ORLANDO — An inescapable theme at this year’s largest training and simulation conference was the need for more space for training. With shrinking — or at the very least, shifting — operational fields and a resurgence of home-station training, trainers are looking for a way to create a larger, equally immersive virtual world that is bigger than the one in their backyards.
The rise of fifth-generation aircraft that can’t get a training range large enough to test their full capabilities and the growing demand for live, virtual, and constructive training also contribute to the need for extensive databases and massive virtual realms — as well as entities that can run efficiently in those simulations.
Many companies present at this year’s I/ITSEC are working toward that goal. Montreal-based CM Labs announced several new features for their Vortex product, a vehicle simulation based on physics and real-world dynamics. Drawing from databases of elevation coordinates and ground composition, the software can create realistic and immersive vehicle movement. The reconnaissance vehicle driving around over muddy hills, for example, would experience the bumps and slides associated with the terrain.
While Vortex could interact with the world before, it was spatially limited to keep the program running efficiently. However, in the new modification, the area immediately around the vehicle is sampled, so the entire database does not have to be loaded initially. Instead, the data can be streamed live.
“We can load the part we need for the fidelity,” said Sebastian Lozé, who directs marketing for CM Labs.
The program can integrate any streamable terrain format, increasing the size of the world exponentially. Multiple sims could also train together and stream data from a singular, large database.
CAE is also moving towards more expansive worlds, unveiling their Dynamic Synthetic Environment as a product rather than in a whisper room as in years past. The DSE features software that can pull from a common database and integrate multiple simulations such as weather, sensor data, terrain, and live feeds, and helps all of the layers interact to create a more dynamically changing environment. In short, they seek a living, breathing virtual world.
If endeavors are successful and developers can create a high-fidelity, expansive world, it is also possible that more training could switch to or incorporate simulation. Given the high cost of live flight hours and live exercises in general, using the full continuum of training devices and sims is essential to push training toward cheaper solutions. The increased realism from better technology drives much of this change, according to Lockheed Martin’s vice president of simulation, Chester Kennedy.
“That convergence [of technology] wasn’t there even a few years ago,” Kennedy said.