Remote control helicopter simulators allow you to learn control reflexes and orientation skills without having to spend money each time you crash.
All simulators will connect to your normal helicopter transmitter, usually via a USB cable that plugs into the transmitter's trainer port. Some simulators use a generic cable that can be bought for a few pounds off of Ebay, while others use a dedicated device, partially to prevent unauthorized copying of the software.
If you are using a computer transmitter, then pick an empty model memory for working with the simulator. Set it to use 'single servo mixing' (i.e. not CCPM) and use PPM, not PCM modulation. If you have a stock transmitter then you won't have this option, so if you have a CCPM radio you'll have to use the demixer inside the sim. Frequently you can improve the battery life when using the simulator by removing the crystal or transmitter module; if your transmitter switches on automatically when you plug the interface into it, you probably don't need to do this.
- Has a huge variety of models available for it, none of them particularly realistic. Can often be found on Ebay bundled with a generic USB lead.
- Much more realistic than FMS; feels much more like a helicopter. Made for Windows, but runs well on Linux using WINE.
- Very Basic simulator. Has a nice Smartphone version though.
- Fixed wing only, but might be of interest to some people as it versions are available for GNU/Linux, Mac OSX and Windows.
- Inexpensive simulator for RC helicopters and aeroplanes. Limited function trial version available.
- The simulator recommended at RC HeliAddicts and Heliguy. Designed specifically for heli pilots by Heli Pilots such as Bob Johnston former European Champion owner of Skyline Models, Phoenix now boasts over 70 helicopters, 70 planes, gliders, autogyros, tilt-rotors and 25 Flying Sites. An editor is available for those who wish to modify existing models or create completely new ones, the best and most popular of which are then distributed for free via the official website. Online Multi Play is included. Software updates are also produced frequently, and again are distributed for free.
- An appreciated simulator with a long history, which requires a moderate to top end computer to run all of its features. Add-ons for more aircraft and flying fields are available both for free and as payed upgrades. Comes with its own controller and can be hooked to most transmitters via the supplied cable. Great to learn on before purchasing a real helicopter. Free aircraft, airport and recording downloads at Knife Edge Forums.
- User comments on Reflex would be appreciated.
- User comments on Aerofly would be appreciated. The Aerofly Pro Duluxe Platinum edition is available for both Windows and Mac OSX. A review is available from All Things That Fly, here.
- RealityCraft produce a number of simulators, including RC Heli Master and RC Flight Master eXtreme64; a demo of which is available here. Some can be supplied with a dummy transmitter or a USB adapter for your own transmitter. User comments on these simulators would be appreciated.
- CSM was one of the first companies to produce a helicopter simulator, but unfortunately their product does not seem to have been updated for a while. It may even be discontinued.
- User comments appreciated.
- Java-based simulator, available for Windows, Linux and MacOS-X. Prettier (photorealistic) scenery than HeliSimRC, but the models seem harder to see. Collective pitch feels particularly lifelike. I found the controller configuration awkward, though, requiring a few restarts to get it working properly. Currently at version 2.0, version 0.9 is available for download free of charge.
- User comments appreciated.
- Helicopter simulator for Apple Macintosh OS X. User comments appreciated.
- FRAPS, tool for capturing screen video.
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