Even the world's best drones can sometimes be tricky to fly accurately, particularly if you're trying to frame shots at the same time. Which is why DJI appears to have made a browser-based drone simulator to let you practice your flying skills.
DJI hasn't actually announced the simulator, so we don't know if it's an official game that's ready for release yet. However, you can give it a spin by going to start.dji.com and following the on-screen instructions (warning: it's currently only in Chinese, so you may need a hand from Google Translate).
The drone sim appears to be set in a futuristic city with vast tower blocks, which you'd need special permissions to whizz around in real life. And, while the graphics are a little rudimentary, the in-game physics are actually pretty comparable to flying a real DJI drone. Unfortunately, the simulator also has the realistic drone buzzing sound, too.
You control the virtual drone using a combination of four-letter keys (which represent the left stick of a drone controller) and four cursor keys, which help you control the drone's roll and pitch.
To take off, you need to hold the 'S', 'D', 'left' and 'down' cursor buttons and then the "W" key. Once you're airborne, you can also take photos and videos using the 'P' and 'L' keys. And yes, it's possible to crash if you get too carried away, with an action replay showing your (fortunately inexpensive) incident before respawning your drone where it started.
You also get three different views to choose from. The default one is effectively a third-person view of your drone in the sky, but tapping the 'C' key will take you on board the drone complete with a GPS map in the corner. Another tap of the 'C' button will take you to a view of two hands holding a controller, with a tablet acting as your viewfinder.
DJI's drone simulator is a little temperamental – we got regular warnings about the network being too slow, which dropped the frame-rate to unusably low levels. This suggests it isn't ready – or intended – for a wider release, but it's a fun diversion for anyone who's been looking to sharpen their drone flying skills.
Preparing for lift-off
There doesn't appear to be any ultimate aim to DJI's drone simulator, other than to give you an open-world playground to practice your flying skills – which is something of a coincidence given drones have hit the headlines again for all the wrong reasons.
In the UK, Gatwick airport had to close and divert flights on Sunday, May 14 after a "suspected drone" was apparently spotted close to the close to the airfield. That incident follows a more problematic one at Gatwick in 2018, with the whole airport shut for over a day following other apparent drone sightings that were never satisfactorily proven.
DJI drones are unable to take off around airports, as the company has geo-restricted zones in its software to prevent that from happening. Still, while this drone simulator is unrelated to any real-world events, it is a handy tool for new pilots to get a feel for the physics and muscle memory needed to fly drones out in the real world.
We've asked DJI if it's intending to officially release or announce the browser game, and will update this story when we hear back. In the meantime, happy flying.