The area of motion simulation, especially that of flight simulators (Figure 1), is currently the main commercial application of parallel mechanisms. These simulators, albeit very popular and providing very realistic cues, have several notable disadvantages including a restricted workspace (mainly with respect to rotation), prohibitive cost, limited operation and they require high maintenance. Moreover, the oils contained in the actuators can be an environmental problem for some people.

    Fig. 1: Flight simulator (courtesy of CAE).

    To eliminate these disadvantages, the laboratory has designed a low-cost flight simulator having a limited number of degrees of freedom and a simple architecture, which is able to create motion cues realistic enough to allow it to be used for the training of pilots (during the first phases of their training).

    Several research studies were carried out during this project, including a comparison of cues which can be created by various 3-DOF architectures so as to choose the most suitable architecture. Then, a design of a mechanism was achieved incorporating several innovative ideas, such as static balancing and the use of rotoid electric actuators. The design is presented in Figure 2 and a plastic prototype, reduced by a factor of 10, is shown in Figure 3.

    Fig. 2: Schematic representation of the flight simulator.
    Fig. 3: Plastic prototype of the flight simulator.

    The model has 2 legs, of types RRU and RUS, and one passive Hooke joint on which the seat, controls and screen are mounted. The legs allow rotations to be carried out around a cone, while a motor added to the platform allows the platform to pivot in a plane normal to it. Thus a range of motion of ±60 degrees is possible.

    Software and Material Architecture and Communications

    A flight simulator is composed of several elements. In addition to motion systems, there are the flight controls (sleeve, rudder, pedals), the visual system and the computation system. A schematic of the sub-systems of a flight simulator is available by clicking here.

    Several componants were thus added to obtain a complete and functional flight simulator. The main details are provided below:

    The complete system is presented in Figures 4 and 5. All of the componants are shown, with the exception of the motion system whose construction has not been completed.

    Fig. 4: Computation system and controller


    Fig. 5: Audio-visual system.

    Several tests were carried out with the plastic model, to test the various sub-systems and to carry out real simulations; pilot inputs, spherical projection and motor movements. The results are very promising.

    The flight simulator developed in the laboratory offers numerous advantages. The small size and low cost of this simulator make it a very good tool for the first steps in pilot training, especially for small companies. Its large range of motion allows it to simulate very agile airplanes (military airplanes) as well as commercial airplanes (Boeing, Airbus, etc.). The realism of the spherical screen provide an excellent immersion of the pilot in the simulation.


    A poster describing the flight simulator was prepared in 2002 and can be downloaded with the PDF below.

    Video Clips

    The following video sequences show the flight simulator in operation.