SimpleINS - a X-plane/DCS INS/UFC

A month or two ago I came across a really neat unit on aliexpress:

It’s a TM1638! Though that is technically the name of the chip, these boards can be found online on more local hardware websites or the massive juggernauts for less then 2 euro’s!

The chip got my interest because I had been building a INS unit(still am) with a MAX7219 chip. This board had a whole 4x4 button matrix already integrated!
The QYF-TM1638 is the version with more buttons and less LED’s. There is also a 8 button and 8-LED version floating about that works almost the same.

So I ordered two of these and got to work. The idea is to get a cheap INS unit that requires no coding, just uploading on the users part and can be done by anyone that can read.

The TM1638 is controlled by an Arduino/python compatible board. Currently I am developing the code on my laptop with Pyfirmata/Pymata, a python implementation with the firmata protocol that runs on the Arduino, which itself is based on the well known MIDI protocol(yes the audio one).

The code I am developing is suitable for X-plane 10/11 and DCS(with a operational DCS-BIOS installation) and communicates over the UDP protocol. This means that you can run it locally on the same computer or networked over a computer.

For those of you playing along a home there is a Github repository at GitHub - TheAlmightySnark/SimpleINS: Flightsimulator INS files.

I will not place direct buy links for products given that the hardware is easy to find locally or internationally if one so desires.

The Bill of Materials currently stands at:
QYF TM1638 (About 2 euro’s)
Arduino based board(Nano/Uno original/clone) (about 2 euro’s)
Laptop or computer with USB output and a cable that fits the Arduino board of choice. (yeah erm… you ough to have this already :wink: )
Python 3.7 installed with Pyfirmata. (free!)
3D printed enclosure(unknown price)

The end goal is to produce a small INS unit as cheap and easy as possible and have a relative accessible way for people to learn interface building for simulators!

Some ‘vanity’ shots to show that it is currently communicating with X-plane.

Happy to discuss/share/receive idea’s and input! Been working on this almost daily for about two months now and making some good progress.


Fun project!
I’m following…


It is! Happy to discuss any specific questions related to inputs and outputs! That’s question with myself kicked off this project

Viggen computer possibilities?

@outbaxx has done some work on that…


Yes relatively easy too, it’s a matter of changing the commands the computer needs to send. For example pressing the UFC button 1 on the Harrier is a matter of sending a UDP command to the computer running DCS and DCS BIOS. It’s something like “command UFC_1 1\n”. Not quite sure, I already forgot exactly which one I used for testing. It’s easy, that’s what I am saying :wink:


I’m looking at the video and I’m thinking how great that would be…and then remember that I couldn’t see it while using VR…quite the conundrum :thinking:


I would like to try and build it and place it in real space, where my VR image tell me it should be, and see if I can use it. Wouldn’t need the display, if that works in VR.
Sorry for the hijack. @TheAlmightySnark :slight_smile:


No worries, I am fully open to expand the conversation here. I just try and use off the shelf parts, but making an input panel that is viggen like suited for VR ough to fit right in!

@Hangar200 just checked, the UFC clear button on the harrier can be controlled by sending a UDP command “UFC_CLEAR 1\n”. Where by 1 is pressing it down and 0 letting go.

It’s quite easy making a simple input panel for DCS once you get DCS-BIOS functioning!

On another note, the TM1638 now fully works with X-plane. It’s not as fast as I’d like but let’s call it V0.1!

Now to finish the housing!

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