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Army to kick off virtual reality pilot training program in April

The U.S. Army will kick off in April a program to test just how effective virtual reality and simulation may be in training students to fly helicopters, with hopes the results could offer a strategy to improve its curriculum and get more would-be pilots in the air faster.

The effort comes in part to better position the Army to meet more ambitious training requirements that the service hopes will combat the ongoing struggle to head off a pilot shortage.

“When there’s been no appreciable increase in the number of simulators or aircraft here to train, every touch point on an aviation platform — simulator or live — is critical,” Maj. Gen. William Gayler, commanding general of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence (USAACE) and Fort Rucker, said in an interview with Defense News. “Leveraging virtual reality with eventually some artificial intelligence, and some cognitive aiding technologies, are going to produce a far better product because there will be more frequency and repetition on those platforms.

“You may find that it also allows you to increase the throughput velocity through flight school, meaning they’re going to learn tasks quicker, they’re going to retain them longer. And if that translates into less time in flight school and less blade hours, that logically means less money because we pay for student training by blade hours.”

Defense News visited Fort Rucker while traveling with Army Secretary Mark Esper in January.

Virtual reality simulators are newer to the Army in part because finding a simulator that actually performs like a helicopter has been a challenge.

“In the commercial marketplace, people want to jump in and fly an airplane. And when people jump into a video game, they want to be able to succeed. It’s not designed to be difficult,” nor is it realistic, said Col. Chad Chasteen, commander of the 110th Aviation Brigade at the USAACE. “But I think we found a very good simulator. You pull in the power, you can feel it shake a little bit, you can hear the turbines increasing in pitch, you can feel the aircraft vibrating, and it requires a little bit of work to hover like a real helicopter. And I think that as we progress through the trials, we’re going to actually be able to make it even closer to the flight regimes that we want.”

Source : C4ISRNET Website


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