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Written by Dave Garwood RC Slope Soaring Product Review As seen in the February 2019 issue of Model Aviation.

RC Slope Soaring

FOR THOSE ABOUT TO ROCK—those who are ready to throw a sailplane off a hillside for the first time and feel that some practice beforehand might improve their chances of success—let me suggest spending some time on the PicaSim Slope Soaring simulator program.

PicaSim is an excellent program and the equal to all five of the commercial RC flight simulator programs that I have used throughout the last 20 years. I am partial to this one because it concentrates so fully and successfully on Slope Soaring. The program, formerly called Slope Soaring Simulator, has been under development for more than a decade.

Danny Chapman, the PicaSim’s author and developer, provides versions of the program for a range of platforms and devices. I have run it on a Windows 7 desktop computer, a Windows 10 laptop computer, and an Android smart-phone. I have also seen it used on an iPhone and an iPad.

PicaSim is free; donations are accepted. For Windows PCs, it can be downloaded from the Rowlhouse website. For smartphones, it is available from the Apple Store or Google Play.

Version 11074 (January 2016), as downloaded from the Rowlhouse website, contains 37 model airplanes, 27 of which are sailplanes. There are a few powered airplanes, a quadcopter, and a jet.

Gliders can be tossed off a hilltop into slope lift and hi-started, and Discus Launch Gliders (DLGs) can be tip-launched. They can also be aerotowed, which is not something you see every day in RC flight simulators.

Some of the famous and familiar Slope sailplanes included in PicaSim are the ASW-15 5-meter; Banana; Discus 4-meter; Genie 3.6-meter; Jart M70; Kato; Le Fish; Le Fish ultralight; Mini DLG; Screenshots Minimoa 2.54-meter; Phase 6; Le Quartz; Sherpa II; Weasel; and a generic 2-meter polyhedral trainer glider that is similar to a Gentle Lady or a Sig Riser.

There are 18 flying venues. Most are for Slope Soaring, but flatland scenes are included for Thermal Soaring and motorized flight. The scenes range from mountains and ocean shorelines to low rolling hills or meadows and parks. A gymnasium scenario is included for simulating indoor flight. You can also modify and create your own sailplanes, sceneries, and weather in this program.

There are 17 "challenges" provided in the program, including Slope Racing, limbo fly-throughs for Slope and Power Soaring, cross-country racing, and Thermal Duration. PicaSim can keep you entertained and learning during rainy weather, especially if you embark on the journey to create your own simulated model aircraft. RC simulators benefit both beginners and old hands who want to build some muscle memory by practicing spin maneuvers with an ASW-15 before trying the model sailplane outdoors.

More aircraft have been added since the 2016 version was released. If you have problems running a newer version of the simulator, consider downloading an older one.

The input devices I have seen that work with PicaSim are a RealFlight simulator controller, a Logitech game controller, and a Spektrum DX4e transmitter bound to an OrangeRx DSMX/DSM2-compatible USB dongle for a flight simulator. OrangeRx also makes the FrSky USB dongle.

The program can be operated on a Windows computer with a mouse, but this severely limits the simulation experience to two control channels while using an unfamiliar flight control. The mouse can come in handy for testing during installation.

Although the PicaSim program installs quickly and easily, you might find that some fiddling and noodling are needed to set up the controller. There is an abundance of demonstrations, instructions, and tutorials available on the internet. The main sources are the PicaSim website itself (including its forum), YouTube videos, and discussion threads on RCGroups and other forum-based websites. Note that a separate hardware controller is not needed on a smartphone or tablet because the flight control is through the touch screen.

the picasim simulator running on a windows 10 laptop is linked to a spektrum
The PicaSim simulator running on a Windows 10 laptop is linked to a Spektrum DX4e transmitter with an OrangeRx DSMX/DSM2-compatible USB flight simulator dongle.
the picasim running on a samsung galaxy j3 smartphone
The PicaSim running on a Samsung Galaxy J3 smartphone. Flight control is by thumbs on the touch screen, so an additional controller input device is not needed.

What is the origin of the name PicaSim? Danny Chapman does not directly tell, but he gives a clue in the description of the Magpie model glider that is within the program: "The Latin name for the Eurasian magpie is Pica pica."

According to Wikipedia, "The Eurasian magpie or common magpie (Pica pica) is a resident breeding bird throughout the northern part of the Eurasian continent … The Eurasian magpie is one of the most intelligent birds, and it is believed to be one of the most intelligent of all nonhuman animals."

Smart bird. Smart simulator program.

Many thanks to Danny Chapman for this program (donations accepted) and to my friends, Jim Harrigan, Luke Nolles, and Thomas Salli, for helping to get it running and tuned on several test and input devices.


League of Silent Flight (LSF)

Rowlhouse PicaSim

R/C Airplane World

RCGroups (Testing Le Fish in PicaSim)

RCGroups (RC flight simulators, information, and reviews)

Slope Soaring Simulator


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