Gary Mortimer and I are leaning towards a simulation round for the next T3 contest, but I need some feedback about what would work best.
There are two kinds of simulations: "open loop" and "closed loop".
Open loop means that you connect the output of the simulator to the input of the autopilot. The simulation drives the autopilot with synthetic GPS coordinates and sometimes synthetic attitude data, essentially replacing the autopilot's sensors. This basically fools the autopilot into thinking that it is flying, and you can watch how it responds. This is typically done by having the simulator output data via the serial port and feed that into the autopilot.
Closed loop means that you also connect the output of the autopilot to the input of the simulator, so that the autopilot is "flying" the aircraft on screen. This usually requires a relatively complicated bit of hardware that converts the PWM servo output of the autopilot into what amount to joystick commands via USB or serial that steer the plane in the simulator. It can also be done entirely in software on the host PC, as in the case of Matlab simulations being driven by a flight simulator.
Here are some blog posts that show examples:
--Curt Olson's FlightGear demo
--Faisal Shah closes the loop, Part 1
--Faisal Shah closes the loop, Part 2
Here's a proposed contest structure:
Two sets of winners:
Both must write "DIY" (in cursive) over a place of their choosing.
--Group One: Open loop (video showing you mirroring the airplanes control surfaces with the arrow keys): First six to complete this win a $25 gift certificate to the DIY Drones store.
--Group Two: Closed loop (aircraft controls the flight simulator): First three to complete this win a $50 gift certificate.
What do you think? Is this doable?