If you are new to the world of R/C, you will most certainly do well to use a rc quadcopter flight simulator to train yourself before you buy a expensive drone.
You will need to build and fine tune your reflexes to move the sticks in the right direction when the craft is coming towards you or when it’s moving away from you.
Learning from a simulator can shorten your learning curve and save you $1000s in saved repair costs and downtime.
Best Quadcopter Simulator
RealFlight 9: RF9 Radio Control RC Flight Simulator Software
RealFlight 8 Horizon Hobby Edition: RF8 HH RC Flight Simulator Software Only
ballboU 22 in 1 RC USB Flight Simulator with Cables
Here’s why training with a flight simulator is essential before you buy a really expensive quadcopter …
Why Use A Quadcopter Flight Simulator
Most beginners do not have the reflexes to keep a drone in air and get it to fly the way they would like to. Minor deviations in the flight path can cause them to over react – simply because they do not know better. And they end up crashing the drone. It might not matter much if the drone happens to be a cheap toy. It can be easily replaced.
But on the other hand it’s a really expensive model with GoPro FPV cameras and other expensive hardware, a crash would be really expensive. But a simulator will allow you to crash as many times as you want without costing any money, allowing you to develop and hone your reflexes without actually getting your skin in the game, so to speak.
Spend a few hours training with a decent simulator, and your reflexes will become good enough to fly most quadcopters.
Your confidence and skill level will soar, and you most likely will save $1000s in repairs because you will not crash your multicopter as often as you otherwise would have.
That said, you wouldn’t want to download just about any flight simulator and expect it to work wonders for your skill level.
You will want to choose the simulator with a lot of care and deliberation. You will want to know exactly what to look for in a simulator before you buy one.
Features To Look For In RC Flight Simulators
Here’s a list of features you will want to look for …
- Tech Support
The importance of this cannot be overstated. You will want to be able to speak to the simulator’s tech support if you bump into any issues when you are training with it. Many companies also offer separate software packages for each model they support – and you would need to know which packages you will want to use.
- How realistic is the Physics?
Unless the physics is very realistic, you will not benefit significantly from using the simulator. And not all companies that make flight simulators support quadcopters or multi rotors. Of the few that do, not all score great on this scale. So while a particular simulator might be very realistic when flying rc planes, it may fare poorly when it comes to quadcopters.
- How easy is it to use?
Unless the software is easy to use – and you can use it right out of the box, there’s little point in using it.
- PC or Mac?
Not all flight simulators work on Mac. In case you have only a mac and want to use a simulator that isn’t compatible, your only option would be to partition the hard drive, install Windows on the new partition and install the simulator on the Windows partition.
No matter how good the simulator is, flying the real thing is bound to be different. No simulator can be 100% accurate – but even then, you will save yourself tons of frustration and possibly $1000s by choosing to use a simulator to start with.
Everyone progresses at their own pace – mostly dependent on how much time, effort and money you will invest in the hobby. And some people are more innately skilled as well.
So even after practicing with the simulator, you will want to start with a relatively easy to fly, inexpensive quadcopter – and then go to the bigger, more expensive models that have so many more features. It certainly isn’t easy to go from a simulator to a pro level model right away.
That said, here’s the list of the best quadcopter flight simulators …
RealFlight RC Flight Simulator
This is perhaps the best simulator on the market today for aspiring hobbyists. The physics is really top notch, and the graphics are pretty good. Most people who are new to R/C flying make the mistake of buying a expensive quadcopter, only to realize – much to their chagrin – how hard these things can be to fly for a rank beginner.
The RealFlight simulator pays for itself many times over as it will help you avoid a ton of crashes in the real world and builds your skill level pretty fast.
It uses a mode 2 transmitter (well, it’s really a USB controller and not exactly a transmitter) that’s the most popular type in the US.
But all of the high quality graphics does mean your computer has to be really powerful. You most certainly will not be able to run this beast on a cheap, $300 laptop. And you would also make sure your computer is not using a integrated graphics card as well.
You would need preferably NVIDIA GeForce 4 Ti4200 or ATI Radeon 9500 or something better for the best graphics. The software does work on a machine with a integrated graphics card as well, but only at low quality and will certainly not delight you.
You would want to fly the quad in the stabilize mode to start with. Once you are very comfortable flying the simulated quad in the stabilize mode, you should be able to graduate to a real world quadcopter. But even then, you would want to pick a relatively cheap and easy to fly quadcopter to start with. You would not want to go from flying a simulated quad to a DJI Inspire right away 🙂
Perhaps the biggest advantage of this simulator is that it lets you vary parameters like weight and power – and see the effect this has on the quadcopter in real time. This can be an invaluable thing to learn – something that can take a very long time and lots of money to understand in the real world. This, in essence, is what a simulator is supposed to teach you – to get an intuitive understanding of how a quadcopter works, so that you will be confidently able to fly most models right away. This feature alone can be worth more than the price of this piece of software.
What We Like ...
- Excellent, realistic graphics
- Easy to learn and use
- Allows you to vary the weight and power and other parameters and see how the quadcopter reacts to these changes.
- Helps you develop an intuitive understanding of how a multirotor craft really works.
What We Don't Like
- Does not run very well on Mac
- Requires a really powerful computer – preferably a gaming desktop or a laptop
- The simulated quadcopter does not have a GPS and you will have to fly in the manual mode. So if you are looking to use this software with something like DJI Phantom with all of ots features, you may not be able to do it.
The bottom line
While it's not perfect, this is the very best quadcopter simulator on the market today. The graphics are very realistic, you can vary weight, power and other parameters - and develop an intuitive understanding of how to control a quadcopter.
Which is just what you would expect from a simulator.
Phoenix R/C Pro Simulator v5.0
This is a good enough quadcopter flight simulator especially if you are looking for a trainer to help you learn the DJI Phantom. You will want to get your own transmitter – preferably the Spektrum DX6i 6 Channel Transmitter (Only MD2) – which is one of the best 2.4GHz transmitters and has a 10 model memory.
Most other simulation software will not allow you to use your own controller, but this one does – and it may be the biggest advantage of the Phoenix RC. If you want to train on a DJI Phantom, all you will need to do is plug in the controller, and you are good to go – something you will never be able to do with the current version of RealFlight.
Another great feature is their online multiplayer system which lets you play against – and also learn from – other users around the world. The software allows you to see the stick movements of other pilots as they fly – so you will be able to see and easily learn their tricks and techniques.
The Phoenix R/C simulator supports 4 quadcopter models – the DJI Phantom, Blade 350 QX, Blade MQX and Gaui 330-X – and this should be more than enough for you to learn to fly a quadcopter reasonably well before you even attempt to fly one in the real world.
The only disadvantage of this simulator is the graphics – it isn’t quite as good as RealFlight’s. It’s good, but not quite as good as RealFlight when it comes to graphics and realism.
What we like ....
- Has 4 popular quadcopter models
- Allows you to plugin your own controller
- Easy to use
- Online multiplayer system lets you learn from other pilots
What we don't like ...
- Graphics not as quite good as RealFlight’s
The bottom line
While the graphics are not quite as good as RealFlight's is, this simulator does have its strengths. It's one of the best quadcopter simulators on the market today.
This is another pretty good flight simulator that includes 5 quadcopter models. The graphics is very good and this software allows you to use a range of input devices. You can choose to use your own controller or use joysticks or game-pads.