Virtual reality is being used more and more often for training in all branches of industry and military MRO is no exception. Thales has just presented a virtual reality training tool, currently referred to in-house by the acronym VRT, at the ADS Show which was held at BA 106 in Bordeaux-Mérignac on 26th and 27th September.
A wireless portable equipment, the VRT is intended to be user-friendly and easy to deploy. It is based on a backpack, a virtual reality headset and two remote controls, which enable the operator to move around freely in a virtual environment created with beacons, which are also portable. The equipment has a three-hour operating time and can be recharged with batteries which can be directly plugged into the backpack, without compromising freedom of movement.
The technician who is being trained can then move around the equipment, in this case a Ground Master 200 radar, but also enter a shelter to access the different command interfaces or go to the technical premises. He can then carry out a virtual detailed examination of the equipment, along with maintenance operations, in two modes one where his movements are guided by the VRT and another where he operates freely. The technician's performance is then automatically marked out of 10 by the system.
A unit integrated into the backpack enables the simulation's images to be transmitted in almost real time (less than one millisecond latency) to a remote screen. This capability provides remote training capabilities which will be especially useful in the case of export contracts.
Above all, the VRT provides low-cost training possibilities - the equipment is estimated at under EUR10.000 - which are quick to put in place. It may also provide an alternative to training on actual equipment, especially for equipment with a low availability rate.
Development with the French air force
The VRT was launched seven months ago in collaboration with the French air force and is being developed according to six-monthly objectives. The first milestone, which has just been reached, targeted the integration of the Ground Master 200 into the system. Within five months' time, the Thales teams should be able to offer the possibility of playing the full radar deployment procedure, along with a few maintenance actions, to the air force. Finally, the one-year objective is to propose all maintenance operations, along with a scenario editor.
This VRT system will also be deployed on other vectors, starting with the Ground Master 400. This could also apply to all radar and weapons systems. Similar work is being carried out in other group divisions, in particular for airborne systems. "Things start getting interesting once you start saving money", we were told at Thales.
In-house technological watch seminars are also being held regularly to share the different advances made - some teams are working more on training for software aspects and others for hardware aspects according to their specific requirements.
The VRT was on demonstration at ADS Show. © Thales