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Center Innovation Fund: AFRC CIF

Fused Reality for Enhanced Training and Flight Research

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

An updated, advanced head-mounted display is providing test pilots with unprecedented analysis and evaluation capabilities for aircraft and pilot performance, tasks that until now have been largely evaluated subjectively. The Fused Reality system combines real-world images from a video camera with computer-generated virtual images to create a highly immersive environment for complex tasks, such as landing, formation flying, and aerial refueling. Originally developed under a NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract and flight-tested on a Calspan Learjet, this tool has been significantly improved, new tasks and capabilities have been added, and is now a portable, standalone system that can be easily  integrated on a wide range of flight test aircraft.

Work to date: This project enabled Armstrong researchers to add functionality to the system first developed under an SBIR contract. The Fused Reality tool provides pilots with a high-fidelity in-flight simulator that can be used for training or repeatable handling quality evaluations. A standalone navigation system now provides aircraft state data, eliminating the need to obtain this data from aircraft instrumentation and allowing the system to be installed on virtually any aircraft. In-flight uses have been expanded from aerial refueling to include training tasks for formation flight, runway approach, and landing.

The Fused Reality system has been integrated into the National Test Pilot School's Gippsland GA-8 Airvan research aircraft to support flight test and evaluation of the system.  Eight functional flights were flown on the NTPS GA-8 Airvan.  These flights identified several improvements and system fixes which were corrected prior to the next flight test.  In Januaray 2015, 4 evaluation flight of FR were flown by NASA test pilots.  The system worked perfectly and the pilots were able to provide handling qualities ratings and comments for the test aircraft. No delays or other system issues were reported by the pilots.  It was felt that pilot ratings were represenative of the aircraft performance and were not influenced by the Fused Reality System.

Looking ahead: Researchers are discussing applications with a diverse set of potential users. The Fused Reality system will be further evlauted in a test program with the USAF Test Pilot School in March 2016.  In this test program, the aircrft performance will be rated using tradiitional real world tasks such as offset landing and formation flight.  These two tasks will then be evaluted using similar virtual tasks generated by Fused Reality.  It is predicted that the rating will match using both methods further confirming the ability of FR to generate handlign qualites tasks that reflect true aircraft performance.

Partners: Systems Technology, Inc. and National Test Pilots School

Benefits:

  • Portable: The system can be quickly installed on any aircraft.
  • Versatile: Supported tasks include training, pilot/task evaluation, and post-flight analysis of aircraft and pilot performance.
  • Powerful: Pilot workload measures can be computed both in real time and post-flight and then compared and subjectively scored.

Applications:

  • Test pilot training
  • Astronaut training with robotic devices for exploration missions
  • Enhancement of unmanned aircraft system ground stations for improved operator situational awareness
  • In-flight aircraft carrier landing training
  • Commercial space astronaut training

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