Epic Games has released a 40-page information paper on flight simulation trends and best practices, a do-it-yourself (DIY) tutorial, and free partner plug-ins that will enable developers to create a flight simulator using Unreal Engine (which is also free). The Cary, North Carolina-based software development company also unveiled a demonstrator using the process at the World Aviation Training Summit (WATS) in Orlando, Florida, together with Varjo, Brunner, and Meta Immersive Synthetics.

Sébastien Lozé, UE Business Director, Simulation for Epic Games, said the info paper, DIY tutorial, and demo are outgrowths of the Antoinette Project, an homage to French simulation pioneers La Société Antoinette, who created the Antoinette Barrel in 1906 as the first known method to demonstrate to pilots what they would sense when flying an airplane.

The “Trends and Best Practices for Flight Simulation” paper describes guidelines and insights from users who are already using Unreal Engine to build solutions. “The goal of this document is not to describe a unique formula to build a relevant flight simulator, but rather to deliver a blueprint illustrating what can be achieved with commercially available technologies, standard formats, and open-source solutions,” the introduction states.

The DIY tutorial provides detailed information on how to:

  • Connect input control devices for your pilot interface such as keyboard and mouse, gamepad, joystick, or flight-specific control device
  • Integrate an aircraft model from the Unreal Marketplace 
  • Add accurate flight dynamics using the open source JSBSim plugin for Unreal Engine
  • Simulate flying above world data using the Cesium for Unreal or ESRI ArcGIS Maps SDK for Unreal Engine.

The JSBSim plugin, which Lozé called “an unsung hero of the development community,” is designed for flight simulation based on an open-source flight dynamics application and has evolved from being the only flight dynamics model of the FlightGear flight simulator to being a library that has multiple applications – flight simulation, development of autopilots, and training neural networks to pilot an airplane.

The proof-of-concept flight simulator demo on the WATS exhibit floor illustrates the trends of immersiveness and deployability as well as development guidelines from the information paper. The demonstration marks a step forward for flexible, customizable training that can serve large numbers of pilots.

Lozé said the 5 April release of Unreal Engine 5 incorporated several enhancements tailored to the simulation community. Among the features are a new World Partition, a new One File Per Actor system that enables multiple developers to work on the same level simultaneously, support for Large World Coordinates, and a range of plug-ins from Cesium, ArcGIS, SimBlocks.io, Blackshark, AVES Reality, 3D Tiles Next, Nanite, Lumen and others in the UE ecosystem, as well as artificial intelligence and neural network inference.

 - Rick Adams