How do you convert an old cockpit instrument into a clock? Easy: just build a circuit that convinces it it’s in the air, and the rest will take care of itself.
Now obviously, little about [porkfreezer]’s conversion of King KI 266 DME into a clock was actually easy; working with avionics rarely is. DME stands for “Distance Measuring Equipment,” an instrument that’s part of the radio navigation suite of many aircraft. DME measures the line-of-sight distance of a plane to a ground station by measuring the time it takes for a signal to return after the plane interrogates it. The plane-mounted equipment includes a UHF transceiver and a display for the cockpit instrument panel, which accepts an analog voltage signal from the transceiver and translates it into a readout on the nice Panaplex digital display.
Rather than gutting the thing and just driving the display directly, [porkfreezer] decided to build a circuit to generate the proper signals for the DME. The board uses a PIC16 and an MCP47C dual 10-bit digital-to-analog converter to generate the voltages needed, while a USB-powered DC-DC converter provides the ±15 volt supply the DME display expects.
Everything lives on a PCB that fits right on the back of the instrument. Sadly, the connector needed to mate up to the one on the instrument was outlandishly expensive — again, avionics — so [porkfreezer] had to solder the board directly to the DME’s pins. Otherwise, this would have been a completely reversible hack.
Still, it’s an interesting reuse of an unusual piece of gear, and one that respects the original design as much as possible. That counts as a win in our book.
Don’t worry, this 8.4 meter (27 foot) Australian Viper won’t bite, but it’s likely to do a number on any Cylon Raiders that wander too close to Canberra. As recently reported by Riotact, creator [Baz Am] has been painstakingly piecing together this 1:1 scale replica of a Colonial Viper Mark II from the reimagined Battlestar Galactica series in his shed for several years now, and at this point things are really starting to come together.
On his personal site, [Baz] has been maintaining a build log for the fictional spacecraft since 2017 that covers everything from the electronics that power the cockpit displays to the surprisingly intricate woodworking that went into the lathe-turned 30 mm cannons. He’s even documented interviews he conducted with members of the show’s special effects team in his quest to get his version of the Viper to be as screen-accurate as possible.
No matter how you look at this build, it’s impressive. But one thing we especially appreciated was the skill with which [Baz] manages to repurpose what would otherwise be junk. For example, the main cockpit display is actually an in-dash navigation system pulled from a car, and the engine’s turbine blades are cut out of aluminum road signs. He’s even managed to outfit the Viper with an array of real aircraft instruments by collecting broken or uncalibrated units from local pilots.
While the Viper might look like it’s ready to leap into action at a moment’s notice, there’s still quite a bit of work to be done. The craft’s fuselage, made of metal, wood, and foam, needs to be coated with fiberglass, sanded, and then painted to match its televised counterpart. [Baz] says that process will take at least another year, but also mentions off-hand that he’s thinking of adding a functional reaction-control system with cold gas thrusters — so we’re going to go out on a limb and say this is probably one of those projects that’s never quite finished. Not that we’re complaining, mind you. Especially when you consider the shaky track record the Battlestar Galactica franchise has when it comes to neatly wrapping things up in the finale. Continue reading “Life-Sized Colonial Viper Touches Down In Australia”→
In the world of the cockpit simulator hobby, no detail is too small to obsess over. Getting the look and feel of each and every cockpit control just right is important, and often means shelling out for cockpit-accurate parts. But not always, as these DIY magnetically captured toggle switches show.
Chances are good you’ve seen [The Warthog Project]’s fantastically detailed A-10 Thunderbolt II cockpit simulator before; we’ve featured it recently, and videos from the ongoing build pop up regularly in our feeds. The sim addresses the tiniest of details, including the use of special toggle switches that lock into place automatically using electromagnets. They’re commercially available, but only for those with very deep pockets — depending on the supplier, up to several thousand dollars per unit!
The homebrew substitute is mercifully cheap and easy to build, though — a momentary DPST toggle switch is partially gutted, with a length of nail substituted for one of its poles. The nail sticks out of the back of the switch, where a bracket holds a small electromagnet. When energized, the electromagnet holds the nail firmly when the switch is toggled on; the simulated pilot can still manually toggle the switch off, or it can be released automatically by de-energizing the coil. Each switch cost less than $20 to make, including the MOSFETs needed to drive the coils and the Arduino to provide the logic. The panels they adorn look fantastic, and the switches add a level of functional detail that’s just right for the whole build.
The Fairchild Republic A-10 “Warthog” with its 30 mm rotary cannon has captured the imagination of friendly soldiers and military aviation enthusiasts on the ground for as long as it’s been flying. One such enthusiast created the Warthog Project, a fully functional A-10 cockpit for Digital Combat Simulator, that’s almost an exact copy of the real thing.
It started as a four monitor gaming cockpit, with a Thrustmaster Warthog H.O.T.A.S. The first physical instrument panels were fuel and electrical panels bought through eBay, and over time more and more panels were added and eventually moved to dedicated left and right side units. All the panels communicate with the main PC over USB, either using Arduinos or purpose-made gaming interface boards. The Arduinos take input from switches and control knobs, but also run 7-segment displays and analog dials driven by servos. The panels were all laser-cut using MDF or perspex and backlit using LEDs.
The main instrument panel is a normal monitor masked with laser-cut MDF and Thrustmaster multi-function display bezels. The cockpit is run by the open source Helios Cockpit Simulator for DCS. The main monitors were replaced by a large custom-built curved projection panel lit up by a pair of projectors. It seems this is one of those projects that is never quite finished, and small details like a compass get added from time to time. Everything is documented in detail, and all the design files are available for free if you want to build your own.
The Gables Engineering G-2789 audio selector panels aren’t good for much outside of the aircraft they were installed in, that is, until [MelkorsGreatestHits] replaced most of the internals with a Teensy 3.2. Now they are multi-functional USB input devices for…well, whatever it is you’d do with a bunch of toggle switches and momentary push buttons hanging off your computer.
With the Teensy going its best impression of a USB game controller, the host operating system has access to seven momentary buttons, twelve toggles, and one rotary axis for the volume knob.
Right now [MelkorsGreatestHits] says the code is set up so the computer sees a button press on each state change; in other words, the button assigned to the toggle switch will get “pressed” once when it goes up and again when it’s flicked back down. But of course that could be modified depending on what sort of software you wanted to interface the device with.
As we’ve seen with other pieces of vintage aircraft instrumentation, lighting on the G-2789 was provided by a series of incandescent bulbs that shine through the opaque front panel material. [MelkorsGreatestHits] replaced those lamps with white LEDs, but unfortunately the resulting light was a bit too harsh. As a quick fix, the LEDs received a few coats of yellow and orange paint until the light was more of an amber color. Using RGB LEDs would have been a nice touch, but you work with what you’ve got.
Remember all the hubbub over Betelgeuse back in February? For that matter, do you even remember February? If you do, you might recall that the red giant in Orion was steadily dimming, which some took as a portent of an impending supernova. That obviously didn’t happen, but we now seem to have an explanation for the periodic dimming: an enormous dark spot on the star. “Enormous” doesn’t begin to describe this thing, which covers 70% of the face of a star that would extend past Jupiter if it replaced the sun. The dimming was originally thought to be dust being blown off the star as it goes through its death throes, but no evidence could be found for that, while direct observations in the terahertz range showed what amounted to a reduction in surface temperature caused by the enormous star spot. We just think it’s incredibly cool that Betelgeuse is so big that we can actually observe it as a disk rather than a pinpoint of light. At least for now.
If you think you’ve seen some challenging user interfaces, wait till you get a load of the cockpit of an F-15C Eagle. As part of a new series on human interfaces, Ars Technica invited Col. Andrea Themely (USAF-ret.) to give a tour of the fighter she has over 1,100 hours on. Bearing in mind that the Eagle entered service in 1976 and has been continually updated with the latest avionics — compare the video with the steam gauges of the cockpit of an F-15A — its cockpit is still a pretty busy place. As much as possible has been done to reduce pilot load, with controls being grouped by function and the use of color-coding — don’t touch the yellow and black stuff! — and the use of tactile feedback. It’s a fascinating deep dive into a workplace that few of us ever get to see, and we’re looking forward to the rest of the series.
Sad news from Seattle, where the Living Computers: Museum + Labs is closing up shop. The announcement only says they’re closing “for now”, so there’s at least some hope that the museum will be back once the COVID-19 downturn has run its course. We hope they do bounce back; it really was a great museum with a lot of amazing hardware on display. The Vintage Computer Festival PNW was held there in its inaugural year, an event we covered and had high hopes for in the future. We hope for the best for these educational and cultural institutions, but we can’t help but fear a little for their future.
So you suffer a partial amputation of your left hand, leaving you with only your thumb and your palm. That raises an interesting conundrum: you haven’t lost enough to replace the hand with a prosthetic one, but you still don’t have any fingers. That appears to be what happened to Ian Davis, and so he built his own partial prosthetic to replace his fingers. There’s not much backstory on his YouTube channel, but from what we can gather he has gone through several designs, most of which are myomechanical rather than myoelectric. Through a series of complex linkages, he’s able to control not only the opening and closing of the fingers, but also to splay them apart. It’s all in the wrist, as it were — his input gestures all come from flexing and extending his hand relative to his forearm, where the prosthesis is anchored. This results in a pretty powerful grip — much stronger than a myoelectric hand in a head-to-head test. And the coolness factor of his work is just off the scale. We’re looking forward to more from Ian, and hopefully enough background information for a full story on what he has accomplished.
Hackaday editors Elliot Williams and Mike Szczys recap a great week in hardware hacking. There’s perfection in the air as clever 3D-printing turns a button and LED matrix into an aesthetically awesome home automation display. Take a crash course in RF modulation types to use on your next project. Did you know the DB-9 connector is actually a DE-9? Building your own underwater ROV tether isn’t as simple as it sounds. And Elliot found a treasure trove of zero-ohm jumpers in chip packages — what the heck are these things for?
Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!
Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!