This DIY flight simulator cockpit can replicate up to 3g vertical force

Military flight simulators cost millions of dollars to build, but one ambitious engineer named André Pointner has built one on a shoestring budget (comparatively). The three-axis device can rotate the pilot 360 degrees to simulate barrel rolls and other maneuvers (video below). The rotations also help simulate the forces experienced in flight.

Since G-forces are a function of gravity, the max a user can feel without moving is one gravitational unit (1g). By comparison, fighter jets can pull up to 9g vertically. To intensify these effects, Pointner created a five-point harness that tightens intelligently. Depending on the conditions, the system increases the pull to make it feel like up to 3g of force.

While the DIY cockpit does have a small monitor, Pointner does not use it when running a simulation. Instead, he has a helmet with an HTC Vive fastened to it. Not only does this allow the sim to be more immersive, but it also conserves space and money when compared to trying to build a 360-degree dome with projection screens.

Pointner did not share how much the cockpit cost him to construct, but he did share some details on the X-Sim forums. A partial "shopping list" includes:

  • Two Elegoo Uno R3 (he says avoid using Arduino since its VDC is less accurate)
  • Two Hallsensor (Pot 360-degree endless)
  • Two Sabertooth dual 60A motors
  • One Sabertooth dual 15A motor
  • One Kangaroo motion controller
  • One Quadro Encoder 5V
  • Four 12V / 35Ah batteries (for the cockpit)
  • Two 12V / 7Ah batteries (for the belt system)

While cheap by military standards, this project can be prohibitively expensive if you are starting from scratch.

It can also be a bit dangerous, so caution is heavily advised before building one of your own. Not only are there moving parts to contend with, but Pointner also warns that using the wrong motors for the harness tensioners could result in severe injury or death.

"With 360°, 200kg Basket and 230V AC even small mistakes can end deadly," he says. "Don't use more then max. 3kW actuator. Or at least make very sure that the motor don't get more power then 3000W peak. Why? 2000W brake your bones, but you will survive likely. But at 5000W everthing is just ripped apart instantly [sic]."

If you plan to build something like this, proceed at your own risk. A more complete list of required parts and some of the problems he faced can be found in his forum posts.

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TomSEA

TechSpot Chancellor
That's impressive! Wonder what flight simulator software he was using. Hard to tell from the video.
 

captaincranky

TechSpot Addict
Now as soon as he puts out detailed drawings or a kit, and "Old Navy" realizes G-Suits are "fashionable" and starts selling them, we'll be in business.
 

Vulcanproject

TS Evangelist
As far as I can tell from the video he has built an elaborate clock that is unsure of the time, whilst simultaneously attempting to empty his pockets. Looks fun.
 

QuantumPhysics

TS Evangelist
All of these gaming chairs and no company has build a gaming chair with a HOTAS for flight simulator enthusiasts.

But then again, Flight Sims have been dead since Novalogic and JANES went down.
 
I call this bull. The main virtue of G-training is to be able to maintain control when blood doesn't flow right inside the brain, which is what's causing loss of control. Increase in a bodily harness pressure won't replicate the effect. Only a centrifuge can do that.
 
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Uncle Al

TS Evangelist
Dang, and I just figured out how to repair folding chairs ..... looks like a bit more challenge!
 

Faelan

TS Enthusiast
That's impressive! Wonder what flight simulator software he was using. Hard to tell from the video.
It’s DCS (Digital Combat Simulator) World. He is flying the F-14 Tomcat made by Heatblur. I instantly recognized the voice in the video since I fly it regularly.
 
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Faelan

TS Enthusiast
All of these gaming chairs and no company has build a gaming chair with a HOTAS for flight simulator enthusiasts.

But then again, Flight Sims have been dead since Novalogic and JANES went down.
Nah, not dead. Sure, if Fortenite is your benchmark for whether something is alive or not, then sure - it’s dead. But it’s alive enough for companies to make new soft and hardware. In fact, it feels like the number of people getting into flightsims is growing thanks to games such as Star Citizen and Elite Dangerous. It’s also very telling that Microsoft is willing to go all in on the upcoming Flight Simulator 2020. No, it’s never going to be a genre that will appeal to the masses and therefore it’s never going to reach mainstream levels. Still, I think it’s doing okay everything considered. For a while it did look like it was game over though.

As for the gaming chair with built in HOTAS. Well, that already kinda exists. You can get mounting solutions that will mount most stuff on the market to most of the popular gaming chair brands. I did that with my gear. Now I have a gaming chair that’s frankly more expensive than a lot of gaming PCs. We’re talking over $1000. Question is, how many people are willing to throw that much at a gaming chair with a HOTAS built in?
 

QuantumPhysics

TS Evangelist
Nah, not dead. Sure, if Fortenite is your benchmark for whether something is alive or not, then sure - it’s dead. But it’s alive enough for companies to make new soft and hardware. In fact, it feels like the number of people getting into flightsims is growing thanks to games such as Star Citizen and Elite Dangerous. It’s also very telling that Microsoft is willing to go all in on the upcoming Flight Simulator 2020. No, it’s never going to be a genre that will appeal to the masses and therefore it’s never going to reach mainstream levels. Still, I think it’s doing okay everything considered. For a while it did look like it was game over though.

As for the gaming chair with built in HOTAS. Well, that already kinda exists. You can get mounting solutions that will mount most stuff on the market to most of the popular gaming chair brands. I did that with my gear. Now I have a gaming chair that’s frankly more expensive than a lot of gaming PCs. We’re talking over $1000. Question is, how many people are willing to throw that much at a gaming chair with a HOTAS built in?

#1 When you say FLIGHT SIM, you are not talking about Star Citizen or Elite Dangerous. Those are not Flight Sims. Those are Space Sims.

A Flight sim would be like Falcon 4.0, JANES USAF, F-16 Multirole Fighter, Team Apache, etc. Yes those are all combat simulators, but they are based on real world aircraft rather than spacecraft.

#2 Since mid 2000s most flight sims vanished and never got sequels. Microsoft Flight Simulator is a decent simulator, but it's boring when compared to the games I mentioned.


If people are willing to spend $1000 for a GPU, there are plenty of people willing to spend $1000+ for an item that fills as many rolls as a HOTAS chair. Most gaming chairs cost nearly half that if not more.
 

MarkHughes

TS Maniac
Sounds like there needs to be some kind of mechanical yield between the motor and seatbelt. Some kind of slipping clutch maybe to limit the torque. or something to limit the motors range of motion.
 

Faelan

TS Enthusiast
#1 When you say FLIGHT SIM, you are not talking about Star Citizen or Elite Dangerous. Those are not Flight Sims. Those are Space Sims.

A Flight sim would be like Falcon 4.0, JANES USAF, F-16 Multirole Fighter, Team Apache, etc. Yes those are all combat simulators, but they are based on real world aircraft rather than spacecraft.

#2 Since mid 2000s most flight sims vanished and never got sequels. Microsoft Flight Simulator is a decent simulator, but it's boring when compared to the games I mentioned.


If people are willing to spend $1000 for a GPU, there are plenty of people willing to spend $1000+ for an item that fills as many rolls as a HOTAS chair. Most gaming chairs cost nearly half that if not more.
I probably should have taken some time to further elaborate what I meant by Star Citizen and Elite Dangerous. Yes, I’m fully aware that they’re NOT flight sims. They’re space sims, another genre that was declared dead for a while back when the X series and EVE online was pretty much it some 10-12 years ago? I have over 1000 hours in ED and must be well over 10000 hours in the flight sim genre. I’ve been a flightsimmer since the C64 days basically.

Anyway, what I was trying to get at is that Star Citizen has had quite some media exposure and Elite Dangerous can often be found on sale on Steam for less than the price of a pizza where I live. This brings in curious people. Those who stick around then tend to go out and buy a HOTAS. At some point they tend to either run out of content or get fed up/tired of waiting, so they try out other things and that leads them to flight sims. I mean, you can download DCS for free and fly the included SU-25 which, although not a high-fidelity module, is still miles more advanced than anything you can get in "free to play" War Thunder for a small fortune or after some very laborious grinding.

As for Microsoft Flight Simulator being boring, yeah - well, that’s all down to individual preference I suppose. You have people that like to play iRacing all day long and just don’t get why someone would want to play Euro Truck simulator 2 and vice versa. same thing with flight sims. As for me, I like to dabble in them all depending on my mood and energy level. Sometimes I drive the truck and sometimes I drop laser guided bombs on the truck from 20000 feet :)

When it comes the gaming chair, I think mine was around $250-300 (DXRacer) and the mounts were little over $200 I think. The HOTAS was about $740 (over $1000 if we include rudder pedals which obviously can"t be mounted to the chair), so I’m actually a fair bit over $1000 now that I look more closely at it. Huh. Anyway, I think there’s an importance difference between a $1000 GPU and a $1000 gaming chair. You don’t -need- a $1000 gaming chair to get a good gaming experience (IKEA Markus served me well for years, I’m sure it won’t impact you win ratio lol), but a $1000 GPU will generally deliver a solid gaming experience. What I’m trying to say is that people, generally speaking, only have so much money to throw around and therefore must prioritize.

But wait, we haven’t reached the most important part yet. HOTAS users belong to a niche group. High-end HOTAS users are a niche within a niche. High-end HOTAS users that mount their HOTAS to a chair instead of a desk or home cockpit... well, they belong to a niche within the niche within a niche. It frankly doesn’t get more niche than that! Now, a company like DXRacer could in theory stick a $200 HOTAS on a $300 gaming chair and sell it for... say $550. Problem is, those $200 HOTAS units are notorious for breaking in a year or two of moderate to heavy use (if you buy a chair with built in HOTAS, you probably intend to use it a lot). Then what? Best thing they could possibly do is to just sell mounts as an add-on to their own chairs, but that niche market is already being served by 3rd party sellers. In short, it would be cool from a consumer perspective, but from a business perspective, it makes little sense. Especially since you’d see better profit returns by simply making a gaming chair with MOAR LEDs instead (you know the limit has been reached when you get sued by the mayor of Las Vegas due to light pollution lol).
 

QuantumPhysics

TS Evangelist
I probably should have taken some time to further elaborate

Let me also elaborate.

When I was a kid, I used to play a lot of flight sim games.

When I got old enough, I started flying for real. Cessna Skyhawk was my training aircraft. At $200 a flight, it got very expensive. Ground School was $500 for the course and I wanted to be able to fly more at home.

Saitek introduced Cessna Pro Flight. some people in my flight school got it. Pretty expensive, but a good toy for home. I used to spend hours upon hours in sims practicing.

Lately, there's no good military-style flight sims like in the early 2000's.

I spent many, many hours on JANES USAF and F-16 Multirole fighter.

They used to make great add on peripherals. Better joysticks, better HOTAS systems, better pedals, better MFD modules...

Now it's like all dried up.
 

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Karl Hungus

TS Enthusiast
All of these gaming chairs and no company has build a gaming chair with a HOTAS for flight simulator enthusiasts.

But then again, Flight Sims have been dead since Novalogic and JANES went down.
Not dead at all. DCS World and IL2 are fantastic...waaaay ahead of where Novalogic and Janes ever were (I played them all). If you haven't tried DCS, how can you possibly comment on flight sims now? It's a free download with the SU 25T and PF 51 included. Problem is most find them too complex and aren't willing to learn them. The FA/18C, F-14 and A10C are on a whole other level. If you can fly them in DCS, you can fly them in real life (see videos out there). MS Flight Sim 2020 may bring more in though when it releases.
 
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Faelan

TS Enthusiast
Let me also elaborate.

When I was a kid, I used to play a lot of flight sim games.

When I got old enough, I started flying for real. Cessna Skyhawk was my training aircraft. At $200 a flight, it got very expensive. Ground School was $500 for the course and I wanted to be able to fly more at home.

Saitek introduced Cessna Pro Flight. some people in my flight school got it. Pretty expensive, but a good toy for home. I used to spend hours upon hours in sims practicing.

Lately, there's no good military-style flight sims like in the early 2000's.

I spent many, many hours on JANES USAF and F-16 Multirole fighter.

They used to make great add on peripherals. Better joysticks, better HOTAS systems, better pedals, better MFD modules...

Now it's like all dried up.
Congratulations on flying for real. That’s awesome. I never got the chance. When I had the health for it, I didn’t have the money for it and now that I’m more able to afford it, well, let’s just say my health has given me a big fat thumbs down on that.

Loved the JANES series of flight sims back in the day. Falcon 4.0 was awesome when it worked. Not sure what you mean by things being all dried up though. There’s DCS, Falcon BMS, IL-2 BoX or IL-2 CoD and RoF. Basically anything from WWI, WWII and more modern stuff, even some of the more recent but obscure planes like the JF-17 Thunderer can be flown. As for hardware, have you checked out VKB or Virpil? Perhaps Brunner Elektronik if you fancy force feedback and got bundles of cash to burn. Is it just that you don’t like those offerings? I mean, that’s perfectly valid. I think what we’re seeing here that makes it feel like there is less on offer is the shift away from titles focusing on a single aircraft to platforms having many different aircraft available within them plus the nice hardware moving to boutique stores. You won’t really find anything better than the TM Warthog on Amazon. The really good stuff is something you order from countries like Lithuania. My rudder pedals were made in Croatia and I’m currently waiting for something made in Russia and had to pay for it in Rubles lol.