Viper flight simulator (a la Battlestar Galactica) finished

Here’s a story about some guys who set out to build a flight simulator for the Viper from Battlestar Galactica. The goal is to bring a grand project to the Maker Faire. This is a recurring challenge for the group, which has participated over the last several years. But this year they decided to go big and mounted a successful Kickstarter campaign to help with the cost.

The best place to get the build details is their progress updates page. Each week the cadre of teenagers tried to post some info about their progress, and we’ve got a big grin on our faces after reading through them. The simulator aims to provide you with as much of a space flight experience possible given the restraints which gravity imposes. The cockpit can roll and pitch a full 360 degrees in each direction. Of course safety is a concern and they were careful with their frame design and pilot restraint system. But so much more goes into this than just the physical build. There’s sound, lighting, and the virtual simulator, all of which have been complete at an impressive quality level. There’s a ton of video posted and we’ve embedded one short clip after the break showing off the cockpit’s dashboard.

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A flight simulator made out of a real 737 cockpit

[Trent] sent in an awesome story about a single man who bought the nose of a 737, put it in his garage, and built a flight simulator inside the cockpit. His name is [James Price], and right now the only thing we’re wondering is when we can have a visit.

The cockpit came from an aircraft boneyard in Oklahoma. After [James] plunked down $1500 for the shell of a cockpit, he moved his new toy to a Livermore, California aircraft hangar and eventually into his garage. While the plane is meant to be a simulator, [James] is a tinkerer at heart: he says the best part of building his 737 is building the systems, programming the computers, and making everything work together. We’ve got to admire that.

Of course this isn’t the first cockpit-in-a-garage build we’ve seen. Years ago we featured an Avro Lancaster, and just a few months ago we saw a strikingly similar replica 737 flight deck (it’s made out of wood, and not a real 737). [James]‘ build is one of the very few home-built simulators made out of a real airplane. Someone get this guy an F15 cockpit stat.

Collimated displays wrap around that home cockpit

We don’t recall having heard the term ‘collimated display’ before, but we’ve seem them in action. These are mirrored projection display that give the viewer a true peripheral vision experience thanks to well-designed optics. Here is a project that [Rob] and [Wayne] have put a ton of time into. It’s their own version of a DIY collimated display that uses a shop vac and Arduino to form the screen shape.

The frame above is the structure that will support the screen. A sheet of mylar was later attached to the edges of that frame. That is pulled into place by the suction of the vacuum. But it needs to be stretched just the right amount or the projected image will be distorted. They’ve got something of a PID controller to manage this. A valve box was built to vary the amount of vacuum suction inside the screen’s frame. A switch positioned behind the mylar sheet gives feedback to the Arduino when the screen reaches the appropriate position and a servo closes off the suction box. If you lost us somewhere in there the description in the clip after the jump will help to clear things up.

Here’s an unrelated project that implements the same concept on a smaller scale.

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Improving your flight sim experience with Hall effect sensors

hall-effect-controls

[Gene Buckle] built himself a nice custom cockpit for playing Flight Simulator, but during use he found that the gimbal he constructed for the pitch and roll controls was nearly unusable. He narrowed the problem down to the potentiometers he used to read the angle of the controls, so he set off to find a suitable and more stable replacement.

He figured that Hall effect sensors would be perfect for the job, so he picked up a pair of Allegro 1302 sensors and began fabricating his new control inputs. He mounted a small section of a pen into a bearing to use as an input shaft, attaching a small neodymium magnet to either side. Since he wanted to use these as a drop-in replacement for the pots, he had to fabricate a set of control arms to fit on the pen segments before installing them into his cockpit.

Once everything was set, he fired up his computer and started the Windows joystick calibration tool. His potentiometer-based controls used to show a constant jitter of +/- 200-400 at center, but now the utility displays a steady “0”. We consider that a pretty good result!

[Thanks, Keith]

Easy tactile controls and displays for your flight simulator

If you’ve been thinking of adding some tactile controls and readouts for your flight simulators this guide should give you the motivation to get started with the project. [Paul] explains how to build controls and connect them to the simulator data. He makes it look easy, and thanks the interface examples in his code it actually is.

Here he’s built the hardware using a Teensy controller board. The controller communicates via USB and the software is cross-platform. He’s controlling the heading information of the X-Plane simulator using the rotary encoder for fine adjustments and the buttons for increments of 100. But he doesn’t stop there. He’s working on an auto-throttle design that uses a servo motor to move the throttle lever. A potentiometer can be used to vary the throttle, with the servo mapped to the position of that knob. But it works both ways, dragging the virtual throttle on-screen will do the same.

This is one way to make flight simulators more interesting without devoting a whole room of your house to the cause. Don’t miss [Paul's] fantastic demo video after the break.

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737 cockpit will satisfy even the most discriminating simulator afficiandos

This isn’t an airplane, it’s a simulator. But you won’t find it at a flight school as this labor of love is a home build of a 737 cockpit (translated) that has been going on for more than two years.

It started off as a couple of automotive bucket seats in a room with two computer monitors to display the view out the windscreen. From there each piece has been meticulously added for a wonderful overall reproduction. The range of skills needed to pull this off is impressive. The seats have been rebuilt with padding and upholstery true to the Boeing factory options. The support structure that forms the domed front of the aircraft was built from wood with a metal bracket system to hold the overhead control panels in the right position. The only thing missing here is the rest of the plane. Take a look at the simulated landing run in the video after the break to see what this thing can do.

Looking for something that will take you for a bit more of a ride? Here’s a collection of motion simulators that might satisfy your craving.

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Strap yourself in and let this robot arm shake the bejesus out of you

This man is strapped onto the business end of a huge robotic arm. If you’ve seen videos of industrial robots on automobile assembly lines and the like, you know how fast and strong these machines are. But this isn’t headed for the factory floor, it’s a new flight simulator built do train Australian fighter pilots.

Researchers at Deakin University were looking for a way to give a fighter pilot a more realistic simulator experience. What they ended up with is an apparatus that can spin continuously on two axes. This lets the pilot feel what it might be like to stall and have the aircraft spinning out of control.

The video after the break is not to be missed. You’ll see the test pilot (read: guinea pig) flung this way and that to the point that we almost decided this should be a “Real or Fake” post. But we’re confident that this actually exists. We expect that future renditions will include the front portion of the aircraft and be completely enclosed in a projection dome, just like the Lexus driving simulator.

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