The Royal Navy’s Future Aircraft Carrier, due to enter service in 2012, has already been sailing in cyberspace with the help of virtual reality technology.
The new, bigger carriers will replace the current Invincible class aircraft carriers used during the Falklands war which are to be decommissioned. The virtual reality simulation tested two types of carrier. One has been designed for short take-off and vertical landing aircraft and the other for conventional planes.
The aim of the simulation was to highlight potential problems in manning and on-deck aircraft movement and to avoid the sort of costly mistake that occurred when the French navy introduced its new Charles De Gaulle aircraft carrier. The carrier’s flight deck is too short for its aircraft to land on and putting it right will cost around £50m.
The Royal Navy’s virtual reality testing used a simulation package developed by Delmia and the tests were conducted by engineering consultancy, System Engineering & Assessment. The simulations involved real-time, interactive, routine operations, such as the actions of hanger and flight deck operators.
A wide-screen projection system was used in combination with stereo lenses to produce a three-dimensional effect. The kinematics of aircraft handling equipment were modelled and, using collision detection, the manoeuvrability of planes within a confined area was tested.
Using the system defence manufacturers can send performance details of their equipment, and simulations can be `bolted on’ to the main computer model.
Dr Gary Henry, Systems Engineering & Assessment’s technical manager said: `Our country’s defence procurement team will be able to analyse the performance of one piece of equipment against another in virtual reality, without any danger of either companies’ technological advantage being compromised.’
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