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|Stable release||10.45 (February 27, 2016[±])|
|Preview release||10.50b5 (July 1, 2016[±])|
X-Plane is a flight simulator produced by Laminar Research. A desktop version is available for Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux, while a mobile version is available for Android, iOS, and webOS. X-Plane is packaged with several commercial, military, and other aircraft, as well as basic global scenery which covers most of the Earth. X-Plane also ships with other software to build and customize aircraft and scenery. X-Plane also has a plugin architecture that allows users to create their own modules, extending the functionality of the software by letting users create their own worlds or replicas of places on Earth.
As of February 2016[update], the most recent version is X-Plane 10.45. X-Plane 10 comes in a cardstock or tin case on eight dual-layer DVDs, most of which comprise the global scenery, which is 86 GB compressed. The scenery spans from 70 degrees south to 74 degrees north. Switching the planetary model to Mars is an option that comes with X-Plane 9 only, and although the atmosphere is thin, flight is possible.
X-Plane differentiates itself from other simulators by implementing an aerodynamic model called blade element theory. Traditionally, flight simulators emulate the real-world performance of an aircraft by using empirical data in predefined lookup tables to determine aerodynamic forces such as lift or drag, which vary with differing flight conditions. These simulators sufficiently simulate the flight characteristics of the aircraft, specifically those with known aerodynamic data, but are not useful in design work, and do not predict the performance of aircraft when the actual figures are not available.
Blade element theory improves on this type of simulation by modeling the forces and moments on an aircraft, and individually evaluating the parts that constitute it. Blade-element theory and other computational aerodynamic models are often used to compute aerodynamic forces in real time or pre-compute aerodynamic forces of a new design for use in a simulator employing lookup tables.
With blade element theory, a surface (e.g. wing) may be made up of many sections (1 to 4 is typical), and each section is further divided into as many as 10 separate subsections. After that, the lift and drag of each section is calculated, and the resulting effect is applied to the whole aircraft. When this process is applied to each component, the simulated aircraft will fly similar to its real-life counterpart. This approach allows users to design aircraft quickly and easily, as the simulator engine immediately illustrates how an aircraft with a given design might perform in the real world. X-Plane can model fairly complex aircraft designs, including helicopters, rockets, rotor craft, and tilt-rotor craft.
Users are encouraged to design their own aircraft, and design software is included with the program. This has created an active community of users who use the simulator for a variety of purposes. Since designing an aircraft is relatively simple and the flight model can help predict performance of real-world aircraft, several aircraft companies use X-Plane in their design process. The CarterCopter uses X-Plane for flight training and research. X-Plane also contributed to the design of the Atlantica blended wing body aircraft.
Through the plugin interface, users can create external modules that extend the X-Plane interface, flight model or create new features. One such feature is the XSquawkBox plugin, which allows X-Plane users to fly on a worldwide shared air traffic control simulation network. Other work has been done in the area of improving X-Plane's flight model and even replacing entire facets of X-Plane's operation.
X-Plane can connect to other X-Plane instances via a UDP/IP or TCP/IP network for multiplayer flight simulation, networked multi-monitor X-Plane configurations or to plugins, such as Pilot Edge, which themselves communicate with other X-Plane instances.
The X-Plane IOS – Instructor Operation Station can be used remotely (via the Internet) or locally (via a computer connected to the X-Plane session by a LAN) as part of a flight training session allowing a flight instructor to alter and control the aircraft in various ways. It can be used to simulate various aircraft system failures and also to change the weather, the time, or relocate the aircraft.
Multiple utilities are shipped with X-Plane 10 by Laminar Research for users to customize various aspects of the simulation.
World Editor is an overlay editor with a graphic user interface to facilitate editing of airports. With the most recent update, this utility global resources to allow users to submit data to be included in X-Plane by default with each update. The primary purpose of this tool is to modify and correct airport layouts. World Editor also can read the geographical coordinates in GeoTIFF files. In version 1.3r1, a new feature was added to allow users to submit airports using default assets to an Airport Scenery Gateway.
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