Virtual Reality

HW/SW VR Helicopter Simulator for Pilot Training

Challenge

An aviation professionals’ training center was looking for an alternative way of pilot training. The most crucial prerequisite for that being the increased costs of the traditional training methods and the need to find a more cost-effective training scheme while keeping both the former effectiveness and further flight safety at the same level.

The second requirement to implement was reducing training times compared to the traditional routines due to the lack of qualified pilots. The reduced training time, however, should have affected neither training quality nor skill retention.

With both requirements in mind, the training center reached out for OTR to develop a fully-functional MI-35 helicopter VR simulator capable of emulating close to real conditions for the end-users (MI-35 helicopter pilots). Based on the customer’s broad general concept, our team had the task of providing design, development, implementation, testing, and final debugging.

Solution: Description and Key Capabilities

SOLUTION:
Helicopter simulator for VR training
INDUSTRY:
Security Agencies
TECHNOLOGIES:
С++, Unreal Engine 4
METHODOLOGIES:
Agile
PROJECT DURATION:
54 weeks (project development)
PROJECT TEAM:
5 developers (C++, UE4), 3 UI/UX specialists, 1 PM, and 1 QA

Our mission was to develop and create the MI-35 helicopter VR simulator to include the following features:

visual effects
Hemispherical screen
3D Models
Real-world terrain modeling (the total area of 900×350 kilometers)
Smart collision system
Comprehensive intuitive training scenarios to enable quality VR training of flight crews

The key point during the development of the VR training solution was to ensure wide-angle visualization combined with the realistic object, environment, and terrain simulation, generating a real-life training arena.

Development Approach

With the main predetermined technology selection criteria, including the realistic life-terrain generation, our team decided to rely on Unreal Engine 4. This real-time 3D modeling platform allowed us to recreate the operational environment and landscape in full detail to deliver the impeccable interactive experience to the end-users at all stages of their training process. The easy access and availability of the tech ensured detailed graphical components’ development within the shortest time.

Real-world terrain modeling posed the main challenge during the product implementation process due to the extensive simulated area size. Having carefully considered all the options at hand, our experts solved this task by automating landscape generation based on the available vector maps.

From the functionality perspective, the helicopter simulator was fully aligned with the customer’s pilot training course and in compliance with their flight manual.

Results

VR Helicopter Simulator

Implementing the VR-powered simulator resulted in achieving the initial goals as intended, including overcoming qualified pilots’ shortage and providing a more cost-effective solution than standard practices.

Compared to traditional training in its effectiveness, the VR simulator proved capable of upgrading the existing training strategy, increasing trainees’ understanding of the guiding flight principles, autonomous skills development, putting routines in place, and rehearsing action patterns in simulated accident situations. The final product enables highly flexible training techniques for answering a wide range of challenges in a highly immersive, realistic environment.

As for the financial goals, the new simulator contributed to cutting on the pilot training expenses by 45% while reducing the time required for training by 40%, with the total training capacity growing more than twice if compared to initial figures. Further financial benefits included savings in fuel and maintenance costs as well as reduced environmental impact.

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