Convert a Cheap Flight Joystick to a Precise One

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Introduction: Convert a Cheap Flight Joystick to a Precise One

This instructable converts the cheap Genius Maxfighter F-16U joystick which uses potentiometers to a precise joystick using LED/LDR combination. I guess it is fit for any joystick that uses potentiometers.

check out this video on youtube

Step 1: Understanding the Joystick

This is a three axis joystick, here we manipulate only 2 of them (horizontal and vertical). See the drawings for better understanding.

Step 2: The Modification

Potentiometer is a variable resistor that is going to be replaced by a Light detecting resistor (LDR) and a LED light.

The value of the LDR resistance is controlled by the distance it has from the moving LED fixed to the axis of motion.

LEDs can be destroyed if connected directly to 5V USB power, do they require a series resistor to limit their voltage to a safe limit.

Test circuit is just to show you the effectiveness of the LDR, it is not a part of the job.

Step 3: Better Photos and Tips

1. General Photo

2. Make sure that the wiring for the LEDs is firmly fixed. Here is inserted the wires along with the socket that powers the joystick board, see polarity in the photo and test it with a Multi meter is you have one.

3 & 4. The LEDs fixed to the axis, note the shape of the new axis which fits the half circular hole. Note also that the sides of the LED are black painted because the LED shines from all sides not just the tip (that we need)

5. The LDR's fixed to the calibration carriages.

6. Black tape to ensure no light from the outside could affect the device.

While calibrating the joystick with PC, you can move the calibration carriages such that the raw data (numerical reading of the position) could read 127 (half the full value) while centered.

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    7 Comments

    Thanks for sharing this Great ible! I like that you used a video to show so much detail and very well explained. I am working on a helicopter flight control system and plan to explore this idea or something similar to built a cyclic and throttle control on the cheap.

    I work with flight simulators, I like your, over the top, fix. The only thing I would do a little different is to use a separate resistor for each led. I would use a 330ohm resistor per led in that way you are guaranteed to have only 15ma through the led. With your 100ohm resistor, you will have a max draw of 50ma/2 = 25ma per led, which is too much current.

    2 replies

    As you work with flight sims, what is better to use for motion detection. Hall effect sensors or led/ldr's? Which is more precise?

    I don't think hall sensor is that accurate, however ultimate accuracy can surely be achieved using encoders (relative encoders were used in old ball mouse, and in modern mouse wheel, Absolute encoders are used industrially) another option of course is the electronic gyroscope chip with arduino or raspberry

    Hi friend!

    I can't get this specific model of joystick, do all cheap joysticks have the same inner configuration?

    2 replies

    I am not quiet sure sir. But since potentiometers are the cheapest way for an analog position locator, I guess so.

    Thanks a lot. Here in Spain "thrift stores"/ "second hand stores" are very rare, so my main source for stuff is either eBay or a Pc store.
    Anyways I'll try to find my old Logitech Attack so I can do some modifications to it.