Monday, 18 February 2019

Simulators

One of the questions we get asked all the times at our demos is ‘can I have a go’?

I love hearing the question because it means we’ve captured someone's interest and they want to know more.

The unfortunate thing though is that there is a learning curve to flying drones. There’s all these sticks and buttons, and even after you know what they do you have to figure out how to make them do what you want.

It’s not fun to say ‘no’ to people all the time, so we’ve experimented with bringing simulators along to some of our demos so we can start saying ‘yes’ when we get asked for a go.

Simulators give you a pretty good idea of how things work, and best of all you can crash over and over without breaking your drone, or (possibly) worse, having to walk for miles to go get it back when it goes down!

Simulators also come in all shapes and sizes - there are drone (multirotor) specific ones, and there are ones that focus more on planes, gliders or helicopters. Some have awesome graphics and even multiplayer, some are more simple, and as with all things they range from expensive to cheap, or even free! We're a great fan of a whole lot of them but our go-to for just getting off the ground is...

FPV Freerider

The one we love using for demos and you’ll have had a go with if you’ve come along, is FPVFreeRider.

It’s very well priced - around $9 NZD for the standard version (we've not tried the 'Recharged' version yet) - so if you also buy an inexpensive PlayStation 3 Controller for around $10, you can have a basic sim setup for slightly less than the price of something that costs about $20!

Given that you could end up spending hundreds of dollars to get into the hobby once you do decide to get some real drones and an awesome transmitter, so this is a very inexpensive way to test the waters.

A final word on FPVFreeRider setup. If you’ve been flying at one of our demos and gone home to find that your version is really ‘twitchy’ compared to ours, that’s because we tweaked the settings to make them pretty soft and easier for everyone. FreeRider has a great number of things to tweak, but what we did was this:



  • Select the ‘Sluggish’ preset as a base
  • Change Camera angle to 10
  • Change Throttle to 41 (this makes it hover around mid-stick on a PS3 Controller, tweak to your liking)
  • Set Yaw to around 200
  • Set Pitch/Roll to around 200
  • Save and exit
And tweak it to your liking of course!

Controllers

As we kinda mentioned, we use PlayStation 3 controllers during our demos.

They’re not the perfect controller for flying a drone (they have big dead-spots, and the throttle controller is self-centering, which isn’t the same as a proper transmitter), but they do a good enough job to give people an idea, and being a game controller they’re familiar to someone who may have never held a transmitter.

Plus you can pick up cheap copies of them for around $10 on Trade Me.

When you do upgrade and get a new transmitter and drone, modern transmitters have USB plugs, and when you plug them in they register as joysticks. With a minimal amount of messing around you can get them working and practice in the simulator with an actual transmitter, which is a good way to bridge between flying in the virtual and real worlds.

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