • Devices: Windows PC or Mac
  • Customizable Environment: No
  • Customizable Drone Type: No
  • Price: $

Specs & Details

  • Simulation is based on real physics modeling of a quadcopter’s flight
  • Different camera types—FPV, stabilized gimbal, follow, and eye level
  • Various settings—Control sensitivity, Auto stabilization, Weight, Static/Dynamic
  • Thrust, Drag, PID, Dynamic Wind, and more
  • Acro/Acro 3D mode
  • Real-time Pitch, Roll, Heading, Altitude and Speed.
  • Compatible with Google cardboard VR

Supported Controllers

  • Works with all standard drone controllers

Learn more about the Quadcopter FX Drone Simulator here.

07

Drone Racing League's SIM 3.0 Drone Racing Simulator

best for

FPV Racing, Hobbyists

DRL’s SIM 3.0 is the latest iteration of DRL’s simulator for FPV drone racing.

In creating this drone flight simulator DRL sought the advice of leading experts on drone flight and conducted exhaustive testing and research. Every battery, motor and prop combination available was tested in order to determine the exact power curves of any potential drone combination.

To make this more concrete, DRL conducted over 5,000 bench tests to create the simulator, creating over 260,000 drone combinations and 2,000 power combinations during these tests.

The bench tests helped DRL collect real data for thrust, torque, RPM, voltage, current, temperature, bell, and so on, and this data was then used to program the SIM 3.0.

Download the SIM. Train. Become a Real DRL Pilot | Drone Racing League

Overview

  • Devices: Windows PC or Mac
  • Customizable Environment: Yes
  • Customizable Drone Type: Yes (various DRL racing drones)
  • Price: $

Specs & Details

  • Precise aerodynamics, including features like unsteady drag, propeller dynamics, and a modular parts database for incredibly precise flight simulation
  • In-depth physics validation
  • Advanced physics features, including yaw and “moment of inertia”
  • Community sharing
  • Customize and optimize your drones in the garage
  • Real-time multiplayer
  • Race real-life DRL courses based on current and previous seasons
  • Training mode allows you to learn and practice new skills
  • Advanced replay system allows you to review your flights

Supported Controllers

  • For best experience, a controller or radio controller are needed

Learn more about the DRL SIM 3.0 Racing Drone Simulator here.

08

Hotprops FPV Drone Flight Simulator

best for

FPV Racing, Hobbyists

The HotProps drone simulator uses real physics data to create its simulated environment for learning how to fly an FPV racing drone.

Although the Hotprops FPV racing simulator is not nearly as robust as DRL’s FPV racing simulator, it has been positively reviewed by users and may make a less intimidating starting point for those who are brand new to using a drone simulator for FPV drone racing.

Overview

  • Devices: Windows PC or Mac
  • Customizable Environment: No
  • Customizable Drone Type: No
  • Price: FREE

Specs & Details

  • Two modes: Acro Mode or SelfLevel
  • Views: FPV or 3rd Person
  • Ability to set up your drone while flying

Supported Controllers

  • Any basic drone controller
  • Play Station 3 and Play Station 4 controllers
  • All Bluetooth-compatible GamePads controllers

Download the Hotprops drone simulator here.

We hope you found this guide to drone flight simulators helpful. Blue skies and safe flying out there folks.

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