Open-source Electronics Prototyping Platform
The term “Arduino” is popping up in flight sim circles with growing frequency. Discussions often lean a bit to the techie side which may be a bit off putting to some, and that’s a shame because Arduinos have a lot to offer.
Arduinos can control stepping motors and RC servos to make steam-gauge style instruments, drive 7-segment LEDs and LCD character displays to emulate aircraft radio heads, interface switches to your sim computer, drive LEDs for your sim’s annunciators, and so on. Arduino is not simply an interface, it’s a low-cost, general-purpose chunk of processing power you can apply anywhere in your sim.
The Arduino UNO is one of several Arduino models.
Officially, Arduino is an “open source micro controller prototyping platform”. More specifically:
Arduinos are widely available. For a list of vendors, see: http://arduino.cc/en/Main/Buy. You should be able to find Arduino near to you regardless of which country you call home. You can also find Arduino clones through Ebay, and Arduino variants from companies like Adafruit Industries, http://www.adafruit.com/products/72.
Arduino boards are general purpose devices which are configured for a specific application through software and optional expansion shields. The Arduino software development environment includes an Arduino driver which makes the USB-interfaced Arduino board appear to be connected to your PC through a virtual serial com port. This provides the means to write host-based software which can communicate with Arduino boards without having to develop USB driver software.
Such host-based software can provide the bridge to the flight simulation application through use of SimConnect, FSUIPC, or XPUIPC. You won’t need to blaze this path yourself as there are already MyCockpit members doing so, and discussing their progress in the MyCockpit Arduino section of the forum.
Arduino is a great introduction to micro controllers. It’s low cost and versatile, comes with sample code and tutorials, and is backed by an active community. Micro controllers in general, and Arduinos in particular, provide a means to add more realism to the flight sim experience by adding more functionality to your sim. Go buy one and try it out.
Mike Powell, author of
Building Recreational Flight Simulators ,
Building Simulated Aircraft Instrumentation, and
Building Simulator Displays Systems. (A work in progress)