Adjustable ergonomic stick frame for a spring-loaded cyclic

After flying with a spring-loaded reinforced gimbal for a while, I noticed that slight backlash has developed in a stick connector part. While it was absolutely tolerable and that part can be replaced easily, I thought it was a good idea to design a new cyclic frame for those of us who value absolute precision over being able to remove the stick when not in use by simply pulling it off its socket.  The new stick frame is based on M8 bolts and mounted to the gimbal with nuts.  The cool thing about it  – you can easily adjust stick grip inclination (you can make a copy of AS350 stick for example) and fine-tune its dimensions to suit your anatomy. It can still be attached or detached quickly but requires 2 wrenches to tighten/loosen nuts properly. I think it will be a new recommended default for a spring-loaded cyclic.

As always, you can find parts for it on GitHub.

Here’s how it looks (note a slight inclination of the stick on the second photo):

Inexpensive VR on your smartphone, that works!

For those of us who want to try flying in VR, but can not afford to buy a 1080ti + Oculus Rift right now, there’s a decent alternative! I’ve recently bought a 6″ Xiaomi Mi A2 smartphone (not just for VR, my previous phone have died), and of course, I decided to give it a try in my BoboVRZ4 headset.  This is a pretty average smartphone, quite an inexpensive one. Yet, the cool thing about it is, it has a nice and crisp 2160×1080 screen (which is good enough be able to read instruments in VR!).

Last time I’ve tried to use my phone as a VR headset, I used Nvidia Moonlight to stream my PC screen to it. This was rather painful because stuff like lens distortion correction needed to be done on the PC (usually with help of Reshade), and if the game didn’t support native split-screen VR mode, additional software was needed.

Now, there’s a far better option: iVRy software, that turns a phone into a Steam VR headset! It works, FPS is decent, everything is quite smooth. Lens distortion compensation is done on the phone automatically according to your headset profile. The cool thing is, this setup runs XPlane just fine on my humble  GTX970 (FXAA, High effects, Maximum objects, High textures) at around 30 FPS, which is rather comfortable.

Note, that screen scaling in iVRy should be off (important), and the headset should be calibrated physically (SUPER IMPORTANT!). To do it, close one eye and adjust the focus until another eye will see a perfectly crisp picture. Close this eye and open another one, it should also see perfectly crisp picture. If not, hold one focus knob in place, while turning the other (do not worry if you hear a cracking sound – that’s the slipping of a focus adjustment belt). Adjust focus until both eyes will see perfectly crisp picture. Again, this is really important!

I often see “Nah, a smartphone will make you nauseous” posts on the forums. Well, I’ve been flying with a flat screen and an ED tracker for quite a while and kinda got used to using my head as a joystick. If you will be using your head movements to provide a proper control input to turn your virtual head in the sim, rather than to notice and measure latency, there shouldn’t be any problems at all =)

3D mouse cursor works just fine in XPlane and can be shown/hidden with a joystick button.

Now, there are probably two most important things we need to fly:  maps/ charts, and xsquawkbox support in VR. For maps, the best plugin I have found so far is AviTab – it doesn’t cause noticeable FPS drop. You can assign a hotkey to show/hide it when needed. Sadly, Xsquawkbox does not support VR yet. There’s a Lua script for reading messages though. It seems a bit buggy to me and also requires FS economy (but you can comment out everything related to it so it will work without it).

Overall, its a very interesting experience. Flying in mountains with Ortho4XP in VR is really epic! The headset runs at decent FPS, and probably feels something like 70% as good as Rift, for a mere fraction of its price. It’s definitely worth trying!

 

Force trim related bug fixes and improvements

I have been flying for a while at 80% firmware sensitivity setting (increased precision mode) in Dreamfoil 407 in Xplane11 to test how the new force trim mode works along with it. These flights helped me to fix some related bugs and allowed me to fine-tune some numbers in the default config of the master controller.

I should say it’s a pure joy to fly now, even in the wind, even in ground effect (maybe the latter has something to do with the 11.30 beta).  While cruising, the ball is always centered, and only minor adjustments with cyclic are necessary (and springs won’t let you do weird movements with the stick accidentally). ATT_TRIM hat switch mode is quite useful, with it you don’t have to re-trim if you’ve missed an ideal spot by a hair, just press it a few times to adjust attitude.

The only limitation is, you have to trim pedals in their center position before landing, so you will have enough of travel available for low-speed turns. This is slightly more noticeable at 80% than when flying at 100% sensitivity setting (increased precision mode maps all of the physical sensor range to 80% of the axis).

By the way, pedals work great so far, springs don’t seem to cause any negative effects.

I have uploaded the latest software to GitHub, please update. By default, the firmware is now configured for use with a spring-loaded cyclic.

Test flight of the latest upgrades in Dreamfoil 407

I have installed the same clutch pedal springs from LADA 2101 to pedals and made a short test flight of the upgraded hardware in X-Plane.

Impressions:

WOW, THAT NEW FORCE TRIM MODE IS AWESOME, SO ARE THE SPRINGS (like that, boldly, in caps)! Springs have actually added precision and made flying really comfortable. This short flight in a 407 probably felt like the best flight in it ever.

It really changes everything. I’ve been able to remove hands from the controls and pour myself some coke while flying the helicopter with pedals only.

I will need a couple of weeks to test mechanical strength of things, and if nothing breaks, will definitely recommend everyone to try a setup with springs!

A short video of landing:

Springs for a reinforced cyclic gimbal, new force trim mode!

I have finally been able to go to the local car parts shop and buy some springs for the gimbal. Here’s how it looks now:

Reinforced gimbal with springs!

 

I should start by saying it works just great. These springs are from some Lada’s clutch (i think they’re for the pedal), they are 55mm long when compressed and about 11mm wide. I am pretty sure any similar spring will work great, just pick one with light or moderate tension.

More (a lot more) below!

Continue reading “Springs for a reinforced cyclic gimbal, new force trim mode!”