Arduino boards are small microcontrollers with which you can control almost anything. They are pretty cheap (depending of the type from €25,00 to €45,00) and if you buy them in China it is even much cheaper (€5,00 to €12,00). Depending on the type they have 20 to 70 connections for analogue and digital signals. These boards can be connected to both Prepar3D and X-Plane with software. I have decided to buy a number of these boards and additional hardware to check out the possibilities.
In the mean time I have two Arduino Mega 2560, one Arduino Uno and one Arduino Micro board. Also a breadboard, encoders, servos, switches, pushbuttons, relays, leds and a number of other hardware to experiment and see what the possibilities are. For the connection with the flight simulator I also looked at two software packages, one for Prepar3D and one for X-Plane.
Links2FS has been made to let Arduino boards talk to FSX and so also to Prepar3D. It is free downloadable in both a standard and expert version. The standard version supports a maximum of three Arduino’s and the expert version supports a maximum of five boards. Besides that the Expert version has possibilities to make your own connections with SimConnect and FSUIPC offsets to create more options for the connection to the flight simulator.
From the simulator to Arduino Link2FS uses variables which consists of a special character and a (upper or lower case) letter. In the code for the Arduino you first have to read the special sign and jump to the section for that sign. In that section the letter is read and a jump has to be made to the code for that letter. At first it may sound dazzling, but there are plenty of examples supplied to learn how to code this and once you grasp the system it is easy.
For the communication from Arduino to the flight simulator Link2FS uses a similar system in which the Expert version also has the possibility to add your own actions. For these functions examples are also supplied to get things going.
ArdSimX has been made to let Arduino’s talk to X-Plane. It is also free downloadable but works in quite a different way from Link2FS. You don’t need to program as much because a plug-in has to be installed (copied) into X-Plane. This plug-in handles the communications between X-Plane and Arduino. The only thing you have to take care of yourself is a text file in which the connections between the Arduino ports and the datarefs are mentioned.
You don’t need to create this text file yourself. On the website is a configurator with which you can do that. First you select the type of Arduino you plan to use after which that board is graphically shown. You next click on the port on that board you want to use. After that you select the dataref for that port from a drop down list which is sorted into the the main dataref categories.
After configuring all the pins you need in this way you can save your configuration so you can add or alter these in a later stage. Finally you let the site create your config file by clicking on the button for it. As soon as you have put the downloaded file in the correct place you are done with the configuration. You can hookup a maximum of 9 Arduino’s in this way.