NASA fuses reality for pilot training

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Ever landed an aircraft at 5000 ft? Well thanks to NASA, now you can.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has demonstrated a new technique for training pilots that combines both real world flying and flight simulation.

Dubbed ‘Fused Reality’, the new technology is being evaluated by the National Test Pilot School (NTPS) in California where pilots wear special helmets fitted with an optical system that combines a real worldview and overlays computer-generated graphics of an airfield or other aircraft.

The result is a highly immersive training scenario, allowing students to practice complex tasks like landing, flying in formation and aerial refuelling.

‘Things that simulators aren’t good at modelling always is real air,’ says Scott Howe, a research pilot with the Armstrong Flight Research Center.

‘So I think what you gain here is taking a simulator into the air and you’re actually exposed to the real environment, the flying environment up and away.’

‘Were talking about the emotional gain of the pilot, like really seeing that they feel like they’re actually in the situation,’ says Ryan Olson, an instructor pilot with the NTPS.

‘You know they are in a real aircraft, and you really feel like you’re potentially going to collide with the aircraft in a formation task if you get too close,’ he says.

‘So, those types of things really make the system feel like it’s actually really happening.’

The next phase of testing will be the integration of the technology into the curriculum of the Air Force Test Pilot School’s Test Management Program in March 2016. Student test pilots will design and execute a flight test program using the school’s C-12 (Beechcraft King Air), and compare ratings of conventional handling qualities tasks with results acquired using the Fused Reality system.

NASA report that they are looking into potential use of the system to enhance astronaut training and that even the Navy is investigating the use of Fused Reality for aircraft carrier landing training.

More information can be found on NASA’s website.

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