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MetaVR Visuals at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) uses VRSG in its UAS simulation and training lab at its Prescott, AZ, campus. In 2012 the lab purchased 4 VRSG licenses and 5 Battlespace Simulations (BSI) Modern Air Combat Environment (MACE) licenses for its UAS simulation system, which was unveiled for civilian UAS training classes in the fall 2012 curriculum. In 2014 the ERAU campus at Daytona Beach, FL, purchased 3 VRSG licenses for its UAS lab as well.

The ERAU UAS system consists of a pilot station, a payload operator station, and an instructor station. (The instructor station enables an instructor to make dynamic inputs into the students’ scenarios.) Future plans for the lab include adding more airframes and replicating the setup for another UAS system.

Following in the footsteps of the ERAU Daytona Beach campus, which offers a BA in UAS and built a UAS simulation lab a few years ago, the ERAU Prescott campus currently offers UAS piloting as a minor and plans to offer it as a major in a few years.

UAS lab at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott AZ campus.   UAS lab at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott AZ campus.
  UAS lab at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott AZ campus.

The ERAU Prescott UAS minor focuses on training the procedural fundamentals of communication, tools, and receiving and dispersing intelligence data. The training offered in this UAS lab focuses on procedures for civilian applications such as search-and-rescue operations, fires, floods and other disasters, and supporting local law enforcement.

The team that evaluated simulation software products for the lab and decided on the VRSG and MACE solution noted the realistic physics-based sensor environment VRSG and MACE provide; for example the thermal scarring left by a recently departed vehicle can be seen in VRSG. VRSG supports multiple sensor views, including white-hot, black-hot, electro-optical, and visible spectrum. From MACE, users can control the UAS flight path, set up orbits, and control the camera. Within the evaluation team were members already familiar with VRSG from having trained with it a few years ago on the Shadow TUAS Ground Control Station at Ft. Huachuca, AZ, prior to deployment to Iraq.

UAS lab at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott AZ campus.   UAS lab at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott AZ campus.
  UAS lab at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott AZ campus.

Two courses use VRSG: UAS Simulation and Mission Planning. Using BSI’s MACE and VRSG Scenario Editor, the Mission Planning course covers understanding scanning techniques, landing areas, and basic crew coordination.

Early on, students in the UAS lab adopted MetaVR's new VRSG Scenario Editor before its official release. Feedback from this experience helped refine Scenario Editor’s first official release and provided valuable insight into needed enhancements and features for future releases.

In addition to effectively training a UAS pilot using real world autopilots and ground control station software, applications used in the lab can also simulate realistic payload operator situations. Such situations include:

  • A firefighter scenario, simulating civilians trapped on a mountain with encroaching flames. The instructor exaggerates the winds, making it purposely difficult for the pilot to effectively navigate the aircraft, and also create a struggle by proxy for the camera operator to stay on task.
  • A prison escape scenario, which highlights multi grid scanning for heat signatures at night.
  • A road observation scenario, where the payload operator must locate several sections of road in which the gravel has shifted due to severe rains.

The software is used year round not only by UAS students but by other piloting simulation students and air traffic control simulation students as well. For example, some students who major in Global Security and Intelligence Studies, or minor in Security and Intelligence Studies, Technical Intelligence, or Systems Engineering also UAS Simulation or Mission Planning classes in the UAS lab.

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