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GWS R/C Flight Simulator & Transmitter Computer Cables Review

Michael Heer tries out and reports on the GWS R/C Flight Simulator Set and the GWS computer cables for that turn your JR/Spektrum and Futaba transmitters into flight simulators.

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Introduction

GWS Flight Simulator
GWS Flight Simulator
Simulator Transmitter:GWS 4 channel simulator transmitter
Cable:connects transmitter to computer with USB connector
Manufacturer:GWS
Available From:GWS
Price:$35.00

GWS's motto is, "With GWS, everyone can fly!" And when it comes to Flight Simulators they have lived up to their motto by making it very affordable. The GWS R/C Flight Simulator is for the person who owns no RC equipment. It comes with a 4 channel simulator transmitter (not for actual use in flying RC) that connects to a computer via an attached USB connector cable. If you already have an older Futaba, JR or Spektrum transmitter you only need to buy the appropriate GWS cable to turn those transmitters into a flight simulator with software GWS supplies on their website.

SOFTWARE NOTICE: Not Vista Compatable at Present

This review was done using Microsoft XP home version software. GWS states that the Vista Microsoft Operating System is not currently compatible with the system but that may change with Microsoft updates. The system is compatible with XP and earlier Microsoft systems going back to Windows 95.

Kit Contents

Kit contents:

  • Transmitter with computer cable
  • Instruction manual

Getting Started

Plug the GWS R/C flight simulator transmitter into a USB port on your computer. Your computer powers the transmitter, so no batteries were needed. If using the JR/Spektrum cable (GWFSM002) or the old style connector Futaba cable (GWFSM002A) plug it into the training connector on the appropriate transmitter, and the other end into a USB connector on the computer. (Warning: Do not leave the cable plugged into the transmitter so it wonít drain the transmitter battery.)

Per the instructions, using my computer, I went onto the Internet to www.gws.com.tw. From there I selected "FMS Download", double clicked on the download for version 2.0 Beta 7 and installed that onto my computer. An Icon for it appeared on my computer's main screen.

Calibration

I turned on the FMS program, clicked on Controls at the top of the screen and selected "Analog control." I next selected "Joystick Interface" and clicked on "Mapping/Calibration." On this screen I moved the joysticks and saw what column they moved on the screen. I changed the numbers to match the control identification on the left side of the screen so that my throttle (left) stick controlled throttle moving it up and down and controlled rudder moving it right and left. I got the right stick to control elevator and ailerons appropriately as well. I then moved the sticks in all directions to establish range and finally centered both sticks and clicked on "Finish." Last step was clicking on "OK" to complete the calibration process. It took me longer to describe it then to accomplish it.

Selecting an Air Craft

From the top line of the home page on the program I clicked on "Model." A box opened with 20 aircraft listed. These 20 aircraft were (H denotes helicopter, G denotes glider): Airbus, BF 109, Cobra (H), Curtis R3C (Float Plane), DG 1,000 (G), Diamant (G), Horton IV (G), Hughes (H), ME-163, ME-262, Pitts, Quickie, SB 13 (G), Silkywind 400, Sky Hawk, Slow Fly, SU-26, Super Cub, ThreeDee (H), Transall. I just scrolled the arrow over the aircraft I wanted to fly and clicked on "Open." The plane I selected opened on the flying field, ready to fly.

Selecting a Flying Field

On the top line of the home page of the program I clicked on "Landscape." 17 variants of five main sites opened for my selection. The five main sites are Islet, Seabreeze, Switzerland, Winter and World. World only has one site, Islet has three sites: main, seaplane and sunset, Seabreeze has four sites: main, runway, seaplane and sunset, Switzerland has five sites: main, sea, slope, slope 2 and sunset and Winter has four sites: main, heli, slope and slope 2. Selection of the landing sites is performed in the same way as selecting an aircraft. Roll the arrow on the site desired and click Open.

These sites are somewhat limited in size. If I flew too long in a straight line I soon found myself approaching the end of the area and had to turn the plane.

View

As with a real RC plane, the standard View has the pilot standing in one location on the ground and watching the plane from that one location. If I didn't turn the plane and keep it flying near me I could fly too far away and lose orientation of where the plane was heading. If I allowed that to happen, I crashed or I got lucky and turned the plane and bought it back to my location. However, on the home page if I clicked on "View" I had a second choice for viewing called "Chase." From the Chase position I could follow behind the plane and view it as if I was in a chase plane, allowing me to always keep the plane in sight and explore and see the entire flying site. It was while doing this I noticed the flying sites were limited in size and scope. I simply would turn to stay over the site and have scenery beneath and in front of me.

Several other options were available under the View function. By pressing a key on the computer's keyboard you can manually zoom in on my aircraft or zoom out from it. Additionally, I could activate an automatic Zoom that would help keep the plane in view even if I normally wouldn't be able to see it very well as it flew away from me. The speed of the automatic zoom was also controllable. Finally, I could activate an information panel that would go to the right upper corner of my screen and give me a read out of the planeís speed and altitude.

Simulation

The next heading on the top line of the Home page is "Simulation." From here I could start or pause the simulation using the pause function. I also could activate a winch or handtoss and access thermal option for flying the gliders. I could use the winch to fly them from ground level and get them up in the air. I used the hand toss for slope flying in Switzerland and Winter landscapes. Finally, they have a setting that renders the model is uncrashable (where can I get that for my real RC planes?) and allows the plane to keep flying in a situation when it would normally be destroyed.

Sound

The sound function is very simple: On or Off. On, it runs the sound program linked to the selected plane. Jets sound like jets, prop planes sound as they should and gliders are basically quiet.

Graphics

The graphic controls are simple. I could select 16 or 32 bit colors and have the options of fog, smooth textures or textures. I didn't work with these controls at all.

Controls

As discussed above, this is how you calibrate the program to work with the GWS simulator or with your JR/ Spektrum or Futaba transmitter using the computer link cables sold by GWS.

Language

There were an amazing number of languages available to choose from so that this can be used by people all around the world.

Help

The last section on the Home page is the help section. I haven't needed it and since you are reading this review I bet you won't need it either, but it is there if you need it.

Operation

I have a few clips of myself flying simulator planes while videotaping them off of my monitor. The images are much darker then they appear in real life but they give some idea of what to expect when using this simulator. I'm a better pilot when I am not focusing on videotaping my own flight.

Downloads

Additional Models and Sites

Searching "FMS Simulator" on Google, I found a number of other models available for use as an aircraft with my transmitter. Just remember that there are many more out there to add to your airforce.

More on the Cables

GWS advised that the cables only work with transmitters in PPM/FM mode. The Futaba I used to test one cable was only capable of PPM/FM mode and it worked fine with the cable. My Spectrum DX5e was also used and it worked well with the cable for JR/Spektrum. GWS had not tried previously with a Spektrum system but had heard of problems with some 2.4GHz systems. Accordingly I limit my findings to the only Spektrum transmitter I actually tested, the Spektrum DX5e

Is This for a Beginner?

Most definitely! A new plane is only the reset button away. This simulator offers the necessary control and options for a pilot to learn with a rudder/elevator system, rudder/elevator and throttle and a four way system with ailerons, rudder, elevator and throttle on most of the planes.

Conclusion

If you have a JR/Spektrum transmitter or older Futaba transmitter just purchase the proper GWS cable and you can use your existing transmitter as a flight simulator, or get the GWS R/C flight simulator, and you can fly on your home computer. It covers the basics for a reasonable price. It is easy to use and quick to set up and can be used with older and relatively basic computers. It serves the purpose of giving a pilot stick time to develop their flying skills with an airplane, a glider or a helicopter. It fills a nice niche for those who canít readily afford the more expensive simulators.

Pluses:

  • Affordable
  • Easy and quick to set up and operate
  • Twenty aircraft to choose from and more available on the Internet
  • Fly from the ground or Chase position
  • A basic system to learn how to fly

Minuses

  • Flying sites are limited in size and details
  • Planes are limited in detail and features
  • Limited programmable features and control of flying conditions.
Last edited by Angela H; Apr 01, 2009 at 07:50 PM..

Discussion

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Old Apr 01, 2009, 08:26 PM
Where'd my money go?
rawr404's Avatar
VA
Joined Jun 2008
577 Posts
Very cool. Great review!!!!
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Old Apr 02, 2009, 04:21 AM
Next time I'll ARTF...
glydr's Avatar
Canberra, Australia (Southside)
Joined Feb 2004
4,634 Posts
Am I the only person with a Real Flight G4.5 ad on my screen?



The sims that you pay for are indeed far better than FMS - however even cheap setups like this teach a beginner where to point his (or her) thumbs when a plane or heli is coming towards him.

Thanks for the review.
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Old Apr 02, 2009, 05:20 AM
Dr. Dave
USA
Joined Nov 2005
1,316 Posts
Mike is this better, worse or the same as the "FMS" sims packaged with some products?
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Old Apr 02, 2009, 10:16 AM
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Michael Heer's Avatar
Stockton, Ca. USA
Joined Apr 2001
9,411 Posts
Dave:
There are many FMS sim products available and I have not tried them all by any means. A major item here with the GWS simulator transmitter or the cables to use a regular transmitter as a simulator transmitter. With the hardware you can access some of the other FMS simulators or other planes or flying sites. As shown in the pictures of the flying sites and the planes they are fairly basic but great for learning the basics of RC flight. Mike
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Old Apr 02, 2009, 04:49 PM
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Joined Nov 2008
64 Posts
Clarification: FMS is not made by GWS.

It is an independant, free software package. I think the title of the thread may be misleading. This should really be 2 reviews: One for FMS, one for the GWS interface.

Also, does the GWS interface work in any other sims? RealFlight comes with it's own, but thats the only other one I have experience with.

If it doesn't, I would add that with another peice of free software called smartpropo plus you can acheive the exact same thing without using the GWS controller. You can plug your own tx into the mic or line-in port of your computer. Total cost of sim: $3.00 for a bog standard 3.5mm stereo audio cable you can get from any music / electronics shop.

So if the GWS interface doesn't work with any other sim why would you pay money to a company who did very little work to capitalise on someone else's charitable contribution to the r/c community?

Other wise I thought the review was very good, tip for the future though: A program called Fraps can record video of what is happenning on your screen, from your computer, it will look a dozen times better than a camcorder pointed at a monitor.
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Old Apr 02, 2009, 05:12 PM
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Joined Sep 2002
2,140 Posts
This GWS controller works very well with ClearView RC Flight Simulator from http://rcflightsim.com In fact, this is my favorite controller - the feeling is very much like a real TX and the control is quite precise for unit that cost $20. Another quite good USB controller is made by E-Sky. One can't go wrong with each one of them.

Stefan
ClearView RC
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Old Apr 03, 2009, 12:14 AM
Crash Site Instigator
sheerLuck's Avatar
Novato, CA USA
Joined Jan 2002
917 Posts
Hey Michael - Could you post rough dimensions & weight of the GWS simulator transmitter ? Since I replaced my full-size laptop with a netbook, I now have room in my briefcase for a sim controller - but I'd like it to be somewhat scaled-down & lighter than the Realflight controller, for instance. I couldn't find specs for the GWS controller anywhere.

Larry
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Old Apr 03, 2009, 02:32 AM
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SteveM732's Avatar
United States, OR, Beaverton
Joined Feb 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dr.angryrahvin
Clarification: FMS is not made by GWS.

It is an independant, free software package. I think the title of the thread may be misleading. This should really be 2 reviews: One for FMS, one for the GWS interface
I agree completely, based on the title one is expecting to read about a simulator developed by GWS. I was thrown for a loop when I read a bit on the controller then found myself reading about FMS. This is more a review of FMS than of anything else.

If you have your own controller already, you can get devices to connect your transmitter to the PC for less than the $35 of this product. Therefore, the only value I see in it is a battery-less simulator controller, which leaves me wishing the reviewer had focused a little on simulator compatibility.

I am happy to see that the reviewer had the same problem with FMS as I did, stray to far from the runway and you can't see a darn thing and lose orientation. The reviewer's solution of switching to chase mode is not acceptable to me as that defeats the purpose of using the simulator in the first place. I believe this flaw to be understated as after using FMS I swore off all RC simulators as being worthless. To make a long story short, I found out that a popular and professionally developed RC simulator was worth the purchase and is actually helpful, even in the normal pilot view mode.
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Old Apr 03, 2009, 10:32 AM
Bit-Twiddler and Flyer
USA, VA, Chantilly
Joined Apr 2002
1,671 Posts
ClearView will use this controller and costs $40. The "Ground always in view" mode of CV helps a lot with keeping orientation.

-- ggunners
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Old Apr 04, 2009, 11:18 AM
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Michael Heer's Avatar
Stockton, Ca. USA
Joined Apr 2001
9,411 Posts
The GWS cables discussed in the review, that let you use your own transmitter with your computer, sell for $10.00 each. There are others available according to the GWS website. I will be checking out ClearView in the near future. Mike
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Old Apr 04, 2009, 05:39 PM
Got shenpa?
flieslikeabeagle's Avatar
Los Angeles
Joined May 2004
10,940 Posts
Thanks for the review, Michael! I think it is very important for people thinking about entering the hobby to know that there are free and very low cost RC simulator programs and packages available to them.

Whenever someone asks me about getting started in this hobby, I tell them about FMS, and encourage them to give the software a try before they consider either buying a $200 commercial sim, or worse, spending money on an RC model and throwing it in the air hoping to fly it successfully.

(I also offer to help with buddy-boxing if they get that far.)
Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveM732
I am happy to see that the reviewer had the same problem with FMS as I did, stray to far from the runway and you can't see a darn thing and lose orientation.
The same issue exists to some degree with every simulator, though it is, of course, worse in a sim with fuzzy graphics to start with (such as FMS).

In real life, the feel of your feet on the ground, the direction of the sunlight shining on your face, the direction of any prevailing wind, the angle at which you're holding your head, the amount of twist in your neck, the sound of wind rustling through the tree leaves behind you, and many other physical cues let you know in which direction you're looking across the field, and at what elevation angle to the horizon. Unfortunately, every one of these cues is missing from every RC simulator! And they will continue to be missing until the day when RC sims connect directly to the neurons in your brain and simulate these same sensations inside your head.

Because of these limitations, when I use any RC sim, I find it much harder to stay oriented to the flying field than it is in real life. It is harder to tell at what altitude the simulated model is, in which direction it is going, and whether or not the line the model is drawing as it flies along is truly horizontal, or slightly climbing or descending.

The same orientation issues make it relatively hard to land properly on the runway in any flight simulator. The good news is that if you do master the task in a simulator, you'll probably find it much easier in real life - I know I did.
Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveM732
after using FMS I swore off all RC simulators as being worthless.
I agree entirely that both FMS and other RC sims have plenty of failings and limitations, but I still think that's a bit of an extreme jump to a very far-fetched conclusion.

I, like hundreds of others, am living proof to the contrary: in the summer of 2004, I taught myself to fly an RC plane using FMS. It worked well enough that, after about seven to ten hours of FMS training, I was able to fly out two complete battery packs on my very first day at the park with a real RC plane. (Before discovering FMS, I had had complete failure during two separate attempts to learn to fly RC by myself.)

The model I was flying in 2004 (both in FMS and the real world) was a Toytronics T-Hawk. In FMS, I discovered that the T-hawk will tip-stall if slowed down too much or if turned too tightly, and I learned to avoid these issues by using throttle during turns, and making wider and more gentle turns. In the real world I was able to avoid these problems with the T-hawk, thanks to what I had learned with FMS.

Subsequently I also taught myself to fly coordinated turns, aileron rolls, inverted flight, stalls, and spins using FMS and various virtual aircraft models. In the real world, I was then able to duplicate these new flying skills with my first aileron model, a GWS E-Starter.

So, while FMS is very far from perfect, it is still a wonderfully useful tool, and can be an extraordinary help to a dedicated would-be RC pilot trying to teach herself/ himself new skills.
Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveM732
To make a long story short, I found out that a popular and professionally developed RC simulator was worth the purchase and is actually helpful, even in the normal pilot view mode.
I would also encourage people to try out CRRCSIM, a truly Free flight sim. Unlike FMS, CRRCSIM is really Free in the sense that it is an open-source project. Not only is the simulator itself free (no cost), you are also free to study the source code, modify it, improve it, build on it, contribute to it, and so on.

Progress on CRRCSIM has been relatively slow, but the current version is, IMHO, far better than FMS. Not only are the graphics better, but the all-important flight physics model is far, far superior. (Not much of a surprise when you find out that MIT professor and low Reynolds number flight expert Dr. Mark Drela provided the flight physics model for CRRCSIM.)

It's worth mentioning that FMS seems to have seen very little if any development in the last few years. This is a big risk with closed-source software such as FMS - if the original creator or creators abandon the project, it just dies, because no one else can build on the work already done, since the source code is sealed and proprietary. Incompatibility with Windows Vista is a little warning sign, and I think it is unlikely that FMS compatibility with the upcoming Windows 7 will be any better.

The creators of FMS have given the RC flying hobby a wonderful gift, and I really hope that when they finally decide they are done tinkering with the project for good, that they will do the right thing and open-source it so that it will live on and continue to benefit future hobbyists.

-Flieslikeabeagle
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Old Apr 06, 2009, 01:42 PM
Bit-Twiddler and Flyer
USA, VA, Chantilly
Joined Apr 2002
1,671 Posts
Flieslikeabeagle,

Sometimes it is a lot of work to take a program to open source as all the code would need to be open source too. The Moeller brothers used some licensed modules in their code. Consequently, more work to open it up. They also used DirectX and Windows because both made it easier to create the sim in the first place. Open source could not be Windows and DirectX specific. So even more to rewrite.

It would be very nice to have a Vista version which might not be too hard to accomplish. But the last update was in 2004. Have you ever coded a program and then had to go back years later to adjust it. It is a BIG effort.

So, sigh, FMS is quite good today for most everyone with XP and Vista fixes available for some people but not all. Here's hoping a fresh compile comes along FMS 2 alpha 8.6 please? with Vista support.

-- ggunners
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Old Apr 06, 2009, 02:42 PM
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Joined Sep 2002
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The Asian manufactures choose to use the fact that FMS had a free license to capitalize on it without paying to the authors. They could easily contact the FMS owners (Moeller brothers) and offer to pay them for using the software and probably negotiate and pay for some improvements. They choose to represent it as "their" simulator which is rather unfortunate.

Stefan
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Old Apr 06, 2009, 05:38 PM
I would prefer not to
Bartleby's Avatar
Hamburg, Germany
Joined Jul 2008
50 Posts
I agree. The license agreement clearly states that FMS is free for private and non-commercial use, but you may not benefit from it monetarily. Of course bundling soft- and hardware means exactly that. I assume the asian manufacturers see themselves beyond the practical reach of copyright law. It is quite saddening to hear people refer to it as an "esky" or "gws" simulator, apparently unaware of the scam.

http://n.ethz.ch/~mmoeller/fms/info_e.html

Oh, and it is worth mentioning that the latest version 2.85 is quite a bit more capable in the fixed wing department than the tested but ancient 2.7.

Regards
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