Happy new year to all of you. Since the 15-years-of-HELI-X-year 2023 has ended, here is the story of the first 15 years of HELI-X in on piece:
The HELI-X story begins in 2007, when the first contacts were made at the Munich Heli Masters and the idea for the simulator was presented. Here the first supporters for the project were found: Markus Schaack, Marc Trautmann, Volker Desinger, Thomas Böseler.
Especially Thomas helped me a lot to develop the first physics engine. He has infinite patience and a great ability to analyze the aerodynamics of helicopters. Later Markus Siering and Sebastian Zajonz joined HELI-X. By the way, Sebastian created the first helicopter model in HELI-X.
At the beginning of 2008 the version 0.9 was published, at the end of 2008 the first release, version 1.0.
More and more helpers joined: Silke Kustermann painted the picture for the splash screen in oil, Gerhard Klauser, Klaus Stangl and Martin Bestgen contributed the first user models.
At this time, Klaus Treichler and Harald Bendschneider were the main contributors to the scenes. By the way, Klaus created the scene “Dietersdorf”, which was the standard scene in HELI-X for many years.
As the computers became more powerful over the years, and scenes with a higher resolution became possible, of course a new standard scene had to be created. But we definitely have to create a new scene Dietersdorf with the current possibilities!
In 2009, version 1.1 was released, which had multiplayer and indoor scenes as new features. It also ran on Macs with Power PCprocessors and Intel processors, which were an innovation at Apple at the time.
It was also at this time that speed helis took off. I am still proud that HELI-X was the first simulator to have Henseleit’s ThreeDee rigid as a model. Wadim Wall generated the model at that time, and so that one could try out the colors available at that time in the simulator, the color and texture change was implemented.
At this time also the cooperation with Mikado and Ulrich Röhr started. So it was possible to read the V-Stabi configuration files into HELI-X.
Then, since the year 2010, Rolf Rohner and Reiner Stein have been very involved in HELI-X. The rotor blades, whose display depends on the setting angle of the blades and the angle to the sun, and the plugin interface date from this time. It was possible to control external programs with HELI-X, e.g. an editor for the model parameters, which Reiner had written. Since that time there are also crash objects in the photorealistic scenes and also the first 3d scenes.
Tomas Jedrzejek translated the User Interface into Czech.
In 2011, many new scenes were added. Paul Dürr and Martin Koall are to be thanked for that. Since that time I also like to work together with Martin Wycisk, a great pilot, who helped a lot with the settings of many, many helis. Martin still tells that he had spent a large part of his youth in Diestersdorf (i.e. in the simulator HELI-X). He was also very disappointed that Dietserdorf was now replaced as the default scene with the Almere site.
A big step for HELI-X happened in 2015. For version 5.0 a new graphics engine was used, the jMonkey engine, which is still the OpenGL base for HELI-X. Since then OpenGL shaders are supported and there are realistic shadows. By the way, the graphics engines before were Java3d (before 0.9) and then Xith3D, which is unfortunately no longer developed. That’s why the change was necessary, and now there is also an integrated user interface since 2015, which by the way can also be used in the current VR version.
Jan Stauffacher has been active for HELI-X since 2015. He has already created a lot of models and 3d scenes for HELI-X. From him come the best models with the best graphics. For questions about Blender he is my first contact person. By the way, he also wrote a great tutorial about creating models for HELI-X with Blender. A must for every model builder!
During this time, Matthew de Wilde also created some demo flights in HELI-X.
Since version 8.0, we are in 2018, there are airplanes in HELI-X. I fondly remember the many hours I spent tinkering with Martin Wycisk to implement flight physics for airplanes. We spent hours looking at flat spin, and looking at “high angle of attack”, the transition from normal flight to hover to torquing. With Martin I am still optimizing the aerodynamics of new models. Together with the airplanes, the possibility for hang-gliding with the corresponding scenes in HELI-X was developed.
I also like to mention Michael Peer, who models for HELI-X, e.g. the Whiplash and the Furion 6, and Martin Münster, who also gives valuable inputs on flight physics.
In 2019, Daniel Wiedemann (Helischule Gonzalez) came to me. He wants to use HELI-X for his book project, and has been extremely supportive of me improving the pyhsics of helicopters. For me he is a phenomenon. In principle he can fly all figures blind and knows exactly with which setting the helicpter behaves how. His contribution is especially noticeable in the autorotation behavior of the helicopters in HELI-X. Not for nothing it is said that the autorotations in HELI-X are the most realistic. I always remember an old advertising slogan from a company that makes a finite element program: “Nature is non-linear”, and that applies even more to the flight pyhsics of 3d helicopters. By the way, Daniel offers an online flight school for helicopter flight, using HELI-X. So the impemented physics seems to be not bad … 😉
Since version 9.0 there are also high resolution scenes (4K) in HELI-X.
With version 9.1 in 2020, an innovation was implemented in HELI-X that has not been seen before with any other flight simulator: Together with Ulrich Röhr from Mikado, we developed a WLAN interface. So it is now possible with the VBar Touch to control the simulator via WLAN, without cables and without an interface. The stick configuration is then also done automatically.
With this version, the sound system has also been improved. The flexibility that is implemented here is hardly used by the models so far. Here I must also improve once. There are so many possibilities!
Now Auggie Copter, who I’m sure everyone knows from the Facebook group RC-Heli Hangout, has also become aware of HELI-X. Together with him we have implemented the “Auggie’s instinctive training ring”, an ingenious training tool for piroflips. For this we talked on the phone for a few hours via Skype and discussed a lot. But the result is great! There are also some videos of Auggie, which I have linked on the web page.
Since that time Matthijs Amelink from the Netherlands became active for HELI-X. From him come not only excellent scenes in the highest resolutions. Together with him also the “ready to VR” feature was developed: In VR mode, the images for the left and right eye are different, which cannot be adequately depicted with the image from only one camera. And we have developed a solution for this. We are currently working on a HUD specifically for the VR version. This is where his experience in flight simulators comes in.
A highlight in March 2021 was the online training on Mars, with a scene of Matthijs and the Ingenuity helicopter of the Mars mission created by Jan.
Meanwhile, Björn Hempel is also very involved with HELI-X. He not only runs some of the online servers, but he also re-implemented the multiplayer. With version 10.1 there will be a game server from him. And also more features are planned for version 11, but more is not revealed yet.
And now we are already at version 10.0 from the year 2021. Here we have realized an important update of the graphics engine. As an innovation there is now a virtual reality mode (VR), so that can be flown with 3d glasses. With Physical based rendering a more realistic representation of the models is possible (reflections, metal effects, etc.). Furthermore the processor M1 from Apple is now natively supported.
By the way, I’m already running the first version on the Raspberry Pi with Linux and an ARM processor. In the latest version the Raspberry Pi supports openGL. The version is still too slow, but in one or two years it will surely work!
And soon (still in the first quarter of 2023) HELI-X will be released in version 10.1. Then there will be a more realistic simulation of wind, where the roughness of the earth’s surface will be taken into account. Also detail improvements like an improved glare by the sun, or “Multi Pilot Position Airports”, with which it will be possible that different pilots stand at different positions when flying online.
I am happy to present the new version 10.1 at the Rotor-Live in Baden-Baden at the booth of Helischule Gonzalez. I am looking forward to toasting with you to 15 years of HELI-X.
This year, version 11 will be published with new features!
Thanks again to all who have supported and positively accompanied the project. I am looking forward to the next 15 years! This