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“Live Virtual Constructs”: VR Opportunities in the Defense Sector

by David MacQueen | 3月 23, 2017

There has always been a debate in this sector regarding the relative benefits of live training and simulation. With advancing capabilities, the defense sector is looking to bring the advantages of virtual reality into the training regime. Using actual aircraft is expensive - next generation aircraft flying costs can run as high as $50,000 per hour, and often pilots have to be sent abroad for training, particularly for aircraft yet to be delivered (for example, a number of air forces have ordered F-35 jets but few have been delivered).

Militaries require pilots to rack up actual flying hours, so exclusively using a simulator for training is simply not an option. However, VR can still provide some key benefits. Companies such as Canada-based CAE are using Live Virtual Constructs (LVC) whereby a pilot can fly an aircraft and have a “virtual” wingman with a fellow pilot (or pilots) in a simulator. By blending virtual reality with live training, militaries can save money on cost of flying while still allowing pilots to build up the hours necessary for flight certifications as well as gain real life experiences.

LVC has some technical requirements. Bandwidth and latency will be underlying technology requirements if LVC-based training regimes are to be successfully implemented. This will require gigabit per second data link speeds and millisecond latencies akin to those being proposed for the commercial wireless sector as part of the forthcoming 5G standard. There are some commercial difficulties to be overcome as well - platform OEMs (Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Airbus) may not wish to share the training regime for fear of displaying critical system architectural IP, meaning that a company such as CAE offering LVC training must also be able to act as a trusted systems integrator.

The timing is right for VR training to become a core part of military training programs, with many countries investing in next-generation aircraft. In the US, the $16 billion US T-X trainer program has huge potential for whoever wins the final program. The Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Italy in Europe have ordered the F-35 platform, and the costs of training pilots could be reduced using VR and LVC.  South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand and Argentina are other countries looking to upgrade their training.

Interested clients can learn more by reading the Review of IDEX 2017, and a report on the opportunities around AR and VR in the defence sector will be published in the coming months in the Virtual Reality Ecosystem research program.

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