DESIGN PRINCIPLE

One of our long-standing business partners in multiple activities is the innovative Pipistrel Aircraft group. After we had completed our initial learning period in building the MiG-21bis simulator, we realised the training potential of VR for initial training. On this basis we had envisioned a market for Pipistrel simulators in the role of basic training. We had developed the prototype simulator in cooperation with Pipistrel. Because of our partnership and trust between Pipistrel and AFormX we were able to feed a lot of existing engineering data into a quick development of the product. The simulator is named X-ALPHA. Initially it was a simulator for two Pipistrel aircraft – the Pipistrel ALPHA Trainer and Pipistrel ALPHA Electro. Since it can simulate both – it is a cross, a fusion, therefore named X-ALPHA. This concept that the VR world and hardware world can diverge to create multiple aircraft models in a similar physical environment was the first of our several unique concepts in our VR simulators design.

BUILD PROCESS

With this project we had to develop the aerodynamic and 3D model of the aircraft. This forced us to study how to convincingly make a virtual 3D environment suited for VR goggles, wrapping it with convincing textures, but all the while making it acceptable for frame-rate counts for affordable computing power.

The 3D model of the X-ALPHA in progress
The 3D model of the X-ALPHA in progress
A write-off finds new life in a prototype
A write-off finds new life in a prototype

At the same time the hardware part was salvaged from a fuselage shell written off in a hard landing.

One of the key partners in this project was also Mr. Aljoša Skočir – Elematik, who supplied the Aviator series of controllers.

Pipistrel and AFormX jointly presented the prototype of this simulator at Aero Friedrichshafen 2017.

Prototype X-ALPHA at Aero 2017
Prototype X-ALPHA at Aero 2017 in Germany. It was the first globally presented VR simulator.

In 2019 the simulator evolved into X-ALPHA 200 series, which features some important upgrades like:

  • introduction of the Virus SW 121 hardware and software model
  • ballistic rescue parachute activation hardware and software activation

In 2021 the X-ALPHA 200 was upgraded with an option to simulate the Pipistrel Velis Electro – the world first electric certified aircraft.

Velis Electro model screenshot
A view from the VR cockpit of the Pipistrel Velis Electro on the X-ALPHA 200.

AFormX owns one X-ALPHA 200 simulator operated by Academy 4 in Celje. This simulator also features a photo-realistic terrain for Slovenia. Academy 4 is a flight school that is using the Pipistrel X-ALPHA 200 to push the limits of the use of simulation within the basic training of light aircraft pilots. During 2021 Academy 4 is pushing hard to develop and deploy structured and set X-ALPHA lessons for PPL and Ultralight basic training. These lessons are supported by on-line briefings and pre-set scenarios.

RESULTS

At the present the X-ALPHA series is still being produced and developed.

X-ALPHA production at AFormX
X-ALPHA production at AFormX workshop.

Until mid-2021 26 X-ALPHAs and X-ALPHA 200s were built and delivered on all continents except Australia.

X-ALPHA in Los Angeles
A Los Angeles aviation youth enjoying the X-ALPHA.

Additionally, five of original X-ALPHAs were upgraded to X-ALPHA 200 standard. In the first half of 2021 more than 150 paid simulator sessions were sold and performed at Academy 4 to student pilots. The lessons learnt during the full use of the X-ALPHA VR simulator in the skills acquisition process led AFormX to develop the concept for the Ultimate biplane hybrid simulator. You can purchase the Pipistrel X-ALPHA 200 simulator through Pipistrel Aircraft Group.

VIP USERS

As mentioned on the AFormX VR simulators main page this project was awarded the National Gold Award for innovation in Slovenia in 2017. One of the most prominent testers of the X-ALPHA was Mark Moore, a 32 year veteran of NASA that was at that time director of Strategy at Uber Elevate (later acquired by Joby Aviation).

Mark Moore in X-ALPHA
Mark Moore in X-ALPHA
Mark Moore after the X-ALPHA demo flight with AFormX team
Mark Moore after the X-ALPHA demo flight with AFormX team