Our students are building flight simulator “AGH UST Aviator”

First prototype printed circuit boards

Processors necessary for project accomplishment

Equipment for push-buttons, switches, encoders, analogue axes, and alphanumeric displays

CAN bus and interference

Test software helping to decode packets obtained from the system

First flight with a full visual system in a not fully finished cockpit (all photos are from a private archive of the AGH UST Special Interest Group of Electronic Engineers)

Combining a great passion for aviation with knowledge in the fields of electronics, computer science and mechanical engineering, students of the AGH University of Science and Technology are building the flight simulator “AGH UST Aviator”. The construction is a “full-flight” type of simulator with a motion cockpit and built-in switches and audio-visual systems, which will fully imitate visual and motor sensations experienced by pilots when flying an aeroplane.  

The aim of the simulator is to imitate accurately the appearance and technical capabilities of Cessna 172SP (a small passenger plane) equipped with the navigation system G1000. In the modular system, each device (e.g. autopilot, radio module, control panel) will have its own electronic system. All modules will then be connected to a CAN bus, and one of the modules, performing the function of a bridge, will communicate with Flight Simulator X by means of a virtual serial port and dedicated software using SimConnect client libraries. Additionally, it will be possible to connect the modules directly to the computer, also in the role of an HID joystick.  

The prepared prototype electronic modules are suitable for the already started machine assembly. The developers are also working on software for particular modules as well as communication software. In the near future, they are planning to buy necessary computer equipment, assemble and install the visual system, and make the physical parts of control systems (switch panels, display units). The mechanical structure of the entire cockpit is also being developed. 

The initiators of the project are students who are members of the AGH UST Special Interest Group of Electronic Engineers at the Faculty of Computer Science, Electronics and Telecommunications: Piotr Rzeszut, MSc (he began work on the simulator when he was still a student, now he is a doctoral student), Grzegorz Gajoch, BSc, Mateusz Zapart, MSc, and Bartłomiej Flak, MSc.  

The team got bigger together with the development and progress of work. Students of the Special Interest Group “Volt” at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Automatics, Computer Science and Biomedical Engineering helped with the design and selection of mechanical parts. Members of the Special Interest Group of Military Constructions “Adamantium” at the Faculty of Materials Science and Ceramics worked on the monitor support structure. They are also finalising the construction of the cockpit. 

Thanks to the appropriate assembly of the structure, which can be taken to any place and re-assembled, the simulator will be presented during popular science events, such as the Researchers’ Night or Science Festival in Krakow. Anyone interested will be able to fly in the sky without the need to board a real plane, have a bird's eye view of the world, and feel like a pilot while trying their hand behind the controls of an aircraft. The students are also planning to present the simulator at the annual Małopolska Air Picnic in Krakow. 

Apart from activities promoting the university, the project will also serve educational purposes – it will enable students to carry out tasks related to designing electronics and testing communication systems. 

The project, which is constantly being improved and developed, has already had its premiere in front of a live audience. The simulation of a flight in “AGH UST Aviator” was in the programme of this year’s Researchers’ Night in Krakow, as well as on the list of auctioned attractions during the event “Christmas for Children at AGH UST 2018” (Polish: Święta Dzieciom w AGH 2018). 

It is worth reminding the readers about the success of the “AGH UST Aviator” team in the event EDC Hackathon 2018, organised by the Institute of Aviation in Warsaw. Our students obtained the best results in the competition event in which they had to assemble a fully functional cockpit for X-Plane 11 Flight Simulator so that the virtual Cessna 172SP was able to take off. 

The AGH UST students and aviation lovers already have a new idea – in the future, they would like to build a glider simulator.