New Software Opens Access To Aircraft Controller Design

Problem:  The single most important development over the past 50 years in aircraft flight control systems development is the testing of control design concepts on ground based flight simulators. Ground simulation allows flight control system changes to be made quickly and inexpensively prior to producing the airplane. Unfortunately, these simulators are so expensive that only a few exist in the USA. Design engineers, pilots, and students have limited access to these expensive simulators.

newsoft.jpg (19664 bytes)Solution:  A new software program called "Aviator Visual Design SimulatorTM" (AVDS) sells for less than $15,000 and works on inexpensive desktop computers. It allows an engineer, pilot, or student to do much of the work done in the big simulators at a fraction of the cost.

Wright Technology Network (WTN) arranged a Cooperative Research & Development Agreement between the Air Force Flight Dynamics Directorate Control System Development Branch and Artificial Horizons, Inc. (AHI) of San Francisco, California, to develop and commercialize AVDS. Artificial Horizons had a flight simulator called "AviatorTM" with an open architecture that met the Air Force’s high standards. The Air Force used Aviator source code to write AVDS. AVDS is now one of the brightest tools in the flight control development toolbox.

Features:  The engineer using AVDS can control his simulated airplane with a view from the cockpit or from anywhere outside the airplane. A window on the left hand column of the screen displays strip chart recorders of engineering data on wing pressure, angular velocities, etc. in real time. The designer can tell how sensitive the plane’s motion is to movements on the control stick. The designer can obtain a preliminary assessment of handling qualities and any tendency for "Pilot Induced Oscillation", the suspected cause of many plane crashes.

AVDS has slow motion replay to pinpoint instabilities. AVDS also has several educational features for teaching concepts of aviation. AVDS can network with other computers to "fly" large multi-plane missions. And AVDS has easily understood menus presented in a Graphical User Interface. AVDS is so easy to use that training in the use of the software is almost unnecessary.

Artificial Horizons has modified AVDS to run on Windows 95TM, Windows NTTM, and workstations by Sun, Silicon Graphics, and others with Open GL architecture. Artificial Horizons also offers AVDS at an academic discount for your local Aeronautical Engineering school for only $500.


  • Low cost control simulation software that runs on low cost computers.
  • Wider access for engineers, pilots, and students to flight controls simulation.
  • Quicker development of new aircraft flight control systems.
  • Less costly development of new aircraft.

Current Status:

  • Aviator Visual Design Simulator in use by a number of Air Force organizations.
  • Artificial Horizons offers Aviator Visual Design Simulator for sale in August 1997 on a CD ROM.
If you have any questions about this Cooperative Research and Development Agreement or are interested in getting more information about technology transfer and CRADA projects, please contact Jim Singer at Wright Technology Network (937) 253-0217 or CRADA@wtn.org

Back to Project Stories

Back button

Send comments or questions to the WTN Webmaster

Internet and Web Services provided by HCST*Net.
A Service of Hassler Communication Systems Technology, Inc.