Such a system was once thought to be impossible. While flight simulations aren’t new, the fact that it’s in the air running on a pilot’s helmet, and that the view and movements are so realistic, is a breakthrough for fighter pilot training. According to Nick Bićanić, Founder and Chief Science Officer at Red 6, traditional military head-up displays can have an extremely narrow field-of-view, and sometimes show only one color for one eye. He adds that such systems work well for basic symbology and avionics data, but they cannot be used to simulate reality.

“With the Red 6 system,” he says, “when pilots go up there and see a 105-or-more-degrees field of view, full color, daylight-visible binocular system, and the aircraft that they’re seeing synthetically isn’t actually there, but it feels like it is and it’s behaving like it is, they come down and they go, ‘That was amazing. I want this yesterday. How soon can we have it?’ “

The need for a solution

In addition to on-ground VR simulators, the Air Force has also used live, in-flight practice battles to train fighter pilots. But such training, while effective in some ways, has many drawbacks. For one, it’s extremely costly—each pilot needs hundreds of hours in flight, which means simulated adversaries need to get into the air for those hundreds of hours, too. This can bring expenses for fuel and logistics to $60,000–$90,000 per hour, eventually adding up to billions of dollars per year. Additionally, there are less tangible costs—all those extra hours in the air as an adversary can lead to pilot burnout, especially since those pilots aren’t getting any real training themselves during these sessions.

And then there’s the risk of collisions or other mishaps inherent in such an exercise. “It’s a very dangerous business when you’re operating at high speeds, high g-forces, and you’re doing close passes,” says Daniel Robinson, Founder and CEO of Red 6. “Obviously, the risks are significant.” 

On top of it all, such training doesn’t achieve optimal results. “Seeing two pilots up there flying and fighting, you’d think they’re both getting great training,” remarks Robinson. “The reality of it is, if someone is simulating being an adversary aircraft, they are very much constrained.” 

Between the risks, the expense, and the limited effectiveness, it was clear that a new solution was needed. An AR-based solution ticks all the boxes: it delivers complete and repeatable training, it costs less, and most importantly, it’s much safer. 

Source: Unreal Engine Blog

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