MetaVR Visuals in UAS Simulation
For over a decade MetaVR™ visuals have been used in the US Army’s unmanned aerial system (UAS) training simulators, primarily through the Multiple Unified Simulation Environment / Air Force Synthetic Environment for Reconnaissance and Surveillance (MUSE/AFSERS) simulation system, where Virtual Reality Scene Generator™ (VRSG™) provides simulated video feeds for various intelligence gathering platforms. The MUSE/AFSERS program is the primary UAS training and simulation system used in the Department of Defense for command- and staff-level joint services training and provides the largest number of fielded simulation systems in the US.
As result, MetaVR has become one of the largest suppliers of commercial licensed 3D visualization software for UAS simulation training in the US military, with nearly 2,000 active VRSG licenses in the field. In 2014 alone, the US Army purchased 300 VRSG licenses for Grey Eagle and Shadow operator training for nearly $3 million.
The Army uses VRSG in its Shadow Crew Trainer, and in Grey Eagle, Aerosonde, and Hunter trainers in portable, classroom, and embedded configurations. VRSG embedded in the Army’s Universal Ground Control Station (UGCS) Embedded Trainer for training operators of the Shadow, Grey Eagle, and Hunter UASs. VRSG is also used in high-fidelity classroom Universal Mission Simulators (UMS) and portable Institutional Mission Simulators. In addition to a portable classroom, each simulation setup replicates a full GCS shelter with one-seat, two-seat, and three-seat configurations.
The UMS incorporates multifunctional software approaches to provide individual, crew, and collective training for piloting Shadow, Gray Eagle, and Hunter UAVs. Flight hours logged by UAS operators in the UMS contribute to some flight hour requirements as part of their qualification training and follow-on continuation training to maintain proficiency and currency in all required operator tasks. Both the UMA and UGCS system use the MUSE software to stimulate the tactical vehicle control software (VCS) to simulate UGCS functions such as air vehicle control, payload control, weapons control, communications, send and receive video data, and mission planning.
The UGCS is a NATO standardization agreement STANAG 4586-compliant command-and-control platform. It incorporates a digital Tactical Common Data Link (TCDL) for robust bandwidth and data security, and is designed to command and control multiple joint services UASs simultaneously.
A key feature of VRSG is the ability to stream real-time HD-quality simulated video with KLV metadata using the H.264 protocol, which is indiscernible in composition from actual UAV video feed. This means that in the UGCS when UAS operators/trainees are not flying an actual UAS, they can fly a simulated UAS using the same hardware they use to operate the real system, using the JTC/SIL MUSE air vehicle and data link simulation software and VRSG.
With MetaVR visuals used for simulated UAV camera payload video in ground control stations and in manned aircraft simulators, UAV operators, pilots, and JTAC trainees can achieve fully correlated HD H.264 simulated sensor video with accurate KLV metadata that replicates the actual sensor payload imagery of ISR assets during manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) and other distributed training exercises.
VRSG can be configured to simulate a UAS in a variety of ways, ranging from using VRSG’s internal camera payload model in which the telemetry of the simulated UAV is provided by a DIS entity, to fully integrated applications such as the MUSE UAV tactical trainer.
Simulation features include:
A screenshot of GV3.0 output of decoded VRSG's H.264 simulated sensor video with accurate KLV metadata.
Networked environments that do not have the bandwidth to handle VRSG’s simulated UAV camera video feed directly set up a UAV regeneration station to capture the streaming simulated video in the form of data packets. These data packets are then regenerated as video, and streamed to another device on a local network, such as a ROVER. This regeneration station is a computer running another VRSG license that can receive UAV Master messages over a long-haul network from a remotely located UAV operator.
Since 2002, MetaVR VRSG has been the primary supplier of visual systems for the U.S. Army's Joint Technology Center/Systems Integration Laboratory (JTC/SIL) MUSE/AFSERS simulation system. The program provides the largest number of fielded simulation systems in the US and is the primary UAS training and simulation system used in the Department of Defense for command- and staff-level joint services training at the UAS schoolhouse at Fort Huachuca, AZ and other UAS training sites.
To train operators of the Shadow, Hunter, and Grey Eagle UASs in a classroom setting such as at the UAS schoolhouse at Ft. Huachuca, the Army uses Institutional Mission Simulators (IMSs), which are full-size mockups of the actual ground control stations from which UAVs are operated in the field. The JTC/SIL develops and builds these classroom IMSs and their portable counterparts which soldiers can use in the field to maintain flight time requirements and currency.
The MUSE/AFSERS simulation is a general intelligence collection platform simulation for airborne collection systems with electro-optical (EO), infrared (IR), and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) payloads. The MetaVR MUSE VRSG system provides the visualization system component for MUSE that generates synthetic payload scene video and/or imagery of the 3D battlefield with simulated target entities. This video and imagery is subsequently fed to a tactical or generic UAS/intelligence platform control station where operators perform air vehicle and payload control functions, and an air vehicle and data link simulation.
Also since 2002, the U.S. Army has purchased VRSG licenses for ongoing fielding in its embedded Shadow Crew Trainer (SCT), part of its Training Aids, Devices, Simulators, and Simulations (TADSS desktop training suite). These licenses support embedded trainers in Shadow TUAS, Aerosonde, Hunter, and Grey Eagle UASs, which are used by both Army and Army National Guard units. The SCT is a mission-level classroom/desktop or mobile environment training device that enables users to train on their specific roles, as well as team-level communication and mission rehearsal. The SCT has training positions for two air vehicle operators, two payload operators, launch and recovery crew via interactive multimedia instruction, staff/leader station, and an instructor operator station.
The SCT, which can be housed in a climate-controlled trailer or a classroom configuration, includes an instructor/operator station, two stations for GCS training, a staff/leader role-player station and a launch/recovery training station. The dual GCS allow users to coordinate the handoff required during launch/recovery. The instructor can work with the other users to simulate pre-flight activities, train on fault scenarios and capture crew performance for after-action review. Trainees can log SCT hours as flight hours toward their overall requirements for Shadow UAS training. The simulated flight hours reduce air frame fatigue expenditure that would normally occur as students would train to become proficient using the real aircraft.
The GCS is a critical component of the TUAS system. In normal operation, the GCS is used to control the flight of the UAS and receive its telemetry. When the system operators are not flying the actual UAS, they can fly a simulated UAS using the same hardware using the JTC/SIL MUSE air vehicle and data link simulation software and MetaVR VRSG.
VRSG provides realistic simulation capability for UAS training packaged in a ruggedized deployable container for the MUSE and AFSERS programs. The image below shows a ruggedized container-based system that is designed such that it can be palletized and airlifted to training exercises in the field on short notice and can survive the journey and the training scenario under harsh environmental conditions. MUSE unmanned training systems are deployed for overseas training exercises.