Instructables
Picture of 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.

Overview:

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.

Concept:

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.

Demonstration:

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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nice work... I made the joyrider but I'm lost when it comes to setting up the computer to motors... I have two windshield wiper motors i can use... have a parallel pair of hydraulic actuators (12v) from a convertable, but I think they are too slow...I'd love to find info on how to connect that part from frame to game...(in laymen's terms...) Thanks

ThanasisK17 days ago

Why make it follow the joystick? You could achieve that with the original lever design of the joyrider and save yourself from using electronics and pneumatics!

I too used electronics for my joyrider, to control cheap car wiper motors, that respond to real-time motion cues from the simulation software, not the joystick!

Regards,

Thanos

dnicky2288 (author)  ThanasisK17 days ago
My flight simulator was running on the joystick so I can demonstrate its capabilities. However, right now, the simulator has always been running on Xsim software which reads game data.

Thanos, you were always a good role model to me. However, you disappoint me with your comment.

Why are you disappointed? I didn't mean to sound harsh. I was just wondering as I didn't see anywhere on the instructable that you are using x-sim software. Maybe you should update it a little bit. It doesn't look bad for pneumatic system!

Thanks

dmurillo321 days ago

Question, can it work for anything but Flight Simulator? Say we wanted to test this out on a video footage of a airplane flight? Can it work around that

EduardoM12 months ago

Hello. We are Artefacto Estudio from Mexico, would like to collaborate with you on doing an Oculus version simulator, please contact us. soporte@artefactoestudio.com

SeaWolf29132 months ago

This is an Awesome project. Great Job!

Zahg2 months ago

Would it be possible to program it to move directly with the joystick input itself, then also output to a pc as an input device. That way it would work with almost any game/sim that allows joystick input. I would love to have a powered motion sim, but the games I want to use it on dont output sim positions like iracing or flight sim. I am seriously considering just building a powerless 'joyrider' type platform.

SeaWolf2913 Zahg2 months ago

The Teensy 2.0 is an arduino compatible board that can simulate a 32 button joystick.

https://www.pjrc.com/store/teensy.html

It should be possible to use this to build flight controls that replaces the Duemilanove used in the project and appears to the gaming PC as a USB joystick. I have one, and getting the PC to read it as a joystick is pretty easy.


gada8882 months ago

Hi,Dnicky2288,can i get the parts list and control board diagram?lkglass@hotmail.com

FamB gada8882 months ago

me too please ^^

team.basaran@gmail.com

mschwarz115 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)  mschwarz115 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: http://xsimulator.net
takkan7 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?

UltimateDIY7 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?

rickharris8 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.

http://www.acesim.com/main.html

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.

firstson111 year ago
Is there anyway you could improve the simulation by being able to go completely upside down ?
skaar firstson119 months ago

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

suhaibchobi11 months ago
really good job i loved it . but why there is some delay?
Edgar1 year ago
One of the greatest Instructables I've seen! :)
Voted on it, and went to my Blog:
http://faz-voce-mesmo.blogspot.pt/2013/08/um-simulador-de-voo-para-fazer-em-casa.html
dnicky2288 (author)  Edgar1 year ago
Thank you so much! I really appreciate it!
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
kooth1 year ago
This is just awesome! I'm in the middle of trying to build the Wack-A-Veggie (http://www.instructables.com/id/Whac-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)  kooth1 year 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)  kooth1 year 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: club@lifebeam.net

Again, thanks for your positive motivation! I will continue to do my best in this aspect.
camtron771 year 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)  camtron771 year 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.
espdp21 year 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)  espdp21 year 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!
kschmidt21 year 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)  kschmidt21 year 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 Carmasaic1 year 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.
you should try and make it tilt with the plane to it is more realistic
dnicky2288 (author)  The nerdling1 year 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.
Have you thought about using something like the Oculus vr? It would be a lot easier than making an aircraft enclosure.
dnicky2288 (author)  fling1 year 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.
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)  Vengence1 year 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!
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