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Posts: 2
Could you please help me.
I'd like to make external dashboard for MSFS 2020.
I need this in order to control not with mouse, but using real buttons.
It will include for example:
  • Autopilot button (ON/OFF);
  • Navigation light switch (ON/OFF);
  • Rotary switch (5 positions);
  • Frequency controller and so on.

What I need to start project:
  • Mobiflight — Your software;
  • Arduino Mega 2560 R3;
  • May be something else? Not only my hands.

Thanks a lot for Your assistance.
2021-05-31 17:05
Posts: 26
Hello staskcup,
You can start with a simple setup and then build up from there. You should probably first decide what you want in your panel, i.e. buttons, switches, rotary switches, rotary encoders, leds, 7 segment displays, lcd screens. To have something to shoot for, I would suggest looking at your favorite airplane control panel and try to imitate a part of it, or a combination of things that you may wish to control. Do some sketches of how your buttons and other controls might be placed in your panel. Try to be as specific as you can recognizing the tools you may have to work with.

Your first panel could be as simple as poking holes in a cardboard box to install your controls (a shoe box would do). If you have woodworking skills, you can build a plywood box for your panel. I made my panel box from 1/2 inch plywood scraps I had and the front from a piece of acrylic. Alternatively, buy a plastic project box and use that to house your controls. You will need a drill to cut the holes for your instruments. Then you are going to need some wiring to connect everything to your mega board. I bought a connector kit, wiring set with different colored wires and a soldering iron. Those are going to be handy to make all the connections. If you have basic soldering skills, then the wiring is not going to be a problem.

A mega board has a lot of pins available (max of 68 pins), so it is unlikely that you are going to exceed its capacity, just bear in mind that Mobiflight does have some limits in how many devices it can handle of each kind: Max of 40 outputs, 68 buttons, 4 led segments, 20 encoders, 10 stepper motors, 10 servo motors, 2 lcd screens. I also recommend you draw a simple diagram of how the connections are going to be in your panel. What device goes to which pin on your mega. All of your devices will likely need a ground connection, so you should maybe plan to assemble a ground bus that takes a ground cable from your board ground pin and goes from device to device. There are also considerations to be made as to which pins you need to assign. For example, if you are going to use leds and wish to control their brightness, then you need to connect those leds to PWM capable pins on your board. Because pin 13 has a builtin led connected, it is better to use this pin for outputs only. A pinout diagram of the mega board is easy to google and will help you with deciding your pin assignments.

You will need to install Mobiflight in your PC, plug your mega board to a usb port, startup Mobiflight, which will search for your board and offer to install the firmware to convert your mega into a Mobiflight board. After that, you should be ready to start configuring your devices in the Mobiflight Modules page. See the tutorials available in this web site and on youtube on how to get Mobiflight working.

Good luck.
2021-06-01 03:29
From: ETSI, Germany
Posts: 6010

To awnser the FSUIPC Question.

In the past (All Sims prior FS2020) FSUIPC was ( and is) required.
For FS2020 we come to the problem, FSUIPC not going forward as fast as we expect.... So we decide to impliment a new tool (WASM Module) to make a direct controll to the Sim ( Inputs work and with newest BETA also Outputs work!
So.... Older Sims definitly need FSUIPC.... FS2020 can work without, but things like Potentiometer or some special elements like own coding need still FSUIPC. In the "mid" future we will reach hopefully a point FSUIPC is fully no longer needed. At first i would not buy it.... Use the "free" version.... And only if something is really not possible then you can think about it!

About planings.
Whatever Jaime is right.... I would not think to difficult at startup.
Optics are no factor. Its no mater if the board looks nice. The first steps is to "learn" the basics. Also things like a "GRD Bus" not need to care you. No matter if you use one GRD wire or simply 20 Wires that are drilled together in a screw connector. Also not think about PWM. 99% of Users not use PWM and also a professional Cockpit B737 e.g. need no PWM . Same with Pin13.... Use a MEGA2560 R3 ( No Mini, no Micro no Uno) and you will not need to think about special Pins.

I recommend:
Start with a easy and rudimentary "testing board" . Build every thing you will need in your final planing just one time.
e.g. 1 Button, 1 On/Off latching switch, 1 Encoder, 1 Rotary Swtich 5 Pos ,1 LED, and so on.
This is at first NOT for controlling your cockpit. this is for learning how to wire them.... Or to gain experience. For example you could buy 5 different Buttons instead of only one.... And connect all 5. May you see that one button is more comfortable to wire.... or a other feels better and more realistic if you press it. May you find out you like metal encoders more then the cheap plastic ones.

So in easy words... Build a little panel..... learn the electric stuff , optional try different hardware... And THEN you can use that pannel to make the first Configs in MF and you try to controll or read things.

Finaly.... You know how to build, you know what hardware you preffer to us , and you know already what configs work and how you create them.
The final real building process is then just "work" cause the knowledge is still there !
Good Luck !
2021-06-01 08:38
Posts: 2
As you advise, I'll start simple project in order to learn "how to".
Many thanks for your detailed responses.
2021-06-01 17:09