Flying high down under: Australian university unveils military flight training tech

Contributor:  Andrew Elwell
Posted:  12/21/2011  12:00:00 AM EST
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Tags:   MFT

What is the CISR?

The Centre for Intelligent Systems Research (CISR) is 50-strong research team based at Australia’s Deakin University developing “state-of-the-art algorithms and methodologies” for a range of real-world challenges.

In an email interview with Defence IQ, Professor Saeid Nahavandi, Director of the CISR, explained how the Centre is developing advanced technologies for military flight training and simulation purposes.

CISR isn’t your typical research laboratory – it’s a research labyrinth on a vast scale according to Nahavandi.

“With funding from the Australian Research Council, The Department of Defence, and numerous industry partners, CISR has been able to equip five research labs with state of the art equipment, including mobile robots, industrial robots, haptic devices (the largest number of devices in the Southern hemisphere), thermal imaging systems, optical imaging systems, rapid prototyping machines, super computers and suites of process simulation software."

The CISRs impressive list of research partners includes Boeing, ABB, GM, Ford, AutoCRC, CAST CRC, Vestas, BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA), Department of Defence, Department of Transport, Victorian Police, DSTO, and DOTARS.

Key tech unveiled for military flight training

CISR recently uncovered its latest technological marvel: the Haptically Enabled Universal Motion Simulator (UMS). Nahavandi  describes the UMS as “a highly modular, flexible, universal and haptically enabled motion simulator” that is used for military flight training purposes.

“It might look like a state of the art theme park ride,” says Nahavandi, “but the Universal Motion Simulator will take trainee pilots and drivers through their paces in a safer, cheaper and more realistic training environment than currently available elsewhere in the world.”

To understand what the UMS looks like and how it works, I asked to Nahavandi to sum it up in one sentence.

“It is essentially a giant industrial robot arm with a reach of seven metres, has a seat attached to the end of it and the capability to exert up to 6 Gs of force – ideal for flight simulation.”

A video of the UMS in action can be found in Defence IQ’s blog post here.

“With pilot training, the UMS can simulate the intricate movement required by military pilots for disaster recovery such engine failure; take them through fast jet training by totally immersing them in continuous aileron rolls.”

UMS differs from other flight simulators in that it can offer a full flight experience; it is closer to the flight part of the phrase than it is the simulation.

“Standard simulators replicate the flying or driving experience by merely tilting from side-to-side and providing the ‘real life’ sensation through visual cues. What sets the UMS apart from standard simulators is the integration of haptics technology, which provides a sense of touch and feel to virtual or remote objects, and its ability to move at high speed and in any direction. Combined with a high resolution 3D display mounted inside a headset, the user is totally immersed in the set training environment and has a “real” experience – both visually and physically.”

Nahavandi went on to explain UMSs other capabilities, saying that it can also “determine the pilot’s physical and mental responses through EEG that monitors the brain, as well as an ECG pulse and blood pressure.” These tests are usually only performed in hospitals or medical centres, not during the flight simulation process itself.

“There is also the capability of simulating dog fights and other joint flying experiences with pilots who are based in other parts of the world, such as the United States,” the Deakin University Professeur said. “This level of remote collaboration also allows for pilot instructor training to take place where the trainer, for example, is in Australia and the trainee in the US."

The sky’s the limit: Where UMS goes from here

So what are the next steps for the CISR, and how can the USM be developed further? Nahavandi said that one option is to look to industry and begin developing the technology on a commercial basis.

“We are looking for the right industry partner to commercialise the system under a licence. We already have had visits from various military services from the USA and Australian Defence forces.”

Nahavandi said that he has already been working with Rockwell Collins and WITTENSTEIN aerospace & simulation to integrate their technology into the UMS system.

And it’s not just for flight training; other types of military vehicle can also be simulated according to Nahavandi.

“While suited for training pilots, the UMS is also the perfect platform for simulating land based vehicles including tanks and other armoured vehicles, trucks, race cars and motorbikes. Its training capabilities are endless.”

We’ll be keeping a close eye on the progress made at CISR, it’s likely they’ll be further developments to report in the new year.

Andrew Elwell Contributor:   Andrew Elwell

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