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Virtual Parachute Simulator

Motivo designed and built parachute simulation hardware that provides realistic controls and feedback

Systems Technology, Inc. (STI) is a research and development company with over 50 years of expertise in analysis and simulation of vehicle dynamics (air, space, ground, and sea), guidance and control systems, human-machine interaction and vehicle safety. STI was interested in the development of a new PARASIM® unit with advanced controls and was looking for a production partner to design and manufacture the system.


STI’s PARASIM® parachute flight training simulator was conceived over 20 years ago, in response to the US Forestry Service Smokejumpers’ need for a better training solution. By providing a safe, effective means of training parachuting skills on the ground, PARASIM® lets jumpers learn canopy control skills, navigation, collision avoidance, and critical equipment malfunctions procedures, and practice these skills until they become second nature. Therefore the PARASIM® unit is required to be robust, safe, and provide realistic feedback. The simulator needed to provide all of the parachute controls, including toggle and riser steering and have these controls integrated with STI’s system. STI also required that the solution be easily and safely assembled.


An aggressive schedule without sacrificing safety or user experience became both Motivo’s challenge and drive for the project. STI had a firm schedule, needing to ship units in 8-10 weeks from the project’s inception, which left little time for design iteration, despite requiring incredible safety and robustness.


When on tight schedules, Motivo excels at identifying solutions that employ the smart and creative use of custom and off-the-shelf components to reduce both lead and execution time. In order to reduce development time while simultaneously ensuring safety, Motivo turned to high torque motors and automotive-qualified controllers. Motivo then rapidly verified the system’s operational safety and effectiveness using a model-based software environment. While using off-the-shelf electronics, Motivo developed a custom mechanical setup that employed a clever pulley system, allowing heavy motors to be mounted near the floor, which greatly reduced the installation effort. To further improve the safety of the system, Motivo added redundant position sensors, secondary limit switches, mechanical brakes, and used an inherently safe worm drive motor-gear setup to lift the user during the simulation.


The first parachute simulator was developed, created, and tested in the 8 weeks allotted and was shipped directly to an international customer of STI. It has been in daily operation for over a year with zero downtime. After the initial production units were shipped, the worldwide success of PARASIM® has led Motivo to a continued successful relationship with STI, producing PARASIM® units at a rate of 10 units per year.

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