737 Autopilot, Courtesy Of An Arduino


To start this off, no, we’re not looking at a piece of actual flight hardware. This is [Andrea Giudici]’s project to tie real-world hardware into Flight Simulator X. It’s an autopilot for simulated aircraft, so those of you looking at flying a 737 sometime in the near future need not worry about computers flying your plane. Airbus passengers, though…

[Andrea] didn’t want to dig around with the clunky point-and-click interface in FSX, so he created a virtual autopilot with a 2×16 LCD display and an Arduino to interact and set the most common autopilot settings such as altitude, speed, heading, and engagement. The physical interface is just three tact switches and a pot, while the interface to FSX is a custom driver that turns the USB out of the Arduino into actual flight commands.

It’s not a 737 cockpit in a garage, but it’s still a wonderful alternative to poking around in a completely computer-bound interface.

Video of the ‘duino in action after the break.


26 thoughts on “737 Autopilot, Courtesy Of An Arduino

  1. Actually both Airbus and Boeing aircraft are fully capable of flying themselves from takeoff to landing. I saw a video of a crash – the it was a Boeing 757. The pilot decided to switch off auto-pilot at the very last moment which caused the accident.

    So in essence what this means is that the pilots have been keeping the secret for a very long time.

    1. If you’re claiming that Airbus and Boeing airliners can takeoff on autopilot, I’ll agree that it is a very well kept secret.

      Even from the pilots who fly them and the engineers who designed them.

      1. With the Lockheed TriStar, only manual thrust can be set for takeoff, however once airbourne, if FMS equipment is fitted (-200’s and -500’s) thrust management can be engaged (no altitude limitation) for the climb thrust desired. Once the V/S in the climb decreases to <500 ft/min, the next higher climb thrust setting is automatically selected, depending on aircraft weight.
        Also, with the TriStar, the autopilot can be engaged on the ground, just before takeoff, in CWS. Once airbourne, command can be selected, with no altitude limitation.

        Very advanced, for its day… But still not a Boeing or Airbus

        1. It doesn’t firewall it, it sets computed takeoff thrust for takeoff, or a sweated amount of thrust for a go around. It also sets the Flight Control Computers to specific modes for each of those cases, which guides your flight director among other things. You should always hit TOGA on takeoff even when you are using manual thrust, then the flight director will show proper climb angle to maintain speed.

          -Actual 737 pilot.

      1. I use the AP to line up, but once its trimmed for proper glide, I disengage AP. Autoland I have tried like twice, and both times it ended up short of the runway. Not quite sure if it’s the sim, the aircraft model, or what.

  2. Speaking personally, I’d like more really cool hacks like this one and less cheap jibes about a Boeing competitor. I don’t care if I’m in a minority on this site, a cheap jibe is a cheap jibe.

  3. yup I agree completely with Just so
    Airbus aircraft are just as pilot controllable as any Boeing. This “oh God, a computer is flying my plane” thing is simple scare tactics for retards. This is hack a day – statistically there should be less retards here than the average for your country so WTF ??

      1. Yes, I know it’s a joke, and I felt bad about criticising – but it’s an annoying joke. The enormous amount of top level engineering that goes into both Boeing and Airbus planes deserves better treatment.
        Loved the article though.

  4. This isn’t an autopilot, it’s a control panel that happens to change autopilot parameters.

    The Arduino does not control the plane, it merely changes the settings of FSX’s built-in autopilot system.

    That said, it’s still a nice project.

  5. Dammit, Hackaday. This isn’t an autopilot, it’s the control panel for one. I’m an aerospace engineer with some background in controls, and I got all excited that someone had maybe made another home autopilot, perhaps better than Ardupilot, that they just hadn’t hooked into sensors and actuators (instead testing it out with a flight sim).

    You guys know better than this.

    1. Addendum: I’d like to agree with Pfeil, who posted without me seeing it, that this is COOL. I like seeing these on Hackaday. I just don’t like them being misidentified. (also re-reading my comment I’m kind of an asshole.)

  6. I’m sorry do Boeing not use fly by wire or autopilot? Just because they use a traditional yoke and artificially add feedback doesn’t mean there’s not a computer sitting between the pilot and the actuators. As most crashes are caused by pilot error I’d probably rather have the computer flying me.

  7. I would really love it if they included more about how the driver was made to interface with FSX… I for one have almost no idea how to do this, and I’m sure many people would be in the same boat

  8. .. until the Arduino rips a small hole in the Autopilot’s plastic and the air starts coming out, and the stewardess has to come in and undo his belt and re-inflate him.

  9. autopilot can connect to FSX-FS2004 simply, go looking jimsz.nl page and how made many different connection to flight sim. simple. and good, i made radio stack now whit arduino and come REALISTIC no face radio.can connect all switches and potentiometer ,LCD, 7-segments, and drive wheels what need REAL cocpit/car/or other

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