MakerPlane: Real avionics from open-source innovators

August 8, 2019 / Comments (0)


/ By Editorial Staff

The community of our builders, regardless at what level they operate, is an innovative one. Be it for a home use C172, or a professional, fully functioning B737, simulator builders go at their craft with passion. The parallel world is, obviously, real flying, and sometime the two may look quite similar. Talking to John Nicol, the founder of MakerPlane, was an interesting experience. Here is a whole group of people, around a community building open-source avionics, that should make many in the sim world think: Can I do this? Can I use these products in my sim, or contribute my sim products design to that community? We think both are possible. Today, if you do fly your own home-built, or ultralight, or soon your certified aircraft, you may want to look more closely to what these people do. This is akin to the dimension that Stratux added to open-source flyers: The sky is the limit.

It turned out that John worked at Microsoft for the ACES Studio for MS Flight Sim and, after that, he was the former Principle Engineer for Lockheed Martin Prepar3D. We thought we had a connection, but it turned out a lot more than that. Today John works in simulation for his current day job at the Canadian Dept. of National Defence.

If you fly a sim, you may be interested in their trim motor controller, stick shaker, data display and more. See how you can adapt them to your sim. They have an interface from their avionics to existing flight simulators including X-Plane and FlightGear.  So you can actually fly these avionics in your simpit and change the screens around and create your own instrumentation if you want.

MakerPlane mostly uses Linux-based hardware, any hardware from Rpi to Beaglebone will work, and purpose-written code to interface components together. Data moves by the CANBus communication protocol. Their EFIS kit uses Python based software called “pyEFIS” which should be tested and available early next year. Take a look at their project links page, and you will see anything from VHF radios to radar altimeters, Air Data Instruments and more.

Here is John telling us more about their initiative:

Check out their Forum, which also gives a good idea of the broad type of issues discussed. We really like this community and, like anything aviation, I think it will grow fast and bring more innovation with it.

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