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Flight Simulation: deal with the shortage of serial ports

Olga Weis Olga Weis

What is a flight simulator?

A flight simulator is a virtual reality system that creates the aircraft flight environment for training pilots, gaming, researching aircraft characteristics and control handling characteristics, etc.

Flight simulators are primarily designed to assist pilots in achieving and maintaining proficiency in handling airplane operation. A simple flight simulator system usually consists of multiple displays, control devices, audio systems for communications and a computer system for processing control inputs and recording flight data.

With the advancements in PC processing power, flight simulators have become increasingly realistic, which allows even ordinary users (gamers) experience what it’s like to be a pilot from the comfort of their homes.

Operating airplanes in a virtual environment

To control the aircraft in a simulator, pilots usually use a virtual joystick. In order to interface a real joystick (or remote controller) with the flight simulator, you need a virtualization program that will convert the input data stream of the RS232 interface, where the actual device is physically connected, to virtual control signals.

As a rule, the dedicated utility contains a driver, which is recognized in the system as a virtual joystick. The standard data stream for the virtualization app is usually formed by a special module embedded on some controller that connects to the output “coach” of the remote control where the protocol PPM is used. (You can try to find the program of this type for free on the Internet).

Considering that today COM ports are not that common as they once were, you may face a shortage of serial interfaces in your system. In this case, it’ll be a good idea to use serial port emulator software like Serial Data Splitter (VSPD PRO).

This advanced utility will help you create pairs of virtual COM ports connected via a virtual null-modem cable. Virtual serial interfaces will be displayed in your system as exact copies of real COM ports, as they fully emulate a physical COM port parameters and configuration.

Virtual Serial Port Driver PRO

How to extract GPS data from a flight simulator

VSPD PRO will also come in handy when you need to output GPS of the current flight to the serial port of your choosing. The software allows splitting serial data in such a way that the same data stream is sent to several ports at a time. That means you can redirect GPS data from your flight simulator to multiple controlling apps at a time.

VSPD PRO has proved to be one of the most reliable and convenient ways of extracting GPS data from flight simulation programs. if you don't have a physical COM port connection, you can simply create virtual serial port coupled pair using VSPD PRO, so that the data can go out one COM port and come in over another one that can be read by your application.

Also you’ll be able to create bundles of your system’s real and virtual serial ports, share GPS data received by the ports between flows, and direct it to other ports. On top of that, VSPD PRO makes it possible to link several virtual COM ports to one real physical port. Once you connect your serial app to this real COM port, the program can start receiving data from all of the joined virtual serial ports at a time. In other words, you get the ability to redirect data from several devices to one application and vice versa.

Note: The ability to create pairs of virtual serial ports is available in both the Standard and the PRO editions of Virtual Serial Port Driver. The advanced features including port splitting, joining, redirecting, switching, sharing, merging, complex bundles, and loopback connections are supported by the PRO edition only. The features described in this article require the PRO version.

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