Engineering Flight Simulator

Department of Automatic Control
and Systems Engineering

Contact Us


A modular approach to real-time engineering flight simulation

Welcome to the web pages of the Flight Simulation Group in the Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering at the University of Sheffield. These pages provide a glimpse into the teaching and research of the group and outline the capability of this research facility.
The Flight Simulation Group is led by Dave Allerton, Professor of Computer Systems Engineering. The Department has a 5* research ranking (RAE 2001) and the flight simulator provides a unique facility to link the teaching of systems engineering with current research in the subject. The modular design of this engineering flight simulator is based on a distributed computer system to enable students and researchers to develop and evaluate future systems.

The main characteristics of the engineering flight simulator are summarised below:

  • All the software for the flight simulator has been developed in the Flight Simulation Group at the University of Sheffield.
  • The flight simulator is based on a distributed network of PCs connected by 10T Ethernet, with all the computers updating at 50 Hz.
  • The software runs under Linux (currently SUSE 10.3) and is written in C.
  • The simulated aircraft are based on detailed non-linear dynamic models.
  • Modern aircraft displays and control panels are emulated in OpenGL.
  • The visual system comprises three PCs with nVidia graphics cards running OpenSceneGraph, with three overlapping channels projected onto a spherical screen by digital projectors, to provide a field of view 150° by 40°.
  • The design of the simulator is based on a modular architecture to allow hardware and software modules to be easily interchanged.

The simulator provides a flexible design tool to support teaching and research in distributed systems, flight control system design and real-time computer graphics. Research programmes funded by the EPSRC include an investigation into the use of synthetic vision for approaches in low visibility conditions and the development of real-time wake vortex models to study their effect on aircraft handling. The simulator is currently used in a research programme with Boeing to develop algorithms for conflict resolution and to design and assess situation awareness displays for future air traffic management environments.