Arduino-Pneumatic Flight Simulator

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Hello, my name is Dominick Lee. I am a senior in high school who is also a programmer and inventor. I created the  "LifeBeam Flight Simulator" (name of my project) because I wanted to challenge myself and utilize my software and hardware skills. I was able to successfully plan, build, and run my Flight Simulator after a few months of diligent work.

I would like to thank my physics professor, Dr. Bert Pinsky, for helping me make this project successful.
I also want to thank Karl Anderson (CEO of Teco Pneumatics) for his generous donation of essential parts for our project.

In this Instructable, we will show you the steps to building an Arduino-Pneumatic Flight Simulator so that everyone can enjoy the fun of physics, robotics, and aviation.


The LifeBeam Flight Simulator is basically a motion platform that can make full rotations tilting at about 40-degrees. This is an efficient equivalent to the traditional "Stewart platform" simulator. Our simulator has same physical movements (2DOF) except it only runs on two pneumatic cylinders while the Stewart platform needs six cylinders.


The LifeBeam Flight Simulator is a full setup of equipment that runs simultaneously and collaboratively. The data is first sent from the Graphics or "Gaming PC"  through a custom software program that acquires game data. The game data is scaled and converted into specific coordinates for the roll and pitch (X and Y) axis. The program sends out the final signal which is received by an Arduino (Duemilanove). The Arduino has a complex program on it that combines the serial commands and parses certain values to calculate a voltage which is then converted into PWM and sent to a low-pass filter which smoothes the PWM into analog voltage. The analog voltage is connected to a Pneumatic Valve Amplifier which controls the pneumatic cylinders to make the platform move accordingly.


This is a quick demonstration of our finished project. We have everything running and connected the simulator to a Logitech joystick to test the full movement.

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mschwarz112 months ago

does it work with flight gear, HAWX (1,2), aerofly fsx, prepar3D, Il2, microflight, Jane's series, Xplane and other Sims?

dnicky2288 (author)  mschwarz112 months ago
Actually, the Flight Simulator works well with the SimTools platform. The SimTools program makes your flight simulator compatible with games like Xplane, FSX, Dirt2, prepar3D, etc. You can obtain this software at:
takkan4 months ago

your project has inspired me to apply the same pneumatic knowledge in a different direction, great job! would u be kind enough to provide any tutorials on the working communication and integration of the code please?

UltimateDIY4 months ago

Hi I personally would like to build one of these. There were a few things i was wondering about yours, My questions are How much did it cost to build? and what were all the parts you used to build it?

rickharris5 months ago

For those who want to build one of these the original plan for the motion platform is call the joy rider. We built one at school several years ago.

The ideal motion control would link your motion drive system to the flight sim your running on the PC - FSX, FS4 and X plane can all output their variables in real time so you can do this.

The original joy rider used a mechanical link to move the platform in response to your joystick movements. Actually this is quite realistic and pretty much all you need to get a fair feeling of realism saving a considerable cost in pneumatics or other servo systems.

firstson1110 months ago
Is there anyway you could improve the simulation by being able to go completely upside down ?
skaar firstson116 months ago

are there many planes in simulators that actually would use -g?

suhaibchobi8 months ago
really good job i loved it . but why there is some delay?
Edgar11 months ago
One of the greatest Instructables I've seen! :)
Voted on it, and went to my Blog:
dnicky2288 (author)  Edgar9 months ago
Thank you so much! I really appreciate it!
ahernandez6210 months ago
Hello i have flight simulator and I want to build one or a different but I'm looking for the software that you use to control y x z axis and I can't find it can you send the soft ware name to control the flight simulator axis pleas that will be great fullllllllll
kooth11 months ago
This is just awesome! I'm in the middle of trying to build the Wack-A-Veggie ( which uses pneumatics to drive the "Veggie Tales" characters up and down, and a PIC chip to control everything. (I keep running out of free time however.)

I'd like more information on the pneumatics you used, did you list part numbers anywhere? Any other information you have on your build would be awesome too!

Great job on this. Don't let the negative comments get you down! You built a great system with the constraints you were given. Usually, most of the feedback here is at least positive and helpful.

You have a great future ahead of you! I'm looking forward to seeing more of your Instructables soon!
dnicky2288 (author)  kooth10 months ago
Actually, alot of people have asked me to list the specific parts that I've used. I am planning to update that on my Instructable within a week or two. I will also include the documentation and other manuals that may be helpful. Thanks for your patience.
dnicky2288 (author)  kooth11 months ago
Thank you so much for your encouragement! I saw your project; it looks adorable. I'm sure kids would love playing with it.

I have limited information on the pneumatics. However, if you would like me to provide you the documentation for my pneumatic valves and cylinders, I could send it to you. Just email me at:

Again, thanks for your positive motivation! I will continue to do my best in this aspect.
camtron7710 months ago
Awesome project . I am in the Civil Air Patrol and me and my fellow Cadets would love to build one of these. Could you send us your sources for the components and what you need for this project . Thankyou.
dnicky2288 (author)  camtron7710 months ago
Thanks for your compliments. Actually, alot of people have asked me to list the specific parts that I've used. I am planning to update that on my Instructable within a week or two. I will also include the documentation and other manuals that may be helpful. Thanks for your patience.
espdp211 months ago
Very, very cool. Congratulations to the team. It looks like the cockpit is moving around much faster than the plane on the screen and holding at max tilt while the plane catches up to the controls. Do you need to adjust the sensitivity downward some?
dnicky2288 (author)  espdp211 months ago
Thanks. The video demonstration was accelerated a little. It was exaggerated to show the full potential of the motion simulator. Thanks for your input. Please vote for my project if you enjoyed it!
kschmidt211 months ago
The only thing I can think of to improve on this would be to mount a screen on the part you sit in so it moves with you. That way if you use a first person perspective in the simulator, when you roll the cockpit of your plane will roll with you and the ground will appear to stay still.
dnicky2288 (author)  kschmidt211 months ago
Thanks for the recommendation. I have thought about that idea. However, we could not attach the screen on any part of the PVC because it is not efficient construction. However, we will be ordering Virtual reality glasses in the future to enhance the visuals. Again, thanks for your suggestion! Please continue to share this with your friends.
Amazing project. That's a lot of time, effort and money!
Your video was great but it will be even better with the pilot's point of view. Maybe a camera attached on top of a helmet(something like gopro maybe) to provide us a view of sitting in the seat. You mentioned in comments you are using IR head tracking. Is it something like Johnny Lee Chung's Wii head tracking? If so, it will be even better with a head mounted camera view in the video!
Thanks for sharing this...
dnicky2288 (author)  Antzy Carmasaic11 months ago
Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed my project. Yes, I was actually inspired to do head tracking after looking at Johnny Lee's video. Although the methods are slightly different, they generally work the same. Also, I did not have a helmet camera. I'll be sure to get some video of the seat view next time.
The nerdling11 months ago
you should try and make it tilt with the plane to it is more realistic
dnicky2288 (author)  The nerdling11 months ago
The Flight Simulator currently has a 3D projector, FreeTrack IR software, and force feedback joystick. The next improvement I make is probably to make an aircraft enclosure to isolate the pilot from the open space.
fling dnicky228811 months ago
Have you thought about using something like the Oculus vr? It would be a lot easier than making an aircraft enclosure.
dnicky2288 (author)  fling11 months ago
No I have not. But thank you so much for that recommendation. I will look into it. And yes, I did realize that making an enclosure would be more expensive.
fling dnicky228811 months ago
Glad I could help. Though I'm not sure about cost savings for adopting existing virtual reality systems, it would certainly save a lot of effort. As far as flight simulator goes, someone had already done interfacing Oculus sdk with X-plane. It seems to be a total of ~$370+shipping. It would be cheaper/nicer if someone had the time to interface Oculus with flightgear.
Yes, and the monitor should move with the simulator as well.
dnicky2288 (author)  Vengence11 months ago
The screen perspective actually moves WITH the pilot. I forgot to mention that the pilot uses FreeTrack IR to track their head position so that the screen can match their perception. Thanks for your feedback though!
dnicky2288 (author)  The nerdling11 months ago
We actually have that feature now by implementing X-Sim. In the demonstration, we manually controlled it through the joystick because it was easier to manage.
la_america11 months ago
running pad next... maybe
Just do not sweat!
dnicky2288 (author)  la_america11 months ago
Sure, no problem. Remember to "Vote" for my project in the Arduino Contest.
la_america11 months ago
I am words can explain how amazing this is... Dude can you play any other flight game? Just curious...
dnicky2288 (author)  la_america11 months ago
Thanks for your compliment. Yes, you can play whatever game you want as long as I can find a way to acquire the positioning data from the game itself.
__-_-_-__11 months ago
and then you use a piece of logicrap joystick instead of a proper one like saitek -.-
dnicky2288 (author)  __-_-_-__11 months ago
Well, for your information, I have a Logitech MOMO force feedback steering wheel. I absolutely agree with you that my joystick is crap. I did mention that we tried to make everything as best as we can. However, we were not intending to make this a commercial simulator with traditional instruments.
your flight simulator called. he's begging for a new good joystick.
I'm not saying it would be commercial but omg... at least give good controls. you built a super l33t simulator and you forget the most important thing?
imo it's like buying a ferrari and have kart type controls...
dnicky2288 (author)  __-_-_-__11 months ago
I totally understand you. I just ordered an instrument panel on eBay. Also, I am going to order a new joystick in a few days. Please excuse my outdated joystick.
lol don't say sorry. it's your simulator you can do whatever you want with it. even use a wood stick as a joystick. it's your simulator that's complaining not me :p

Instrument panels are going to be a great addition. plz post some pics when you add those things.
you can greatly improve things if you want. aesthetics are awful maybe changing things a bit like painting the tubes etc. you could also had a triple display setup and a few more instrument panels.

it's really great what you accomplished. I would love to try it.
dnicky2288 (author)  __-_-_-__11 months ago
Thanks. I will update the Instructable with new pictures after I decorate and add the instrument panel.

When I built the Flight Simulator, aesthetics was not one of my priorities. But now that I'm done building, you've given me something good to think about.
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