In VR you can step into the cockpit of any aircraft and get tantalisingly close to the feeling of flying for real. Unfortunately that immersion breaks when you reach out for the flight stick, trim wheel or flaps.
My goal for AuthentiKitTM is a truly immersive experience in which the flight stick is exactly where you expect it to be and feels just like the real thing, whether that is a simple Robin DR400 stick or a Spitfire MkIX spade grip. The same for the trim wheel, flap lever and other important controls that demand a tactile response.
This project will shortly emerge from beta testing. Keep an eye on progress at facebook.com/FlyAuthentiKit
The key to achieving all this was to design a modular system based around a Universal Control Hub, an adjustable rig and interchangeable quick release flight controls. In VR we are blind to the real world so we don't need to worry whether the cockpit looks identical down to the last nut and bolt and we certainly don't need cockpit instruments with working readouts. What really matters is the feel. This means correctly sized and positioned flight sticks, trim wheels, radio stack instruments, throttle controls and so on. This is where authenticity matters.
With a single USB socket the Universal Control Hub handles the processing of positional information from all controls. The basic model has 10 inputs for a flight stick, throttle, trim wheel etc. Each input takes a standard network cable which connects it to the flight control.
All flight controls mount to the rig via quick release plates. To switch from one type of control to another for a different aircraft, unplug the network socket, slide out the control and swap in the new one.
The adjustable rig allows for easy re-positioning to ensure that the placement of each flight control is exactly right for the aircraft.
The AuthentiKit vision is ambitious - a fleet of your favourite aircraft both in hardware as well as VR software. Surely this is just for the super rich? No. In fact quite the opposite. AuthentiKit takes a self-build kit approach based on low cost commodity parts you can buy from Amazon or eBay. The magic that turns these basic components into quality engineered flight controls is 3D printing.
Designed for simple assembly, the kit requires no soldering and no electronics skills. Everything is push fit or screw together.
AuthentiKit is built around commodity parts such as standard sized sealed bearings and commonly used encoders - most are less than $1 each. Important axis devices use frictionless hall sensors which never wear out.
Custom manufactured parts are where the cost usually comes in but not here. AuthentiKit comes with 3D print files which you can print yourself on a sub $200 printer and $25 worth of filament. Or try a 3D print bureau or Reddit group r/3dprintmything
Once the design standards are finalised I will share them freely with the flight simulator community. This will make it very simple for those with CAD skills to create AuthentiKit compatible flight controls for different aircraft. This is the true power of the AuthentiKit solution. Generous developers have gifted amazing freeware to the community for years and now they will be able to share hardware designs too. Users can just unplug their Cessna quadrant and swap in a Turbo Arrow.
The AuthentiKit system will be available towards the end of 2020. The ambition is huge, but I need to start somewhere so the first product to be released will be the Spitfire MkIX Starter Kit A - compatible with all flight simulators.
This kit will include the Universal Control Hub as well as a spade grip/flight stick for the Spitfire MkIX. STL (3D printing) files will be available to download along with assembly videos and a list of the components you need to make fully functional flight controls.
The only other thing you will need is the rig - more information about this soon.
This project has been in development since early 2018 and many other kits are already close to completion. After the Spitfire range I will release kits for various GA. I have flown many hours with a development version of the Robin DR400 for example but it proved too complex to launch with.
Before we get to that the Spitfire MkIX range will be completed with the following add-on kits.
I started this project in Spring 2018 after getting an Ender 3 3D printer and realising it held the potential to solve one of my big frustrations with VR flight simulation - stuff wasn't where it should be! Being a bit of an inventor I switched focus from my previous obsession building motion platforms. You'll find me as Spit40 on the xsimulator forum with projects such as my 007 G-Seat.
Unlike my G-Seat project, it was a principal objective that AuthentiKit would appeal not just to amateur engineers but to anyone prepared to assemble an Ikea wardrobe. A great deal of the development time has been spent trying to simplify assembly and minimise the chance of mistakes. I hope you like it!
Phil Hulme, October 2020