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Lab of Aerospace Engineering Flight Simulator

Sitting atop six hydraulic arms is an imposing two-story high bulb. Inside the bulb is a small aircraft cabin with hundreds of buttons and panoramic screens displaying depth-perceptive environments.

This odd looking structure is the flight simulator used for research in the Simona (Simulation, Motion and Navigation) Aerospace Engineering laboratory.

The hydraulic arms can move six degree, creating very realistic aircraft movement. The simulator was initially only used in a fixed wing or airplane manner. Since international student Deniz Yilmaz came from Turkey in 2011 to do his PhD at TU Delft, he has helped to convert the simulator to be able to also function as a rotorcraft or helicopter. He is also working on coupling problems between pilot and aircraft.

The aerospace lab simulator is very unique. The entire massive structure, including hard and software, was created by students at the university. As a custom simulator, the students working on it can measure any parameters they want. Flight simulators at other European schools were fabricated from off the shelf products, which limits testing.  Yilmaz says, “It is a researcher’s paradise where we can conduct the best research possible.” The simulator can also be easily changed to function in fixed wing or rotorcraft mode adding another special component to the lab.  

The TU Delft flight simulator lab is not used as a training center. Pilots and students use the simulator to research perception, displays, dynamic change detection and new ideas. Pilots are tested on their perception of acceleration and velocity. In tight manoeuvring tasks, biofeedback monitors can be used to read the reactions of the pilots while using displays. Pilots can also be tested on their detection capabilities when dynamic changes are made. Finally, students can test their new innovation models in a close-to-real life setting.

One of these new innovations is worked on by PhD student, Jia Wan of China. He is investigating if a helicopter with flapping arms would fly better than one with a rotor. Pilots can test and comment on his new theoretical work through the simulator.

Lab of... is a TU Delta series exploring the university labs.

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