Development of a low-cost, multi-disciplinary rotorcraft simulation facility

Joseph F. Horn, Derek O. Bridges, Leonard V. Lopes, Kenneth S. Brentner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


A low-cost rotorcraft simulation facility was developed for use in university-based multi-disciplinary research programs. The objective was to develop a flexible and effective research facility with a low initial cost and minimal recurring costs. The simulation facility was constructed entirely from commercially available commodity hardware components. Several computers are linked together via a local area network to form a "graphical cluster," which allows for interaction between multiple computing nodes and multiple displays. The facility uses the open source FlightGear flight simulation code and the U.S. Army/NASA GENHEL flight dynamics model. In addition, a graphical user interface and a suite of data processing and analysis tools were developed using MATLAB. The system is being used for advanced research programs in the areas of flight control design, advanced rotorcraft flight dynamics modeling, and near real-time acoustics simulation. The use of open source software provides needed flexibility and cost-effectiveness, although incomplete or nonexistent documentation presented challenges. Overall, the simulation facility fulfills the needs of the university research environment in the areas of control design and rotorcraft acoustics. Some weaknesses related to control feel were noted, but were found to be acceptable relative to the low-cost nature of the facility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)267-284
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Aerospace Computing, Information and Communication
Issue number7 JULY
StatePublished - Jul 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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