Flying a drone is not always as easy as it seems. You may buy a drone and crash it on the first flight because you underestimated the skill required to fly one.
Luckily, you can avoid making such costly mistakes by flying a drone on a simulator before flying it in real life. And no, you don’t have to pay for a simulator. Some of them are available for free.
Which are the best free drone simulators?
The best free drone simulators include the ORQA FPV Skydive, Tiny Whoop GO, Flowstate, DJI Simulator free version, and Crazy Games Drone Simulator. If you have at least $10 to spend, you can go for the DRL or the FPV Air 2.
Please keep reading to learn more about the various free drone simulators on the market.
This one’s my favorite and one that I play all the time.
As its name suggests, the DRL simulator is made by the same people behind the Drone Racing League, one of the largest professional drone racing leagues.
If you get good at the simulator, you get to try out for the actual racing league within the simulator!
I know this is a post about free drone simulators, but I had to include DRL since it costs less than $10 to get it on your PC.
I purchased this simulator in June 2022 and only paid $2.99 for it. Cool, right?
I love the DRL simulator for the comprehensive training it offers. Before you can start flying freestyle or through race tracks, you can go through the training where you are trained on basic drone movements and how to combine all these movements to go through loops or pop balloons placed along a track.
The DRL Simulator uses a custom-made drone, unlike any drone you may have seen from popular drone manufacturers, but the physics are similar to an actual drone.
Once you complete the training, it’s time to try the “real flight.” What I love about the DRL drone simulator is the wide range of scenarios in which you can fly your drone; from stadiums, Air Force bone yards, campgrounds, and New York gates to container deports.
You get many ways to fly too. You can train, fly freestyle, complete challenges, or even compete with other pilots in multiplayer mode.
Did I mention their graphics look quite real too? Compared to the graphics you will find in other simulators, I believe paying the $10 is worth it to fly in the scenarios provided in the DRL Simulator.
I also love how you can control the drone with an Xbox or PlayStation controller, but if you want to get the real experience of flying a drone, you should get a controller like the Taranis, Turnigy, or Spektrum models.
You can use these controllers on real drones too, which will come in handy when you decide to buy one.
ORQA FPV is known for building some of the best FPV analog goggles, the ORQA FPV.One. If you’re not ready to purchase quite yet, they offer a free way to get started with FPV flying through their simulator, the ORQA FPV Skydive.
The ORQA FPV Skydive is a plug-and-play FPV simulator that allows you to fly in scenarios like stadiums, racecourses, valleys, construction sites, and the ORQA polygon.
This simulator is free on Steam and allows you to control it via keyboard, gamepad, or any controller of your choice.
I find a combination of the gamepad and the simulator to be the easiest way to start since most people already own a gamepad. Those who don’t can find a cheaper one on sites like eBay.
Once you connect your controller, all you have to do is calibrate it, choose a map, and start flying.
If you want access to more scenarios, you can purchase more, such as the Midnight Airport or the Neon Island.
ORQA is constantly releasing more maps (scenarios) for free or for purchase.
Tiny Whoops are small FPV drones, similar to the Cinewhoops, though smaller, and some of the most popular FPV drones.
The Tiny Whoop GO simulator is designed by the same people who created the drones and led by the Team Big Whoop leader, Jesse P.
While getting into Tiny Whoops is relatively easy compared to larger FPV drones, starting with a simulator would still be great.
Jesse P. and his team have done their best to create a wide range of scenarios that will help you familiarize yourself with Tiny Whoops and how these drones fly, equipping you with skills to help you participate yourself someday.
You can fly freestyle on your own or join the multiplayer all for free.
If you’d like to bring your imagination to life, Tiny Whoop also offers a track builder where you can build your own track, but you have to spend at least $12 to do so.
I tried this simulator for a few days, and it was a lot of fun.
However, unlike other simulators where you can directly download them, to get the Tiny Whoop GO sim, you will have to enter your email, and Tiny Whoop will send you the software setup and the activation code (link).
The Real Drone Simulator is another simulator available to users while still in development.
Like Flowstate, you get access to basic drone flight mechanisms based on real drones.
The Real Drone Simulator website states that they will release mods that can help users venture into racing, photography and videography, and complex missions.
This drone flight sim is available on their website for free, though they might release a commercial version in the future.
If you want to get comfortable flying your drone, what better way than to learn from the leading drone manufacturer, DJI? You will probably even get your drone from them when you’re ready.
While many simulators lean towards FPV, the DJI drone flight simulator leans toward commercial drone uses.
You can fly most of their consumer drones that you probably wouldn’t otherwise afford in real life, simulating wind, ground effects, and even crashes.
This sim has both a free version and a paid version. When you opt for the paid version, you get to fly DJI’s enterprise drones and get hands-on training on how to use the drones in various applications.
If your PC is too slow to handle most of the available free drone simulators, or you just don’t want to download any software, you can try a web-based drone simulator like the Crazy Games Drone Simulator.
All you will need is a good browser and an Internet connection.
The sim comes with “coins” that you can use to buy your first drone to get started. Then, as you fly, you collect more coins, allowing you to purchase even more drones within the simulator.
Since it’s a free simulator based on the web, you will have to deal with ads, but it’s still a fun and no-cost way to fly a drone.
You also can’t connect your gamepads or controllers, and you will have to control the drone using your keyboard.
If you are looking for a free drone flight simulator that offers both line-of-sight and FPV flying, the FPV Free Rider is a good option.
But it’s not entirely free. They have a free demo where you can fly on only one track, but for just $5, you can unlock the rest of the features.
The FPV Free Rider sim is a “light” game, which means you can play it on older or basic PCs without needing to customize them.
You get up to six sceneries and compatibility with a wide range of FPV controllers, including the DJI FPV controller, as well as gamepads.
Even with a drone, practicing in a sim would still be ideal, and the controller compatibility helps you register the muscle memory on your favorite controller.
If you’d like to practice flying on the go, they have an Android version.
8. FPV Air 2
While free drone simulators are an excellent way to start, if I had the chance to spend a few dollars to get a better experience, I would take it.
And for the price of a latte ($5), you get access to one of the oldest and most classic drone flight simulators, the FPV Air 2.
While being old means it has average graphics compared to the latest releases, it also means that older computers will be strong enough to handle it.
The FPV Air 2 comes configured with the settings for a wide range of controllers, making the setup and calibration easy.
You also have access to some free maps, though if you want more, you may need to purchase them.
You get the chance to adjust various real-life quadcopter mechanisms such as gravity, thrust, drag, propeller size, air density, and air resistance.
The multiplayer and leaderboard also help keep the game interesting.
Built by the man behind SyncFPV, the World Adrift Island Creator is another excellent way to enjoy drone flight on your PC.
This simulator was not initially built for flying drones but was a game where people could explore a wide range of islands or even build their islands within the game.
But during the COVID-19 lockdowns, SyncFPV decided to edit the game to add a quad mode where you can explore the islands from a bird’s eye view at no extra cost to the user.
Don’t expect to find multiplayer, racing courses, or high-end graphics here. It’s just a simple sim with basic flight principles and a good way to have fun flying drones on your PC.
Unfortunately, this sim is only available on Windows devices.
Flowstate is another cool drone flight simulator available for free on Steam.
Like most free drone simulators, the graphics aren’t fancy, but the physics are good enough to give you that immersive experience.
However, it’s currently still under development, so you might see some changes in the future.
It’s also possible that what you get now in the simulator will not change.
If you want to practice flying a drone but lack the budget for a high-end simulator with all the bells and whistles, you can easily get started with some free drone simulators.
You’ll realize that some of them, like the DRL or FPV Air 2, aren’t entirely free, but they come at a meager cost, and the features they offer make the money worth it.