FPV drone simulators have become a fundamental aspect of the hobby. As the hobby has grown, so has the number of simulations available. In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about FPV drone simulators, as well as talk about the available virtual drone settings.
Why use FPV Drone Simulator?
For that price, you get unlimited virtual repairs and basic tools to help you become a seasoned professional later on. Regardless of skill level, simulators are used by all pilots without exception, as this is the cheapest and most effective way to train. For example, with the help of simulators, new maneuvers are practiced, which can then be applied in real life with high accuracy and confidence. The video below shows the results of the work of a member of the well-known GetFPV hobby team – Jaco, who first spent 100 hours in the simulator, and only then went on his first real flight. The result is as they say on the face.
What simulators are available?
There are many FPV drone simulators out there. Listed below are 7 of the best that have been acclaimed by many pilots, some of which we personally use or have used in the past. We agree with the opinion that the choice of a simulator is not the main thing, since each of the presented ones copes well with the task assigned to them. It’s more important to stick with one simulator and get used to its unique flight characteristics. However, we recommend that you familiarize yourself with the features of each available simulator to determine what best suits your particular preferences.
1. The Drone Racing League (DRL) Simulator
DRL simulator is by far the most professional one, because the best DRL simulator pilots win a paid contract and a real driver’s place in the league. As in other simulators, there is also a demonstrative physics, graphics, the ability to build a drone, tracks, competition with the best of the best, online chat, scoreboards and much more. The visiting card of the simulator is unique tracks from the DRL TV show.
The Velocidrone simulator is one of the most popular simulators in the hobby and has become the main simulator for many advanced pilots to prepare for the upcoming competitions. This simulator has excellent physics with a high degree of customization. Thanks to the available physics and speed settings, Velocidrone can easily be adjusted to the performance of a real quad. The graphics are not as good as other simulators, but for this virtual simulator, the emphasis is more on flight performance.
3. FPV Air 2
FPV Air 2 is the best value for money. Especially recommended for beginners. It has exemplary physics, decent graphics and many settings. Also in the arsenal there is an “ultra-low” graphics mode that allows you to train on almost any laptop or PC.
Liftoff is arguably the most popular FPV drone trainer. It has amazing graphics, good physics and the ability to choose components to create your own quad.
5. FPV Freerider and FPV Freerider Recharged
FPV Freerider is one of the first available simulators that many, if not everyone, started with. Has fully customizable physics. There are not many preset tracks in the game, but this allows you to improve the quality of piloting by repeating it many times. Freerider also has a mobile version which is a great way to practice away from home.
6. ROTOR RUSH Simulator
ROTOR RUSH Simulator is lesser known than the above simulators, but no less useful in practicing piloting skills. The simulator has a range of unmanned aerial vehicles in its arsenal, from micro-miniature Tiny Whoops and mini quads to large X-class drones. Each one has been carefully tuned by professional pilots to give you the most accurate flying experience possible. A trial version is available for a period of 2 weeks from the date of registration.
7. DCL – The Game
DCL – The Game is a novelty presented on February 18, 2020. The official simulator from the famous Drone Champions League in the world of drone racing. As in the case of the DRL simulator, it gives the opportunity to all registered pilots with the best track times to become part of a team in professional sports. The list of features of the simulator includes realistic physics, high-quality graphics, more than 60 drone variations, the ability to implement a simultaneous race with 30 pilots, more than 27 different tracks. Here everything is set up for you, there is no customization of drones and tracks, which in general relates this simulator more to the game than to the simulator, but nevertheless will allow the beginner to get a general idea of \u200b\u200bflying in Acro mode.
Most simulators can run on fairly simple computers with minimal graphics and physics settings, however a computer with the latest CPU and GPU will be preferred. For computer enthusiasts, the Intel i5 9600K processor and the Nvidia GTX1060 graphics processor will handle all of the above simulators. Newer PC hardware (like Intel i9 or Nvidia RTX2080) will allow simulators to run at higher frame rates and better graphics. A higher simulator frame rate will make movements smoother and more natural. However, if you want to simulate a real first-person flight, you can always limit the frame rate to 30 frames per second.
The control panel is an obvious requirement for a simulator. It is strongly recommended that you use the same controller that you fly or plan to fly a real FPV drone. This approach will allow you to quickly adapt between virtual and real piloting. Controllers can connect to the simulator using a Trainer cable port, a microUSB port (via a regular cable), a wireless dongle (wireless simulator dongle, such as FrSky XSR-SIM), or via your drone’s receiver. All options are visually available on YouTube. How to connect your remote control to the simulator via drone can be found here.
Some FPV goggles, such as the Fatshark Dominator series, have a built-in HDMI input. When connected to a computer via HDMI, the headset can replace the computer monitor. This will allow you to fly in the simulator with your glasses as close to reality as compared to a computer monitor, glasses are more realistic and provide a high level of immersion. Nevertheless, many use the monitor, corny because of the convenience. But we encourage you to try both options and make your own decision.
Regardless of the pilot’s skill level, simulator setup is important. Setting up a drone in a simulator is equivalent to setting up a car in a racing game. Ideally, you should set up your virtual drone to look just like your real quad. For beginners who have entered the hobby without their own drones, you can experiment with the settings, but most of them are recommended to be left by default. Set up a virtual drone according to their preferences, usually it is either realistic or insanely fast flight.
The Rates value is the number one priority in the simulator. These settings determine how quickly the drone will respond to moving the sticks on the equipment more smoothly or sharper aggressively. You will have to experiment with these settings before you get the best result. If you are a beginner, leave this as the default for the first time.
PIDs are the main variables in drone stabilization control. Tuning the PID in the simulator, as with real drones, can make the virtual quad run smoother or more responsive. The simulator PID tuning process is similar to normal PID tuning. If you are a beginner, it is recommended to leave the default PID values.
Gravity is one of the favorite settings of most pilots and can be changed because most simulators provide fairly smooth movement of the virtual drone model by default. It is recommended that you experiment with this setting to find your ideal gravity.
Air Resistance changes the speed at which the drone slows down or accelerates. This is one of the most difficult settings. To adjust these settings, you need to know how airflow affects your actual drone. If the virtual drone is decelerating in a certain direction faster than your real drone, this indicates that the air resistance in the simulator is too high. If the virtual drone does not slow down when the throttle stick is lowered, the air resistance should be increased.
Weight greatly affects the inertia of the drone and how accurate or imposing it will be in flight. It is recommended to experiment with this setting to find what works best for you. A lighter quad will be very responsive to the controls and will fit snugly into steering angles, while a heavier quad will be the smoothest to handle and harder to turn sharply.
Thrust – The thrust setting changes the power of the drone and determines the maximum speed. To tune in favor of realism, it will be better to change it in order to get closer to the behavior of your real drone at the end. Professionals immediately set this value to the maximum. Beginners are advised to leave the thrust at the default value, but gradually increase it over time as the virtual quad will feel slower and slower in flight with more practice.
Air Grip is how efficient the propellers are used to generate thrust. It is recommended that you adjust the Air Grip based on how “cool” your actual drone’s props affect turns. High Air Grip values will result in tight turns with the least drift, while low values will result in wide drifting turns. Freestyle pilots usually want to lower their Air Grip values, while drone racers want the opposite.
How often should I practice on the simulator?
Practice in the real world – due to the lack of free time, this is what we miss the most. And then, to make up for this shortcoming, a simulator comes to the rescue. For example, most pros start practicing in the simulator well before the day of the race, having previously created a copy of the track. Although the simulator is not as realistic as real flight, it is great for improving the memory of the race route on a subconscious level.
Well, for those who have just begun to get acquainted with the hobby, the virtual simulator acts as that lifeline, thanks to which you exclude expensive crashes from practice and at the same time succeed in piloting technique. Therefore, for pilots with zero experience, simulator practice should be a priority, especially in the early stages of training. From which it follows that regardless of the level of experience gained, practicing in the simulator you continue to develop in all directions, and if you really can’t fly, you should not neglect the virtual simulator.
Are FPV drone simulators an addition to real world practice?
Definitely yes, but not completely. Simulations can increase your skills, but there is always an additional percentage of development of these skills that can only be achieved in real life. However, as simulation technologies develop, simulators will still become the most auxiliary. Well, for beginners, especially in the early stages, the simulator is generally the only way to quickly increase the FPV learning curve. But again, as these skills develop, the need to practice in the real world will also become more apparent over time.
In summary, simulation technology is rapidly improving and is an excellent training tool that every pilot should have in his arsenal, regardless of the level of experience gained. Without simulators, it would be much more difficult to enter this hobby and become a part of it. We hope this article was helpful to you. Thank you for your attention.