Hang Time Paraglider Simulator at Detroit Maker's Faire!


The Hang Time simulator was brought to the 2013 Detroit Maker's Faire, which was located at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.  It was a fantastic venue to exhibit the simulator to the general public and provide them an experience quite unlike any other.  My time was spent giving instruction of how a paraglider works, showing the controls to operate, and then guiding the "new pilot" as they put that instruction to use.  During the course of the weekend, over 100 people tried the simulator, and the feedback was nothing but positive!  The simulator also garnered a blue ribbon "Maker of Merit".

Photo: Left to Right: John Nichols, Trevor Deseck, and Mark Deseck
 

To keep the controls simple at Maker Faire, I left off the throttle controller (the simulator was actually built for powered paragliding, but serves just as well for free flight).  The takeaway by most everyone who tried it was a solid understanding of how a paraglider reacts to real-world flight inputs.


The Hang Time Paraglider Simulator has been featured on the Detroit Maker Faire website!


http://www.makerfairedetroit.com/2013/07/17/meet-the-maker-mark-deseck/#more-2225


The simulator was also mentioned in this blog

http://blog.diynetwork.com/maderemade/2013/11/14/maker-faire-recaps-detroit/

PPG Simulator Information 

Requirements

My intent for a PPG simulator was to have a design that was simple, feasible, fairly inexpensive, and dependable.  I believe I?ve met all of these objectives with the design I?ve created.  I set upon the following three attributes to make flying the PPG simulator as an immersive environment as possible: 

  • Sitting in a hanging harness (realistic body positioning and feel)
  • Brake toggle and hand throttle movements (realistic control input)
  • A virtual environment where one can turn one's head in 2 degrees of motion (yaw and pitch) and see the view from a realistic computer simulation of a paraglider or powered paraglider in flight (realistic sight and sound) 

Elements

My PPG simulator consists of the following elements: 

  • A PVC frame to hang from in your flight harness.  Update:  I'm now using a steel H-frame.  Note that a simple chair on the floor would be fine, and the frame could be made from lighter weight materials such as 1 ½" or 2? PVC.
  • Left and right brake toggles (to simulate left and right brake inputs)
  • A hand throttle (to simulate engine throttle)
  • A controller box that houses the electronics used to connect the toggles and throttle to your Personal Computer.
  • Other necessary elements:  Personal Computer, flight simulator software, virtual headset, and head tracking device.

Software and Hardware

Of course, a powerful PC and a decent flight simulator software package are essential.  I'll leave the details of the PC requirements aside, but the more powerful the better (especially in regards to the video card). 

For the software package, I recommend "Vehicle Simulator" by Ilan Papini:  http://www.qualitysimulations.com/vsf/.    He created the original Hang Sim program, followed on by Flight Sim, and finally his latest endeavor Vehicle Simulator.  It incorporates land, air, and sea (surface and sub) vehicle simulation.  The parameters that you can modify really make the program shine.  It's very cool.  I've already created a working model of the wing that I fly now - the Axis Power Pluto.  Just like the real thing, it rocks!  I'll be working on several other models and will have them available for free to anyone who wants to try them out themselves.

Microsoft Flight Simulator and X-Plane could work just as well for software sim packages, and are more popular choices, but I like the work that Ilan has produced - especially in regards to parameters for gliding and the ability to modify flight characteristics on the fly.  Finding correctly working paraglider models in FS and X-Plane may be hard to come by (just do some google searches yourself to see what I mean!).

For the virtual head display unit, I purchased one from Headplay:  http://www.headplay.com/.  For the money, it offers the best video quality and features.  I also have twin projectors and screens that are used for the simulator.

For the head tracking, I bought the TrackIR 5: http://www.naturalpoint.com/trackir/.  It does a fantastic job for following head movements, and really gives the feeling that you're looking in first person by tracking up to six degrees of movement (yaw, pitch, roll, and x - y - z).  In Vehicle Simulator, you only have yaw and pitch, which is fine for flying a paraglider.  In my now venerable Microsoft FS2004, and in FSX, you can use all 6 which REALLY adds to the immersion factor, especially in a simulated cockpit aircraft.

I've had a chance to mess around with both devices, and they work amazingly well.  Not for one having a faint stomach when pulling hard spirals!

Progress of Prototype Build

The Prototype build is complete and is working flawlessly!  The footprint of the frame is approx 5' by 9', with a smaller footprint possible with some minor tweaks (i.e. hacksaw).  The controller box was recognized by the PC, calibration was straight forward, and toggle and throttle controls are working as expected.  Within minutes I was up and flying.  A success!

Future Updates

Now that the prototype unit is complete (at least, to the level of being a working prototype), there are a couple of updates that I will consider:

 1)  Progressive pull on brake toggles.  This will be an easy change and I've already considered doing this while building the frame.  I'll incorporate a couple of bungie codes along the toggle axis to replicate a typical brake effort for a loaded wing.  Updated 1/10/10:  Brake pressure now incorporated in design.

2)  Real Risers.  I just happen to have a set of risers available that I can use in lieu of the climbing rope that I'm using now.  This will give a better feel, especially when I incorporate. Updated 3/20/10:  Paraglider riser set added!

2)  Weight Shift.  This will require a square frame to mount the riser set to, with a central pivot point to imitate yaw.  I don't believe that I will have to change any of the electronics in the controller box as the current setup may suffice.  This will require some further testing. Updated 3/20/10:  Weight shift is now possible!

If you have any suggestions, please feel free to contact me!

Mark Deseck  [email protected]

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