FlightGear Newsletter January 2021


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January 2021

We would like to emphasize that the monthly newsletter cannot live without the contributions of FlightGear users and developers. Everyone with a wiki account (free to register) is welcome to contribute to the newsletter. If you know about any FlightGear related news or projects such as for example updated scenery or aircraft, please do feel invited to add such news to the newsletter.


The brand new Visual Editor makes editing the wiki as simple as using a Word-processor, and even easier than using the forum as you don't even need to know the syntax for a url. Just hit the 'edit' link and start.

Development news

There has been a huge amount of changes on the next branch in recent months, as well as changes in supporting infrastructure like TerraSync. These are in preparation for transitions to: next gen scenery (WS 3.0), Compositor, OSM2City world build rollout, and so on. There are various other changes like in-sim GUI replacement that are being worked on, but not on next.

As usual, nightly builds of the next branch are available at: download.flightgear.org . These now include Appimages for Linux.

FlightGear 2020.3.6 released

2020.3.6 was released on Jan 24th 2021. The changelog includes launcher UI improvements such as 'getting started' hints that will gradually popup as people explore the UI.

Point releases for the 2020.3 LTS will contain some features and UI improvements, as well as bug fixes.

The road ahead

See Help Wanted.

World Scenery 3.0

The next branch contains a prototype of WS 3.0, FlightGear's next generation scenery.

OSG 3.6 is needed. The prototype is not currently available on windows nightlies as they use OSG 3.4 because the OSG text issue has not been fixed yet. Windows users that compile from source can build with OSG 3.6 and view the prototype.

Status

  • Scenery for the UK has been built ( download ). Some example WS 3.0 scenery will be added to TerraSync at a future date, including the UK scenery.
  • Scenery generation using Virtual Planet Builder (VPB) tool chain is advanced. The landclasses are all present.
  • The rendering effects are currently very basic. There are just some textures assigned to a few landclasses. Full ALS terrain effects are yet to be ported to the shaders. Transitions and other effects have not been implemented.
  • Airports use the current WS 2 format, and fully work with WS 3.0 scenery. The plan is to move to runtime generated airports eventually, but this can happen after the first WS 3.0 release as StuartB has found a way to use WS 2 airports by lowering the WS3 terrain underneath.
  • Currently WS 3.0 rendering uses a lower version of OpenGL. Scott is working on moving to OpenGL 4 and porting the shaders to a higher glsl version. After that, WS 3.0 rendering can leverage more techniques.
  • Marc has added the first implementation of trees on top of WS 3.0 terrain - this currently uses one tree type and is slow. Performance will be fixed in due course.


To see WS 3.0:

  1. Download VPB terrain: UK scenery by StuartB - 450 MB . Extract and add to you custom scenery folders list (the folder to be added is the folder containing the 'vpb' folder. e.g. add WS30_UK to the customs scenery folder list when the vpb folder is in WS3_UK/vpb.). This scenery will be added to TerraSync in future, and it will be downloaded automatically when you start an airport that is covered by the scenery. If scenery is absent there will be blue sky surrounding the airport. This scenery will become available through TerraSync in future.
  2. Turn on VPB terrain. Use: --prop:/scenery/use-vpb=true . You can type this into command-line settings box in the launcher: Launcher -> settings -> Additional settings -> enter --prop:/scenery/use-vpb=true .
  3. Start at a Airport for which there is VPB terrain. In the UK, EGPH is an airport devs have used for testing but any airport will do.
  4. Two GUI controls for WS 3.0 will be enabled in Menu->View->Rendering. Elevation mesh sample ratio controls how small the terrain grid will be (may be useful for older systems that are limited by number of vertices ). Elevation delta below airports is how far the WS 3.0 terrain is lowered under WS 2 airports.

Compositor

The next branch and automated nightly builds have fully switched to the Compositor rendering framework. The next FlightGear LTS or Preview build will follow suite.

The (current) plan is to have the Compositor ready for a (possible) release as a Preview or LTS once the current features of both ALS and Rembrandt have been implemented/tested. These features are not all that is possible with the Compositor, they're just the first start - the Compositor is a rendering framework with expanded capability that makes a lot more things possible.

Lighting

Fernando has added clustered lights to the Compositor on next. This lighting solution retains the speed of the ALS way of doing lights while taking care of light management. Clustered lighting is in fact a sort of a formalisation/generalisation of the ALS approach, without resorting to deferred rendering and its drawbacks (including making anti-aliasing more difficult which is why Rembrandt did not have AA implemented). The solution takes advantage of the fact that lights in the scene fade out quickly. It sorts which lights can illuminate objects in the current view, and even what lights can illuminate different parts of the view. This sorting is done every frame. This allows a large amount of lights to be in one region without lowering FPS - for example there can be a lot of lights at an airport, but only a limited amount of lights affect objects in any one view.

Aircraft and scenery developers can add lights quickly in a format similar to Rembrandt. For backwards compatibility, the plan is that old Rembrandt lights will be converted to the new format so unmaintained craft will continue to benefit - but aircraft developers should start transitioning to the new light definitions in their Compositor branches. Compositor branches can be uploaded to FGAddon/trunk where in-development aircraft are kept - aircraft in trunk are visible only to the FG next branch which has switched to the Compositor.

There are several aircraft available through the launcher on the next branch which have new compositor lights: Aircrane, J3-Cub, Ercoupe, Fokker 100.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cf_PWtf0_cs Early clustered lighting test with the Aircrane (the red bug has been fixed)

Shadows

On the next branch, there is an option to enable shadows in the GUI inside the simulator. Menu->View->Rendering->Enable Shadows

Shadow quality is still set from the command-line.

OSM2City world build

Merspsieler has finished the first build of OSM2City for the entire world using his build server. The first world-build covers buildings, roads, and objects present in OSM data - automatic generation for areas missing OSM data is not enabled for the first release.

Experimental rollout on TerraSync

Investigations are underway into making the OSM2City available through TerraSync.

An experimental rollout has been implemented. This is only available if you have the next branch of FlightGear, either by downloading the nighties or building from source. OSM2City data is stored compressed in XZ format. The next branch will download and decompress these files.

There is a new OSM2City scenery layer called Details that can be enabled from the rendering menu. Only the scenery layers that are enabled will be downloaded - try turning off some scenery layers to reduce bandwidth, diskspace, or if FPS is slow on old systems.

Currently there are only 3 servers that will bear the load of serving OSM2City data.

Rollout plan for 2020.3 LTS

There is a plan to enable the first experimental rollout of on a 2020.3 LTS nightly.

Notes:

Almost every aspect is subject to change. Expect to re-download. If server bandwidth becomes an issue then the rollout may need to be paused until the next iteration of OSM2City.

Disk Space requirements: Currently the uncompressed OSM2City data takes up a lot of space - more than 750 GB. Space can be drastically improved in future iterations of OSM2City. Pylons take up a lot of space uncompressed, so you may want to have them disabled for high altitude flights.

Rendering performance: large buildings use an older format so city centers with lots of big buildings can be slow. The bottleneck with objects in the old OSM2City format is the CPU here, so don't worry if FPS is low with a fast GPU. Performance can be drastically improved in future iterations. Smaller buildings and houses are fast, take up less RAM, and use less disk-space. Roads, pylons, and objects use the old format and they take a lot of space compared to buildings, as well as being slow. Try turning these off and running just buildings if you are stuck for space, or if FPS is low. Try lowering Lod:rough if you are having RAM or performance issues on older systems. Random buildings now use the fast technique - on older systems that are too slow for current OSM2City people can try random buildings with increased building density.

Appearance: Textures and the appearance of OSM2City is placeholder. Automatic generation for areas without OSM coverage is disabled. There is very limited local variety right now.

To contribute to any aspect of OSM2City get in touch via the threads for OSM2City or the Worldbuild and the fg-devel mailinglist.

OSM2City Tree support

Support for OSM2City to define trees has been added.

Composite Viewer

Jules has done a lot more work on Composite View support in recent months: see status . OSG 3.6 is needed, so windows nightly builds do not have composite viewer yet. Use : --composite-viewer=1 as a command-line option to enable the viewer. New views can be created through the view menu.

Automated environment slider configuration

Erik has added a sophisticated algorithm automatically configure the sliders in the Environment -> Environment settings dialog with plausible guesses based on a rough climate classification of the surrounding region, time of year, altitude, etc. as well as a guess at weather history for things like snow or rain accumulation given the current weather. The environment sliders will change as you travel to different parts of the world, or change the time of year - try changing the month and watching sliders. These are still guesses so you should feel free to tweak settings - determining the environment state is a hard problem to solve, there is always extreme, exceptional and unseasonal weather - for example it has snowed in Florida and there are rains even in deserts causing blooms or superblooms, and the history of weather can't really be determined by current weather.

To activate this option, tick the appropriate box in the Environment settings menu on the next branch / windows nightly build.

Photo-texture support

Nathaniel Warner (nathaniel515) has submitted a patch to allow user-supplied orthophoto textures to optionally be used and this is available in nightlies - see the forum thread. This works with current WS 2 scenery.

Note: Photo-textures created this way can only be distributed when the source of the textures has a license that allows people to re-distribute their work and derived works (a lot of photo scenery sources only intend their material to just be viewed, or used only for personal projects). If the photo-textures are to be redistributed in a FG specific format as custom sceneries intended for use with FG, or otherwise distributed as a work created by mixing FG with the scenery (like in a package with FG as default scenery), then the license for the photo textures must also be compatible with FG's license: GPL. That is, the license for the photo-textures must be compatible with the rights and freedoms GPL guarantees to people when using the mixed work.

Some examples of photoscenery from youtube:

FGUK:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11_CF3LRfNY Westland Sea King HAR3. 4k Photo Scenery test. Scotland

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4GSH3cPTC0 Scotland Photo scenery overflight preview.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWdBkb2Yl4Y Starting a Glasgow city Heliport on the Clyde, following the Clyde West then the Coast South to Prestwick. Helicopter: work-in-progress CH47D/HC2

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2H_3G37yLg BK117 over the Cairngorms with photo textures. AP testing

Wlbragg:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1melr1aBGU Aircrane over the grand Canyon

Contributing

There are a lot of things being worked on - see past newsletters. You can get in touch via the fg-devel mailing list to contribute.

Bugs and issues can be reported through the sourceforge tickets system.

Related Software tools and projects

FGCom-mumble

FGCom-Mumble aims to provide a mumble based FGCom implementation. This will simulate radio communications in a seamless frequency spectrum. The project aims to be easy to use: Pilots just install the plugin, open mumble, join a channel on a mumble server and start using their radio stack in Flightgear.

The development is discussed in the FGCom-mumble topic on the forum  . Releases can be downloaded from GitHub. The project also has a flightgear wikipage: FGCom-mumble

0.9.0 released

The January release brings Windows compatibility! The good thing is, that github also builds the mumble 1.4.0 plugin branch for windows, so testing on windows is now straightforward by just installing the snapshot and then copying the fgcom-mumble plugin to the installations plugin-folder! More details, especially on getting the current mumble snapshot is on FGCom-mumble.

Red-Griffin ATC 2.10 released

Antonello Biancalana has released a new version of his speaking ATC addon. It can be downloaded from sourceforge. See the forum thread for feedback.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEuz9hTpvuI Red Griffin ATC 2 1 0: Demo Flight with Squawking and Assisted Approach, from Foligno to Perugia

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IhPebn2TgI Red Griffin ATC Preview - Experimenting with Festival Speech Synthesis System and FlightGear

In the hangar

Bristol Brabazon

Starboard brake now working. No update in the official hangar yet, but you can find it at Sourceforge.

Bell AH-1W SuperCobra Project

Bell-pilot on the forum, an AH-1W SuperCobra pilot with an aerospace engineering background, has started a project working towards an accurate JSBSim helicopter - a lot of the existing helicopters use YaSim. See the forum thread for details.

Releases & Updates

Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane

Wlbragg (Wayne Bragg) is continuing his re-build/overhaul of the Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane (Erickson Aircrane). Helijah, the maintainer, has merged some of the recent work into FGAddon/trunk. Wlbragg's version of the Aircrane is an overhaul which is designed for the Compositor. It's a good reference to see how Compositor features like shadows and clustered lighting can be integrated into an aircraft. To be downloadable from the launcher the Aircrane needs a nightly build of FlightGear, or a self-build of the next branch. See the forum thread for details and link to the repository for the latest work.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cf_PWtf0_cs Compositor clustered lighting support in the Aircrane - several different types of lights are featured.

BK117-B2

FGUK have released an update to the MBB BK117-B2. See the forum thread for details and download.

Hughes MD-500E v2.1

FGUK have released an update to the MD-500E. Updates: Slight FDM Changes. Long Line payload option, for use with the Cargo Towing Addon. New Autopilot. Fixes.Multiplayer SAR recovery script. See the forum thread for details and download.

Bell 412 " Griffin" v1.1

Updates: FDM - Fixed the Inverse torque during initial take off. Added a Long Line payload option for use with the Cargo Towing addon. New Autopilot with Bell 412 specific Dialogue. New camera view - Hook View. Fixed a case issue in the GNS430. See the forum thread for details and download.

Eurocopter EC120 Colibri v1.0

FGUK have relesed the first public version of the Eurocopter EC120 Colibri:

  • 14 liveries. 3 configuration options. Optional emergency flotation system. Cold dark start possible. ALS Glass and fuselage effects. Long line cargo option for use with the Cargo Towing Addon . FDM meets stated performance values. Multiplayer passenger function. SAR Recovery script to allow other SAR equipped helicopters to recover your crashed chopper.

See forum thread for details and download.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2bKx-SoUTM EC130 manual startup tutorial by FGUK.

Scenery corner

Integration of sceneries into Terrasync

Scott (xDraconian) is in the process of integrating WS 2 islands and complete landmasses into Terrasync.

This includes the Australia scenery project, as well as the New Zealand scenery rebuild by ProfessorS, as well as smaller islands.

Australia Scenery Project

Terrain release: The 1st build of the Australian continent in WS2 format is complete - see the forum thread for details. This is only the terrain release, the regional definitions are still WiP. The rebuilt terrain can use the new cliff shader present in the 2020.3 LTS onwards (when regional definitions map the landclasses to the new effect).

Water depth update

Erik has updated the water depth map (bathymetry). Inland water bodies will have better water depth.

Europe regional definitions improvements

Erik has integrated the agriculture textures found in the old DDS global definitions scheme into the regional texturing scheme for Europe. These textures have been matched to be in-line with his recent texture matching of FG textures. Results: image

The existence of new textures was brought to attention by Thilo who noticed the region around his town looked closer to reality under the old DDS scheme. More high quality agriculture regional textures (and more GPL landclass textures in general) are one of the ways which can have a very high impact on scenery - see Help Wanted and Howto:creating textures .




Help wanted

Post LTS work

After the 2020.2 release, some work lies ahead to improve the LTS and to help us pave the way for adopting OSG 3.6 - any help would be greatly appreciated.

This may for example include:

Please get in touch via the developers mailing list to learn more. See Post FlightGear 2020.2 LTS changes and 2022.X Release Plan for more details.

World Scenery 3.0

The FlightGear project is in the process of exploring how Virtual Planet Builder can be adopted. For details, see: World Scenery 3.0 roadmap

Aerial (drone) photos for Terrain textures

Wanted: good top-down aerial photos to create textures from to use with the procedural Regional Texturing system. Drones   with cameras are ideal. People with access to drones are in a good position to take high-quality photographs.

A particular need as of 2020 is photos of agriculture (farm lands) from different parts of the world.

Good GPLv2 compatible photos suitable for textures are hard to find, and an easy way is for people to take photos of their region. Flightgear's procedural systems can do a lot with less art content, so photo contributions can strongly improve visuals.

See: How to: take photos of terrain for textures. For examples of final textures: see /data/Textures/Terrain. e.g. UK countryside.

You can get in touch via the Scenery forum or the flightgear-devel mailing list

Photos of trees for textures

Wanted: good quality photos of different trees and vegetation from various parts of the world. Flightgear's vegetation system can handle multiple layers of trees and bushes.

Strong shadows should be avoided. Each tree should be against a background of a different colour: sky (preferably) , clouds , or buildings. This allows the tree to be separated from the background in a photo-editor like GIMP.

See: How to: take photos of vegetation. For examples of final textures: see /data/Textures/Trees. e.g. Coniferous.

You can get in touch via the Scenery forum or the flightgear-devel mailing list.

Submissions of labels for craft

Wanted: Submissions of labels (tags) giving a rough description of aircraft - Metadata tags. A quick read of a craft's Wikipedia page will normally be enough to set labels. This info will be searchable from the launcher GUI. For example, filtering craft by propulsion like single-propeller or 4-engine jet craft, or by a manufacturer like Airbus or Grumman, or by speed like supersonic craft, or craft by era like WW2. A list of tags is here - more can be added if needed. To add tags to craft yourself, the tags are stored in the set-xml file.

A list of FGAddon craft needing tags is here. See this forum thread to submit tags. The flightgear-devel mailing list or the craft's maintainer can also be contacted.

Windows Package Maintainer

The core team needs help from Windows users able to maintain a good working Window build. This process already exists to support our Nightly and Release builds, but we are seeking additional help to keep it in good working order. The ability to compile FG from source and some Windows batch scripting is a required skill. If you are willing and able to take up this role, please reach out to James Turner (mailing list), or get in touch via the forum [1]

AI

The AI team makes FlightGear more realistic, colorful and lively every month. You can support the development of Interactive Traffic and contribute at the FlightGear AI subforum  .


Community news

FlightGear on Facebook

Since early December 2010, FlightGear has an official Facebook page. If you have a Facebook account please feel free to join the page.

FlightGear on Instagram

In January 2018 the @flightgear_sim Instagram account was brought back to life. If you've got nice screenshots to be featured, feel free to contact the maintainer  .

FlightGear on FlightSim.com

FlightGear has also a sub-forum on flightsim.com - just like the commercial flight sims. It is an opportunity to showcase what FG can do, get people curious and answer any questions they may have with regard to the software or the project.

Multiplayer events

Contributing

Translators needed

  The FlightGear Wiki still needs help for translating it into various languages. If you are interested in making the FlightGear Wiki multilingual, you can start by looking at Help:Translate.
  Le wiki de FlightGear a toujours besoin d'aide pour être traduit en différentes langues. Si vous êtes intéressé par le rendre multilingue, commencez par lire Help:Traduire.
  Das FlightGear Wiki benötigt immer noch Hilfe bei der Übersetzung in verschiedene Sprachen. Wenn Du Interesse daran hast, das FlightGear Wiki mehrsprachig zu machen, dann fang mit dem Help:Übersetzen an.
  De FlightGear Wiki kan nog steed hulp gebruiken bij het vertalen van artikelen. Als je interesse hebt om de wiki meertalig te maken, raden we je aan om een kijkje te nemen bij Help:Vertalen.
  La wiki de FlightGear todavía necesita ayuda para traducirla a varios lenguajes. Si estás interesado en hacer la FlightGear wiki multilingüe, entonces comienza en Help:Traducir.
  La wiki de FlightGear encara necessita ajuda per traduir-la a diverses llengües. Si esteu interessat en fer la wiki de FlightGear multilingüe, llavors comenceu a Help:Traduir.
  A wiki de FlightGear ainda necessita de ajuda para traduzi-la em vários idiomas. Se estás interessado em tornar a wiki de FlightGear multi-lingual, por favor começa em Help:Traduzir.
  FlightGear 百科仍然需要志愿者将其翻译为各种语言。如果你有兴趣让FlightGear百科支持更多语言, 你可以查看 Help:Translate.

FlightGear logos

If you want some graphic elements for your FlightGear-related site (such as a hangar or YouTube channel), please feel free to visit FlightGear logos for a repository of logos. And if you have some art skills, please don't hesitate to contribute with your own design creations.

Screenshots

The FlightGear project always needs screenshots, which show features that were added since the last release. These should be of good quality, especially in content and technical image properties. It is therefore recommended to use the best viable filter settings (anti-aliasing, texture sharpening, etc.). More info at Howto:Make nice screenshots.

Screenshot of the Month

If you want to participate in the screenshot contest, you can submit your candidate to the this subforum  . Be sure to see the first post for participation rules. For purposes of convenience and organization, at the end of the month or after 20 entries have been submitted, a new forum topic will be started containing all shots in an easy-to-view layout. The voting will then take place there.

Thanks for reading FlightGear Newsletter January 2021!

References