Thursday, March 6, 2008

Flying without keyboard

My wish is to fly with the simulator without touching the keyboard and the mouse as far as possible.

The idea arose when I bought the MCP and the EFIS and I found out how great was the improvement in realism.
At that time I bought the hardware from CPFlight because I did not have any experience in electronics apart of some concept due to my work.
For the same reason I bought a ready-to-use NAV, VOR,ADF and COM modules.

My apartment is not very big and the PC and all the stuffs to fly have to be installed in the living room but they must be hidden when nobody is flying.

This constraint means that all the equipments must be placed into a mirrored closet.
As you can see in the following picture, the central part of the closet is open and ready.

As a consequence, I can have as much hardware, instruments and panels as I can put inside the closet.
It is also possible to have hardware that I can easily move from one position to another when I fly.

This constraint affects my design in the following ways:
  • there is no room for the second officer panels and instruments;
  • the panels can't reproduce the original ones i.e. I have to create my panels putting all the controls I need in a logical way;
  • all the panels and the hardware must be easy to move from one position to another (inside the closet and tomorrow in another room outside o f the closet).

After a survey on the web, I have decided to adopt Opencockpits cards.

The main reason is that the community of Opencockpit users is quite big and the brand is based in Spain, Europe, so I can order the pieces and have them ta home in a short time.
Opencockpit cards seem clean easy to build even for non expert people like me.
The software seem easy to configure and interface with FSX.

As a starting point, I have bought an USB expansion cards and a Master card.The first one connects to one of the USB sockets of my PC and has 4 sockets to connect up to 4 masters card.

Besides that, the USB expansion card has 4 potentiometer that could be used for driving axes.
The master card has input and output lines as well as a socket to connect displays.
I kindly suggest to browse the Opencockpits website if you need more info about these cards.

I have installed the software and the hardware and tested their functioning with a simple experiment: I wanted to command the landing gear with a switch and have a light (LED) on when the landing gear is down.

I have then connected the USB to the PC, the two cards together, the master card to my power supply, the cables to input and output lines.
I have then installed the Opencockpit software and started FSX with the default 737.
For this experiment I did not use SIOCbut ConfigIOCards that allows to link switches and LEDs (i.e. input and output lines) to FS SDK offset through FSUIPC.
The following picture shows my test suite.

You can see the 2 cards directly connected, the power supply in the left side and a white LED over the keyboard. I needed no more then 2 hours to have the hardware installed, the LED and the landing gear switch working. That is a very good result given that my experience in electronic is almost null.

At this point the project can start!I want to build my hardware to fly the 767LD with the help of the software developed by Niko Kan.

The first step is to build the power supply unit (PSU) then all the the panels that depend on this one..

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