Credit: Mako Reactra
To get a better idea of how real-life FPV pilots feel about drone simulators, I got in contact with Ryan Lindsay Lessard (aka Mako Reactra). Ryan is a drone pilot who is active in the FPV community and was last seen on our blog as a featured pilot in our Pilot Spotlight series. There, she briefly mentioned using drone simulators for practice:
“Another way to practice is by using a simulator on the computer. There are some great options out there, like Drone Racing League Simulator (DRL) and Velocidrone. The best part is that when you fly SIM, you don't have to worry about damaging your drone! Keep in mind that SIM feels differently than flying a real drone, but it can be a fun way to get used to the controls. I actually fly better in real life.” She has also featured clips of her sim races on her YouTube channel.
Ryan races with North East Racing Drones and is a team pilot for Hobbywing, Flightone, Ovonic Battery, Azurepower Prop, Diatone, and Runcam.
Here’s what she had to say about SIMs:
What is your favorite simulator and why?
Credit: Mako Reactra
Ryan finds it hard to play favorites when it comes to simulators. She has used 5 different simulators and likes them for different reasons. She notes, “Most people can’t set up a course to train on due to space, equipment, or other reasons, so getting the practice in via SIM is invaluable.” Currently, she is using Velocidrone and DCL the Game, both on PC.
“I race FPV drones through MultiGP Drone Racing, so I like to use Velocidrone because I can download the tracks to practice.” Velocidrone has a ranking system for racers to see how they stack up against other pilots, which is also useful in training. DCL the game is a SIM that is available for PC and Xbox One. As a gamer, Ryan feels drawn to it because of its “improved graphics, unique courses, music, video intros, etc.” “My favorite tracks include diving a lit skyscraper at night and power looping hot air balloons.”
A particularly useful training element in DCL the game are the Time Trials, which allow you to race against the “ghost” drones of professional pilots. DCL also has a draft selection process based on your results on specific tracks. Ryan notes, “You can even win a spot on an official DCL team.”
What was it like learning how to use drone simulators? Were your real-life skills completely transferable?
Ryan mentions that many people will start using drone SIMs “to get a feel for the controls and different flying modes (e.g. acro vs. level mode) before flying in real life,” but she did the reverse, flying in real life before turning to SIMs. “My real-life flying skills did transfer to some extent.”
She advises, “If you are just beginning, try a lower camera angle and lower rates. You can switch between default profiles. The fear of crashing and destroying your gear is gone, so it can be a relief. However, it requires intense focus because your brain is in constant flight mode. Time will pass, and you’ll look down and notice you have your transmitter stick marks imprinted into your fingers, haha.”
How well do you think simulators stack up against real-life FPV?
Drone Simulators have to account for factors we may not think about if we aren’t consistently flying in real life. The environment you’re flying in and real-life physics are at play. Ryan notes that it is easier for her to fly in real life since she is used to her drone and how it interacts with its environment.
“You’ll hear most people describe Simulators as feeling floaty. In real life, it takes time to adjust your drone’s settings and determine what works for you as a pilot.”
Credit: Ryan Lessard
Have you learned anything from playing simulators that translates into real life?
Ryan was once advised to use SIMs to improve her racing: “I was told by one of the fastest drone racing pilots in the world that my flight lines were efficient and smooth, but I needed to get used to going really fast. He said SIM is the way to do that.”
This method of practicing has stuck with her, and to prepare for real-life racing, she has downloaded the 2020 Global Qualifier track on Velocidrone to practice. “In free flight, I can practice certain elements of the track or fly against pilot friends in a session.”
If someone was interested in competing, how could they get involved? Do you have any tips for people looking to get involved in drone simulators and competitions?
Credit: Mako Reactra
Ryan’s first piece of advice for getting involved with SIM competitions is finding the simulator that is right for you and joining their communities:
“There are lots of videos and articles that review the simulators, but I recommend also joining their communities. Many have Discord servers, like Drone Racing League and Velocidrone. Discord is a social platform where people can communicate with each other via text, audio, or video. You can lurk and learn from others in the server or actually compete during one of the scheduled events. There are races at all levels, including rookie races.“
She also advises, “Before downloading a SIM, make sure that your computer meets the minimum hardware requirements. ” Additionally, she says that the transmitter you use in real life can be used in SIM: “You can connect it via USB plug or use a wireless simulator adapter.”
Is there an online community of simulator racers?
Recently, Susan and Ryan created a Discord server for women in FPV: “We have SIM channels for pilots to join and SIM together. If you’d like to be a part of our community, please reach out to one of us, and we'll share the link! We’re an encouraging group of over 40 women.” Wonderfully, those numbers are rising.
What do you hope to see in simulators in the future?
Like many other female pilots, Ryan also hopes to see more women and girls in the drone community: “As far as I know, I’m the only female FPV pilot in my state, so I hope to see more women and girls flying! I hope that if more SIM, then more will fly in real life.”
Credit: Ryan Lessard
I am a writer and an artist based in Georgia. Specializing in illustration, graphic design, and video art, I love to explore the new ways technology intersects with art. I think drones have done amazing things for photography and video art, making what would previously be costly and difficult more accessible. As a complete novice, it was only recently that I saw what independent artists could do with their drones, and I continue to be impressed by the sights that drones are able to explore and the images they can capture. Instagram: @tyesha.ferron
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