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Dec 09 2010

Flight Simulation with ArduPilot

Due to the upcoming exam week I was been unable to spend much time working on the ArduPilot this week so for my last blog post of the semester I’ve decided to look into the flight simulators available for the ArduPilot.  As of now there are three different methods of simulating a flight, each of which will be explained below.

     Built-in sim mode:

This mode is pre-configured in the ArduPilot code and enables you to simulate 3-D waypoint flight of a mission. The output of this simulation can be seen on the ground station. The roll, climb and fall rate of your plane can be edited by changing the respective values located at the bottom of the AP_Config.h tab of the ArduPilot code. The text will appear as follows and are shown in their original form.

/*Debugging Stuff for Sim Mode*/
#define TURNRATE 90 // (degrees) how fast we turn per second in degrees at full bank
#define CLIMBRATE_UP 1000 // (meters * 100) how fast we climb in simulator at 90°
#define CLIMBRATE_DOWN 3000 // (meters * 100) how fast we climb in simulator at 90°


This mode requires that you purchase the Xplane online flight simulator for around $30. You will also need a communication program which will sent the ArduPilot’s outputs to the flight simulator through the FTDI cable. This simulator provides a more aesthetic simulation of the flight which enables you to fly the plane with the transmitter as well as switch between test modes. DIY drones has an image of the required Xplane settings such that it will work with the ArduPilot as well as the communications program.


Flightgear is a free online flight simulator that can be used much like the Xplane software to simulate a flight. For this you need to download the Items listed on the DIY Drones webpage. I plan on working with this simulator as well as the built-in sim mode on the ArduPilot throughout the testing process.