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.
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).
[Interested in becoming a commercial drone pilot? Learn more about the FAA’s Part 107 certification process here.]
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+.
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.
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.
*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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For more information on controller compatibility visit this page on the RealFlight website.
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.
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.
Learn more about the DRL SIM 3.0 Racing Drone Simulator here.
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.
We hope you found this guide to drone flight simulators helpful. Blue skies and safe flying out there folks.