HCR systems installed at RAF Shawbury and RAF Valley
Virtalis has announced the installation of three of its new Helicopter Crew Reality (HCR) systems at RAF Shawbury and RAF Valley by the Defence Helicopter Flying School and its training service partner FB Heliservices. According to a company statement issued 8 November 2011, the HCR system takes advantage of advances in computer graphics cards, tracking technologies and Head Mounted Displays (HMDs), bringing improved training functionality.
The Defence Helicopter Flying School provides training courses for helicopter pilots of all three services, rear crew from the Royal Navy and RAF, helicopter instructors from all three services, and operational aircrew. Using the virtual reality HCR system ‘provides a realistic, virtual environment in which the whole crew can develop skills in team-wide communication during complex training missions’.
The system creates highly realistic, computer-generated, 3D models of the landscapes around RAF Valley and RAF Shawbury. These allow students and instructors to rehearse actual planned sorties, and instructors can add markers to objects and features to create a mission path. According to the company each target has an ideal approach height, but these can be manually changed by the instructors when emergency procedures are being practiced. As visual cues are so vital to the rear crew when they communicate with the pilot, HCR boasts accurate shadows, a realistic sea and even the movement of wind over grass. Scenario controls allow instructors to alter the weather conditions and the light levels associated with different times of the day and night. HCR also has a unique winch function, allowing crew to practice winch drills, verbal pre-load checks and load jettisoning.
HCR is built around a Virtalis ActiveSpace immersive display system. It has two Dell computers controlling in real time what both the students in their NVIS HMDs, and the instructors looking at their monitors, can see. The students’ movements are tracked by a Polhemus Liberty motion tracker with the range extending to the helicopter cabin, including both doors. Virtalis has built a physical mock-up of the cabin interior, so that when the students interact with handles and levers in the virtual world displayed in the HMD, they can move naturally and touch the real physical objects at the same time as they reach for them virtually, further enhancing the sense of presence.
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