What are some of the reasons that people in the simulation industry hate motion platforms? Let’s explore…
- 1. Cost! Why are they so expensive?
- 2. Installation… what is required to install a system and what support does it require?
- 3. Maintenance… Why does it cost so much to operate one?
- 4. Properly follow motion cues… Why doesn’t the motion platform follow the system?
- 5. Simulator sickness… why does this occur and does it need to?
Cost…Motion platforms are expensive due to the specialized engineering required for their proper operation. This involves the collaboration of mechanical, electrical, and control engineers who work together to create a custom solution for each customer's specifications. Companies that specialize in motion platform engineering have decades of experience in designing and manufacturing these systems and are equipped with the knowledge and expertise required for their creation. The cost of the overall system includes material costs, labor costs, painting, assembly, and checkout.
Installation… Most large-scale motion platforms require heavy equipment and a team of experts for installation. This not only adds to the cost of the system but also requires the flooring to be engineered to withstand the weight of the motion base and payload, as well as the stresses from mounting points. At Servos & Simulation, we strive to minimize this issue. We even ensure that the large items required by the system can fit through a standard door in a building or on an airplane."
Maintenance… Many large-scale motion platforms need a maintenance team to keep them working correctly. This can increase the operating cost of the system if the team is kept on site. Alternatively, a contractor may need to be hired to keep the system running, adding to the operating expense. At Servos & Simulation, we try to minimize this issue by using sealed mechanics.
Properly follow motion cues…If the motion platform is unable to properly follow the motion cues from the Host computer such as X-Plane, Prepared, MS Flight Sim, etc., or if the CG (center of gravity) of the aircraft is not in the correct position, then the system becomes ineffective. It may even cause motion sickness and hinder the pilot from being able to fly the aircraft. If the motion platform does not follow motion cues for an entertainment ride, the ride may be acceptable, but it will not function at its best. The same problem as with the aircraft arises - if the CG does not match the visual system, the system will not perform properly. For more information on how to reduce motion sickness in a flight trainer, you can check out this article.
Simulator sickness… "Why does simulator sickness occur?" When the motion platform fails to respond appropriately to the visual system or does not fly correctly, it can result in simulator sickness. This lack of response can distract pilots during training sessions and can lead them to adopt certain counterproductive behaviors in order to prevent simulator sickness from occurring. The post-training effects of this condition can compromise the pilot's performance.
So what can you do to fix these problems?
When looking into a motion platform for a system, one should consider all of these problems. Cost, installation, and maintenance will always be a problem. The question one should ask themselves is what are they getting with the system? Can the manufacturer provide cost data for the system? Check out our Ultimate Checklist for buying a Motion Platform for more information on specifics to ask.
The manufacturer should know how to make the motion platform operate properly so that it follows the motion cues and keeps simulator sickness to a minimum. A good example of whether or not the motion platform is performing well is to have the pilot fly the system without the motion on and then with the motion on. If the pilot is having to overcorrect while flying the simulator, the motion is typically the problem. Making sure that the motion platform is properly tuned is critical to the flight simulation. This can be used for space docking, land vehicle training, and the like as it applies to all of it.
The motion cues for an entertainment ride, while not as critical as those for a flight simulator, should match the visual as closely as possible. It should not lag behind the visual. While the visuals account for more than the motion platform movement in rendering out the ride to the consumer, it should not be off. It will cause motion sickness to the rider. The system so be fluid, dynamic, and smooth (unless the ride is supposed to be rough, but having the motion base nice and smooth and then injecting a frequency is so much easier than trying to get roughness out of the system and then recreate it). A high-performing playback system is key to the entertainment system.
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