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.

Step 1: The PVC Construction

PVC Plans:

Before you can start any construction, you must have a rough idea of the construction of the simulator. We based our simulator off the classic "Joyrider". It is recommended that you purchase the PDF plans for $15 at Acesim.

Our Flight Simulator's main structure is the physical foundation of the project. It consists of a racing seat mounted on a series of schedule-40 PVC pipes. We have layered certain parts of the PVC tubing. All pipers are secured with screws. The PVC structure rests on a large wooden base, which is where the pneumatic cylinders are mounted. My simulator is different from other designs in the aspect that it uses an Arduino to control pneumatic cylinders instead of motors.

Building the Platform:

Once you've acquired and familiarized yourself with all the PVC parts, you can proceed to building the "Joyrider". The only part that you should omit is the "PVC to joystick" base. You should not install the PVC parts that connect the joystick to the seat.

There are certain parts on the plans that may be outdated. For the seat, you can either use a sturdy plastic chair, or an actual racing seat. It is important to firmly mount the seat with nuts and bolts otherwise it will risk falling off. Before you actually mount the seat, make sure your construction is symmetrical and balanced. Once you are finished, you should have a balanced platform that looks like an infant's rocking crib. 

Be sure to drill holes and insert screws in your PVC connectors so that it will not fall apart. We chose to reinforce our setup by inserting galvanized steel pipes into the PVC to prevent them from bending and breaking. Once you are finished, you may build a wooden base to elevate the simulator. The base will be useful for implementing pneumatic cylinders.

<p>hello.. i would like to know the components that you use for your custom low pass filter.. really appreciate it if you can tell.... :)</p>
<p>hi Lee</p>
<p>great work, did you manage to follow the flight SW on screen simulation more tightly?</p>
Yeah, now it runs on SimTools. It will perfectly follow game data. It no longer reads on the joystick.
<p>can you explain?</p><p>so the design with arduino to joystick is different?</p>
<p>also i want to use D50mm stroke 500mm almost like 1&quot;D and 18&quot; stroke you used?</p><p>you think it's good design? </p><p>its P/N brand is MINICILINDRI ISO 6432ISO 6432 MINICYLINDERS 50-500</p><p><a href="http://www.metalwork.it/eng/img/prodotti/cilindri/11GB01%20ISO6432.pdf" rel="nofollow">http://www.metalwork.it/eng/img/prodotti/cilindri/...</a></p><p>from D8 to D50 ...</p><p>thanks </p><p>danny</p>
<p>Can you give me some tips regarding the arduino electronic circuit you built?</p><p>i understand the servo valve amplifier is 23-7030</p><p>what is the Low pass filter P/N you chose?</p><p>DC power supply P/N brand you chose?</p><p>also the compressor as i read is too small in tank what kind would you recommend?</p><p>thanks </p>
<p>Hi,Dnicky2288,can i get the parts list and control board diagram?lkglass@hotmail.com</p>
<p>me too please ^^</p><p>team.basaran@gmail.com</p>
<p>Hello Dnicky2288, could you please share the parts list and control board with me too? It is particularly not clear to me how this is wired up. Thank you.</p><p>usafmd@twcny.rr.com</p>
<p>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!</p><p>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!</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/ONjAwKO-IjA" width="500"></iframe></p><p>Regards, </p><p>Thanos</p>
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.<br><br>Thanos, you were always a good role model to me. However, you disappoint me with your comment.
<p>I'm really interested in making something like this for myself to play MWO (mechwarrior online). In that case, since I'm not sure I can get my hands on the movement data- do you think having the joystick control would be best? Also, in terms of movement- do you think this setup would be appropriate? It seems like a great way to make a mech pit.</p>
<p>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!</p><p>Thanks</p>
<p>hi</p><p>which software get game data for your board?or with which software you control your motion simulator?</p><p>thank you</p>
<p>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</p>
<p>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</p>
<p>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</p>
<p>This is an Awesome project. Great Job!</p>
<p>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.</p>
<p>The Teensy 2.0 is an arduino compatible board that can simulate a 32 button joystick. </p><p><a href="https://www.pjrc.com/store/teensy.html" rel="nofollow">https://www.pjrc.com/store/teensy.html</a></p><p>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.</p><br>
<p>does it work with flight gear, HAWX (1,2), aerofly fsx, prepar3D, Il2, microflight, Jane's series, Xplane and other Sims?</p>
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
<p>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?</p>
<p>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?</p>
<p>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.</p><p><a href="http://www.acesim.com/main.html" rel="nofollow">http://www.acesim.com/main.html</a></p><p>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.</p><p>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.</p>
Is there anyway you could improve the simulation by being able to go completely upside down ?
<p>are there many planes in simulators that actually would use -g?</p>
really good job i loved it . but why there is some delay?
One of the greatest Instructables I've seen! :) <br>Voted on it, and went to my Blog: <br>http://faz-voce-mesmo.blogspot.pt/2013/08/um-simulador-de-voo-para-fazer-em-casa.html
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
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 &quot;Veggie Tales&quot; characters up and down, and a PIC chip to control everything. (I keep running out of free time however.) <br> <br>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! <br> <br>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. <br> <br>You have a great future ahead of you! I'm looking forward to seeing more of your Instructables soon!
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.
Thank you so much for your encouragement! I saw your project; it looks adorable. I'm sure kids would love playing with it. <br><br>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<br><br>Again, thanks for your positive motivation! I will continue to do my best in this aspect.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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.
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! <br>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! <br>Thanks for sharing this...
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
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.
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.
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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