VR flight simulators make pilot training more affordable than traditional pilot training and they can make aviation safer and decrease Air Force spend.
Virtual Reality (VR) flight simulations have been around for a long time, but now the technology’s being used for more than gaming. The military are using VR to refresh the skills of flight personnel with PTSD and everyone from airlines to private jet charter companies are realizing it’s a much cheaper way to train pilots into an industry that’s experiencing a critical shortage of pilots.
How VR flight simulations could fix the critical pilot shortage
Go to any major aviation and aerospace trade show and you’ll see VR headsets everywhere. Proof that VR pilot instruction systems are putting on their big boy pants and stepping into a world of real-life professional pilot training that’s a lot more affordable than the traditional way of training pilots. It doesn’t stop there. VR flight simulations can also be used to train aeronautics mechanics making aviation safer and decreasing Air Force spend. So let’s look at what’s new and best in flight simulators.
Breakthrough technology – adding sensation to VR flight simulators
The biggest advance in VR pilot training is called a haptic system (or “force feedback” in video gaming and military training applications). A haptic system or kinesthetic communication can transmit vibrations, motions or sensations to the user to recreate the sense of touch. It’s this development that’s allowed the Air Force to effectively use VR simulations for pilot training as well as treating flight personnel suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
How haptic feedback works?
Users of Go Touch VR’s new system wear three sensors on each hand that look like blood-pressure sensors doctors put on your fingertips. They’re lightweight and do not interfere with natural hand and finger movements. These actuators apply pressure to the fingertips to replicate textures, the stiffness of an object, and the sensation of holding an object in your hands. Each of the three sensors has a number of actuators under a flexible rubber cover that can be controlled individually to adjust pressure from light touch through to a more distinct contact. The attachments are not visible on the headset.
This means that when VR flight simulators with haptic feedback are used in pilot training, a pilot feels the motion of her seat when learning to fly in severe weather conditions, as well as the pressure of every switch and instrument adjustment. The beauty of this technology is that our brain’s play along so well by anticipating and then recognizing the physical contact as being every bit as good as the real thing.
The best flight simulators on the market
The latest upgrades to this popular flight simulator include a new high-definition user interface and the quality and realistic detail from “the gear trucks to the rivets” are a close simulation of those on the real aircraft.
New badges under its Steam listing include support for Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Windows “Mixed Reality” VR headsets with the entire default fleet, except the SR-71, VR-ready. Some parts of the airplane (like the seats) are ‘hotspots’ that light up and snap you to that location.
Other upgrades include: a new aircraft (Aerolite 103), 1315 new airports and 3D buildings, customizable runways for airport authors, enhanced night lighting at large distances, and higher performance with AMD graphics cards.
Known as one of the best flight simulators available on PC, DCS World is about to launch the F-14 Tomcat as the latest in its offering of digital battlefield simulators. The F-14 Tomcat is one of the most famous fighter jets of all time and the DCS World simulation does not disappoint with its extraordinary delivery of detail, from the aeronautics and flight characteristics to individual switches in the cockpit.
According to developer Heatblur’s website, what makes the F-14 Tomcat so special is the external and internal graphic model which they created using laser scanning and photogrammetry from real Tomcats in museums, the detailed External Flight Model (EFM) developed over several years and verified by genuine F-14 pilots, the detailed modelling of the AN/AWG-9, and the ability to fly as a two-crew aircraft in multiplayer.
With the entire southwestern USA laid out for the user including 3D buildings and bridges, advanced 3D graphics and the flight dynamics model, give aspiring pilots a high degree of realism. Aerofly FS 2 has the fastest frame rates for undisturbed flights and native support for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive without having to use additional software.
The user has a wide selection of aircraft to choose from – general aviation aircraft, airliners, and helicopters, military fighter jets, historic aircraft, and even gliders. Navigation features include route planning, instrument Landing System (ILS), Omnidirectional Radio Range (VOR), and non-directional radio beacon (NDB).