Learning how to fly a drone... with a simulator?

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UAV, RPAS, UAS... or simply a 'drone' as most of us know it. Whatever you wish to call it, the drone industry continues to grow and expand every day. And so does consumer interest, with more and more commercial drones being released onto the market.

We can distinguish three types of commercially available drones: camera/inspection drones, racing drones and toy drones. Each with differing price ranges, from a $50 drone up to drones in the $20,000 range and beyond.

Either way, it is essential to learn and know how to fly a drone. But wouldn't it be great if you could learn how to fly a drone before you purchase one?

If you want to test your chances, it could prove useful to take a look at a mobile app called 'QuadcopterFx Simulator'. The app is available on the App Store and on Google Play. Surprisingly enough, the app offers a realistic drone flying experience in terms of physics and controls.

After consulting multiple reviews on both the App Store and Google Play, as well as testing it ourselves, we can conclude that QuadcopterFx Simulator is in fact an effective tool to utilize in the quest of learning to fly a drone.

It's not just a game either. It's not easy nor hard, it is in fact quite realistic. Actual flight experience will of course still be superior, but $4.99 is worth negating the risk of damaging or losing a new drone whilst you attempt to get a grasp of the controls.

As fun as drones can be, the actual flight dynamics are quite advanced considering all combinations of direction that are possible through the compounded axis. So with QuadcopterFx Simulator, it's possible to get immersed in the piloting of a drone as close as possible to the real thing, without putting your valuable drone at risk of getting damaged.

The app is available on the App Store and Google Play.

If you're interested in drones in general, or in getting a drone and/or learning how to fly one, you should definitely give it a try. But it speaks for itself of course that just because you can fly in a simulator, that doesn't mean you can fly (as well) in the real world, but it can be a great tool nonetheless to get familiar with the flight controls.

There's also a couple of drone simulators for Windows, Mac and Linux.

'Real Drone Simulator' is a more entertainment-based simulator, but still a viable option to consider if you'd like to fly a drone in virtual airspace and get familiar with the controls. The game is still in its early stages, with a pre-alpha version available at the time, which is free of charge. It can be found at www.realdronesimulator.com.

On the other hand, there's 'Liftoff', which is focused on bringing first-person view drone racing to the digital world. The game requires a controller, as there is no keyboard support. It can be downloaded from Steam.

'DRL Drone Racing Simulator' is the 'official simulator' of the professional Drone Racing League. The simulator features courses from the actual competition. It's compatible with both console and RC controllers. The sim is also available on Steam.