Hello......This is one early interrior picture of my Cockpit Ground Station. It has changed alot since this picture due to several upgrades Please read on to see the full story and then read my other articles related to this Cockpit Ground Station (CGS) that are linked below at the end of this first article.
I will start you guys out with a couple of videos then you can read all about it below with as many pictures as I could find.
This is an early test flight in the CGS. It was the first time I took a plane out past a couple of thousand feet with the CGS. It is a beautiful eavning flight out just over 4 miles and on the way back I buzz a friends house. It was a great flight. My buddy Dave was keeping the Circular Wireless helical antenna pointed in the right direction (BTW......these are awesome antennas). Pay attention to the needle in the upper left gauge as I move the throttle. The needle moves with throttle settings.
This is a video of me flying my quadcopter on a windy day. The CGS can be used for both fixed wing as well as multicopters and, though I have yet to try, probably even a helicopter.
The CGS build by Brett Hays
This is a fun project I have been working on for about a year since I first thought about doing it. It is basically a full scale cockpit that the FPV pilot sits in to fly his R/C aircraft. It is along the line of a simulator experience with a 42 inch flat screen TV for visuals and a 9 inch 12v display for back up.
I modified a typical computer gamming joystick, throttle and rudder pedals along with an older Futaba radio and built a full cockpit around them. Flying FPV in it is truly a unique experience and a lot of fun. It is very immersive.
I started by building a large box out of plywood and 2x2's. I built the side pannels, seat and dash into the box. The box is about 60''Lx36''Wx20''H. The Joystick system in these pictures are not the ones I ended up using.
I painted the interrior of the box flat black and the outside grey. The dash and side panels are cut out of aluminum and drawer pulls added to each panel. Each panel supports a different system in the cockpit not unlike a real aircraft cockpit. This makes it a very modular design and has been quite easy for me to change things around or add new ideas that come to me. The original dash configuration has the back up display (used incase the main TV display A/C power goes out) on the right and an Ipad, that is flush mounted, running ImersionRC's telematry app. This is also an early configuration and has since been changed which you will see latter in the artical. The TV in this picture is NOT the one that is used in the finished cockpit. I was only using this one in the pics as I waited on my 42 inch flat screen to arrive. The Green gaurded switch in this picture is the EZUHF control panel. I will show you that up close as well. At this point it is starting to look pretty cool but I had no idea exactly how cool this would get.........lol
This is a close up and a good example of how I built different control panels for the cockpit. This first one is the LRS UHF control panel. Of course I had to hack my EZUHF TX so that I could use this panel, however it is possible to plug just about any LRS radio into the Cockpit Ground Station (CGS) and work. I do NOT need to go through this control panel but instead just velcro the TX to the top of the dash where I can reach the stock power and failsafe controls. This panel just adds to the ''cool'' factor of the CGS.
The green gaurd protects the push on/push off button, the button to the right is a momentary bush button that is the bind/failsafe button. The next three are mechanically connected and if you push one the other will pop out and change color from red yellow or gree to black. Green indicates low power and yellow would indicate high power. The red button is not used with the EZUHF but if it is accidently pushed the radio will revert to low power.
This is the control panel for the Eagletree Eagle Eyes video spliter and diversity controler. I hacked it and moved control to push buttons and a on/off togle switch. The pannel with the red gaurd is going to be the master switch. It is red gaurded in the ''on'' position so when the gaurd is down the power is supplied to the CGS systems. It is also a 4 pole switch.
These are pictures of the wiring process of the system panels. You can see how modular it is witch makes it easy to upgrade or add different systems to.
So now for the hard part wich in therory is quite simple...........How to wire the Joystick, throttle, and rudder pedals (the ''flight system''). The Flight system in the pictures above I decided not to use because it used a usb to ppm converter system that was good but not versital enough for what I wanted to do. This system allowed me to use most of the buttons on the flight system to control the channels but I didnt want to use the controlls on the stick for things like the landing gear. I wanted an actual landing gear lever like in a real cockpit.......same with the flaps. I didnt want to take any control shortcuts so what I had to do was to take an old Futaba radio I had and hack it along with an off the shelf computer gaming flight system. Since this was an experminent I decided to use second hand stuff incase it didnt work.
This is the flight system I used and you can see in the background the face of the now taken apart Futaba TX. At this point I had not received the rudder pedals yet.
So in simple terms what I did was modified the flight system to replace the joysticks in the Futaba TX. I had to replace the pots in the flight system with the same values as the ones in the stock TX gimbals and other channels on the Futaba as well as non proportional channels and extend the wires of those channels into the cockpit. It is a 7 chanel radio with a gear chanel (#5) and one other proportional chanel and a non proportional channel (#'s 6 and 7). I used a computer cable with enough wires to extend the wires from the stock gimbles (wich were removed) and into the flight system and, in the case of the gear channel, into the dash landing gear lever that I built.
Modifying the TX
Back together after the modification.......note the plug hanging out of the antenna hole. This plugs into the leads going into the CGS and the flight sustem. Basically it is just extentions fo the wires that used to go to the stock gimbles and switches in the TX.
These pictures show me replacing the stock potentiometers (pots) of the joysticks with pots of the same value as the ones out of the TX so it will operate like the stock gimbles. The stock Futaba uses 5k pots and I pulled 100k pots out of the flight system and replaced with 5k pots. finding 5k pots for the flight system with the same dimentions as the 100k pots was easy off of ebay.
The throttle mods. I used the two roll knobs you see in the pictures on the throttle handle for the pitch and roll trims by replacing them with the trim pots out of the TX. I also put chanel 6 (non proportional chanel) on a micro switch that I liberated from the Futaba and put on the throttle just under my thumb.....you can see it in the post mod pictures. The PCB boards and wires are removed and discarded.
All finished hacking, everything is painted flat black and ready for to install in the CGS. The rudder pedals also make their apperance in these pics.
I put the rudder and throttle trim on the base of the throttle padastal. I simply took the trim pot and lever assembleys out of the Futaba TX and put them here......
In the mean time the 42 inch flat screen TV arrived from an eBay purchase I made. This was a damaged freight buy and it had a few scratches and dead pixels at the bottom but it was only 160 bucks and I dont even notice the dead pixels. It was time to build the upper ''theater'' portion of the CGS. This is a seperate box that fits over the CGS and hinges at the front so it can all be opened up for cleaning and maintenance.
Yes it looks like a dog house but its not. Daisy thinks it is......
Built around the TV
I painted the inside of this flat black as well and the outside the same grey as the lower ''box'' and mounted everything together and hinged at the front like I said before.
My friend Bruce modeling it for me......lol
I mounted it to a trailer to make it easy to get to the flying field.....
So back to the dash construction. I built this gear handle for the gear and plan on building something similar for the flaps proportional channel.
I didnt put to much work into the dash until I was able to get some test flying done on it with both quadcopters and fixed wing planes. I lest some friends fly it as well as my 13 yearold son who did better than I did the first flight in the CGS.......LOL
Some of the things I did inside was to add three duel rate switches in front of the throttle so I could reach them easy. The way I have the CGS set up there is no reason for me to touch the Futaba TX except to change programing but there is no reason once I have the aircraft set up. Here are the duel rate switches.
I changed out the original 7'' back up screen with a larger 9'' screen and moved it to the upper center of the dash. I also modified and hacked an old aircraft Manifold Pressure gauge and mechanically connected it to the throttle so now the needle moves across the gage scale one revolution with the movement of the throttle. It is the gauge on the upper left. The gage below it is an old altimeter I had laying around from my ultralight days that functions as just that.........an altimeter. I just threw it in there for the ''cool'' factor as well as the compass in the upper right. The gauge below the compass is a Directional Gyro that I modified into a clock. I used the orginal needles and face of the gauge and added some cheapo Walmart clockworks.
The whole CGS is powered by a 12v deep cycle RV type battery. The gauges on the extreme right side of the dash and the forward side console are aircraft gauges that i bought off of ebay to monitor the electrics as well as keep time that the battery has been running. The gauge to the right and slightly below the Directional Gyro clock gauge (not installed yet in picture below) is the hour gauge. It runs off of AC power from the inverter that also powers the TV. It can be reset to zero witch I do after I charge the deep cycle battery. The gauge to the right of that is the 12v DC gauge and monitors the battery. The gauge below those is the AC gauge and monitors the inverter power that powers the TV.
Here is the right rudder pedal the battery and the power inverter for the TV. The inverter is hooked up (as well as every other system) through the master switch.
Then I added LED lighting so I wouldnt be sitting in a dark cockpit even though it is daytime out due to the fact that I am actually sitting in a box......lol......The LED lighting really adds a nice daylight type atmosphere to the interior and actually adds quite a bit of realisim to the immersion. I also added red LEDs that can be turned on and the white LED's off if I am doing night flying. I used only enough red LED's to dimly light the interior of the cockpit but enough to be able to see whats going on. All the LED lighting is indirect lighting and you really cant tell where the light is coming from. The white LED's really make it feel like it is lit by sunlight. Very nice and subtle
These are a couple of pics with the lights off and lights on without a flash on the camera. The last picture I DID use a flash just so you can see the differance. Of course the pictures do not do the effect justice. I dont have a picture of the red LEDs because I couldnt get it to take a very good picture..........just not enough light for the camera.
Lights On!........ no camera flash
And with the lights on and camera flash! You can see every speck of dirt......lol
I have been regurallry flying the CGS with my quadcopter and have a ball with it. It actually takes me less time to set up, turn on and take off than it does with a standard ground station. Im not kidding......it is very user friendly untill I have to get in or out of it........lol. It is very comfortable and warm on a cold flying day. I dont live in a very hot climate (N.E. Oregon) so I never get to hot even on a fairly hot day. I can easily add a 12v heater or a fan if I need to.
This has been a very fun project and even more fun to fly. If you are ever in NE Oregon please dont hesitate to look me up and I will let you fly it. If you have any questions you can contact me through this site.
I sincerly hope you enjoyed this article and ;lease see my related and more recent articles linked below!