One of the biggest reasons I absolutely love open source software, and one of the best paradigms of what a group of people can achieve when working together on a completely open platform is currently in code freeze and less than two months away from the upcoming exciting new version :)
FlightGear 2.12 is approaching and we are going to have a “sneak peek” on some of the most impressive new features that are bound to enrich our flying experience inside the best open source flight simulator.
How can FlightGear’s amazingly realistic weather system become any better really? Developers are going to answer this question with the most emphatic way in this next major release.
For those of you who have dealt with FG in the past, you may already know that the simulator has the ability to actually perform real-time calculations based on atmosphere physics and simulate any kind of weather with relatively high accuracy. In the upcoming version, the cloud algorithms used for presence and placement calculation will be heavily overhauled allowing the simulation to be more precise and more diverse. The sky will never look the same :)
Mountain areas are a characteristic example of the new advanced way weather can be simulated in FlighGear 2.12. The weather system continually receives information about the terrain surrounding the plane, from which the distribution of wind and turbulence close to the ground as well as the placement pattern of clouds is computed.
Bad weather is something that has been available in FlightGear for a long time now, but it was basically limited in the optical effects which were also quite limited respectively. In version 2.12, the simulator will automagically detect overdeveloping Congestus and Cumulonimbus clouds as well as heavy layered clouds and initiate some amount of precipitation below them (depending on their size etc.)
Atmospheric turbulence will also be computable and a variety of real time effects that concern a large set of sky objects features like cloud density and shape for example will stem from these calculations.
Air-air refueling is not something new for FlightGear, but this version hold some very important improvements for one of the hardest things you can try during flight.
- You can now select from a range of refuelling tankers from within the simulator. In addition to the previous KA6-D Intruder and KC-135 Stratotanker, you can now use a A-4F buddy tanker or the A330-MMRT tanker. Additional tankers can easily be added in the future.
- The rate at which fuel is transferred between the tanker and the receiving aircraft is now configurable, both at the tanker and receiving aircraft.
- The refuelling “envelope” (e.g. how close you need to get to the tanker to refuel) is now configurable in-sim. a 5m envelope is very challenging indeed!
- As many aircraft don’t have an easy to see fuel gauge (particularly if you’re concentrating hard on keeping right up to the tanker!), you can now ask your virtual co-pilot to tell you when you engage/disengage.
- Finally, aircraft can now define the exact position of the refuelling point.
Ground texture resolution
Maybe FG’s achilles heel are the ground textures. A lot of work and improvement has been done in the last versions, but still it remains the worst looking thing in the simulator. Landing everywhere except from an airport or flying a helicopter in low altitude has always looked kind of awful for the eyes, but not anymore!
A high resolution shader effect has been added to the procedural terrain rendering of the Atmospheric Light Scattering framework, which renders cm-scale detail resolution. This allows for a much improved low level flight experience and more interesting helicopter operations in the terrain, as there are now visual markers available to gauge distance to the terrain.
More new things like new aircrafts and airports, more regional textures, better usability, better and more advanced lighting effects will arrive with the upcoming new version so stay tuned.
For those of you who want to give the current technologies a try and can’t wait the 52 days remaining till the official release, you can go and visit the git repos (gitorious and wiki) and build it from source.