Flight simulators are regularly used in the undergraduate and postgraduate training of mechanical and aeronautical engineers. Due to advances in computing technology, several flight simulation-related tasks can now be accomplished in real-time using low-cost PC platforms and
inexpensive commercial software. The difficulty in realising an educational flight simulator system with
motion platform therefore lies with the design and construction of an effective motion platform. Costs
become exorbitant when simulation platforms of more than two degrees of freedom (i.e. pitch and roll)
are attempted. This paper describes the development of a drive system for a motion platform with two
degrees of freedom (pitch and roll) for use in undergraduate engineering training. Use was made of off the-shelf
PC equipment and flight simulation software and hardware, together with commercial
actuators and drive systems. The motion platform was manufactured from square tubing and consisted
of three frames: the stationary main frame and, rotating inside this, the roll frame and pitch frame.
These rotated relative to each other and were actuated by two similar-sized DC motors and gearbox/
chain transmissions. The system effectively simulated the pitch and roll motions of commercial
airliners, using a low-cost, easily maintainable motion platform. The educational value of the simulator
was twofold: first, it was to be displayed in the science exploratorium (SciEnza) of the University of
Pretoria; and second, it provided a platform on which mechanical (as well as electrical, electronic and
computer) engineering students could conduct practical work in courses such as dynamics and
control, and on which final-year and postgraduate students could conduct research.