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New FlightSafety Simulator Features Mixed Reality

The training simulation sphere is about to witness a major innovation with a new development that is currently being worked on at FlightSafety International’s Visual Systems in St. Louis, Missouri. Several Heli-Expo show visitors had received a glimpse into a demo of the technology in Anaheim, California, labelled as a mixed reality flight simulator by FlightSafety.

The simulator benefits from extensive development of the Vital image generator and virtual display by FlightSafety. Its newest version is equipped with virtual reality (VR) headwear and hardware controls that make it a mixed reality simulator.

Virtual reality eyewear lets wearers become more immersed within a simulation, and has been used before mostly for consumer-grade in-flight simulators. However, such VR setups do not offer an option of using the controls of the simulated aircraft in a virtual environment. A pilot can use the virtual controls in a manner similar to using the real knobs and buttons within an aircraft. But, these systems lack a feedback mechanism to simulate the real actions of turning knobs and pressing buttons. Users of VR simulations are also unable to explore the environment outside the simulation.

The mixed reality simulator from FlightSafety resolves the issues caused by VR limitations by amalgamating VR gear with its hardware setup. It creates a replica of the control setup within a cockpit and facilitates users to gain real feels of the avionics and additional controls. The headset has external cameras to let FlightSafety engineers configure what a pilot observes in VR and what real-world components are filtered into the view plane.

The FlightSafety mixed reality simulator. Image source: flightsafety

Using the new setup, pilots looking outside the windows of an aeroplane can witness a virtual environmental render, similar to that of a FlightSafety full flight simulator. VR offers more views in a helicopter setup, including the capability of getting a rear-view, observing empty seats, and its skidding motions over water. Pilots can modify a frequency, change instrumental panel settings, and programme flight plans by observing the camera view and reaching for the relevant physical controls.

The new MR trainer has three variations, which include a standard version, a desktop device, and a pro version. All the variations are powered by proprietary aerodynamic modelling and simulation applications of FlightSafety. The experience offered by all the MR trainer variations is uniform, and that is true for the FlightSafety full-motion and fixed-base simulator which runs into the Vital visual system.

The standard trainer version is light and offers more freedom of movement. It is powered by a robust PC along with the head-mounted display, the Vital display, cyclic and collective controls. The light version is fundamentally a laptop loaded with the software, and equipped with the headset and yoke control. The high-end pro version which was displayed at the Heli-Expo augments the standard setup with a motion base, along with a force feedback system to facilitate a more realistic feel for flight controls. Users can move the pro version on wheels too.

According to Mike Johnson, FlightSafety visual database product manager, there are plans for more extensive technological investment. He highlighted that the MR simulation is even more useful considering the circumstances caused by the current Coronavirus pandemic.

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