AT FIRST GLANCE, the vivid image below might appear to be nothing more than an aerial photograph. However, when one learns the image is actually a continuous, computer-generated panorama that aids in flight simulation training, the magnitude of such clarity and detail is truly appreciated. This is what the team at Diamond Visionics (DVC) has been perfecting through multiple SBIR projects with the Navy and subsequent commercial contracts with major prime contractors.
Flight simulation for the warfighter is a critical component of training, and must provide a real-world replication in order to be successful. Building off of its innovative GenesisRTX product line for flight simulation software, Diamond Visionics embarked on another Phase II project with NAVAIR to enhance the existing technology. This time, the focus was on implementing cross-cockpit collimated displays into the existing sys-tem, which provide an even greater level of detail for the user with little to no distortions.
In flight simulators that project Out-The-Window (OTW) scenes, collimated displays are preferable to avoid disparities between a pilot and copilot. For instance, if OTW imagery is projected in front of the pilots side by side, one pilot would see the correct view, while the other would be subject to incorrect angles and distorted images. Collimated displays provide a solution to this issue by allowing the pilots to see the imagery through a mirror that has a spherical curvature. The curvature enables both pilots to see the same imagery at a distant focus with no distortions. However, up until this point, the use of expensive collimated displays to enhance the fidelity of visual systems was limited to the final phases of training due to budgetary restrictions.
To achieve a more ubiquitous use of the technology, Diamond Visionics teamed with Q4 Services on a companion Phase II project to enhance the existing system and provide it at a lower cost. Using Q4′s hard-ware and DVC’s software, the team set out to improve upon wide-angle horizontal displays on flight simulators. These displays involve a very large spherical mirror and screen, and projectors on the inside of the screen located above the pilot and co-pilot. The screen serves as the image surface for the spherical mirror, which in turn allows the pilots to look through their window at the spherical mirror to see the screen. This makes everything appear to be coming from an infinite distance away – the scene moves with the pilot’s head and allows for a seamless, more realistic user experience. To perfect the system, the team designed the screens in a special way with frosted plexiglass, and utilized special curvature designs to extend the mirrors beyond the manufacturer’s limits, building upon both companies’ previous SBIR work.
This collaboration, called the EarthAngel Flyer, was an advanced technology project in the European Union to create the “Next Generation Visualization System.” This program provided the opportunity to give the simulation industry the most efficient and latest commercial off-the-shelf visual training technology, which included the work of Diamond Visionics, Q4 Services, and Technology Partners, Inc.
The system is a reduced cost approach to the design of new and replacement visual systems for flight simulation. It uses commercial off-the-shelf projection systems and newly designed, low-cost back projection screens and image generation systems. The technology affords extended life to existing flight simulation devices while significantly enhancing overall visual system performance and training. The warfighter perceives a less distorted view of the virtual world, more realistic levels of brightness, resolution and fidelity, and fewer distortions and of the visual scenes in real time with maximum content.
DVC’s multiple SBIR awards have resulted in its continued participation in the Navy Transition Assistance Program (Navy TAP), where the eventual commercialization of the technology is top priority. In 2011, Diamond Visionics presented its innovation at the Navy Opportunity Forum®, where hundreds of attendees in both the government and commercial sectors were able to view the prototype.
“The Navy Opportunity Forum® made it possible for us to get our newly developed products in front of business executives and military decision makers,” says David Gdovin, President of Diamond Visionics. “This is how solutions that solve problems, save money, and sometimes save lives get recognized quickly.”
The new collimated display system employed the proven software previously developed by DVC, which is part of its Genesis product suite. This visualization software has the unique ability to run on COTS hardware and to cost effectively render the OTW scene “on-the-fly” from GIS Source Data. This real-time rendering allows the user to rapidly change data sets with continuity so all that is required is a refresh. This eliminates the need to create an offline database, which can take months to complete.
Diamond Visionics’ Genesis product line is currently being used by Boeing in many different divisions all over North America. In addition, it’s used by other large aviation companies/countries around the world for helicopter and fast jet aviation tactical training. The company is also fulfilling many large commercial contracts and has sold over 2,500 licenses to prime contractors.
The cutting-edge image-generation software and visualization tools developed by the team at Diamond Visionics are in constant demand for the highest levels of training and simulation, mission rehearsal, and homeland security.