Simulators are essential tools for the drone industry. Whether you are a drone developer, a service provider or a training institution, simulators can help streamline operations. They are particularly useful for training, allowing pilots to learn the skills required to operate drones without the risks and costs associated with using real equipment. However, flying an aircraft through a computer monitor imposes some limitations on what can be learnt through simulation. Virtual Reality (VR) technologies are becoming more accessible and capable than ever, and can help bridge the sensory gap between simulation and real-life operation, enhancing the training process. SIMNET Simulator now provides VR support, making it easier than ever to leverage VR for drone training purposes.
VR Simulation Using SIMNET
SIMNET Simulator is a cloud-based drone simulation solution. It features a continuously-expanding library of aircraft, and a proprietary physics-based simulation engine that captures the performance and flight characteristics of virtually any fixed-wing, multicopter, rotary-wing or VTOL drone. It provides simple turnkey support for Software-In-The-Loop (SITL) simulation of ArduPilot and PX4 flight control systems. It also features capable environmental simulation features, with a worldwide terrain model which can be augmented with custom 3D models and photorealistic panoramas. Recently, the Virtual Reality simulation feature has been added, providing simple, turnkey VR support. All you need to start simulating in VR is a low-cost Meta Quest 2 headset. Since SIMNET is a web-based simulator, it can run directly on the Quest 2 built-in browser without requiring a computer, much less a costly VR-capable one.
Here are some of the features that make VR ideal for drone pilot training.
One of the main limitations imposed by monitor-based simulations is that it greatly limits the pilot’s sense of situational awareness and orientation. This is because the monitor presents a limited view of the environment and the pilot is not free to look around as they would do on the field. This is especially limiting when trying to simulate Line-of-Sight takeoffs and landings, where it is difficult to maintain a sense of where the landing pad or runway is relative to the aircraft. A VR headset allows the pilot to look around the environment freely as they would do in the field.
First Person View Monitor Simulation
Any pilot knows that flying an aircraft through Line-of-Sight (LOS) requires different skills than operating it through a First-Person-View (FPV) monitor, and that mastering both perspectives is essential to the safe and effective operation of a drone. SIMNET’s VR feature not only simulates LOS flight, but it also places a virtual controller in the pilot’s hands with an FPV monitor showing the view from the drone’s camera. This way the pilot can learn the skill of alternating between looking directly at the aircraft and at the FPV monitor during operation. This is an essential skill that is very difficult to capture through monitor-based simulations, but can be reproduced through VR.
Another major limitation of monitor-based simulations is that they present a two-dimensional image, thus making it difficult for the pilot to judge the distance and scale of the drone in relation to obstacles. VR simulation features stereoscopic vision, where each eye is presented with a different image such that it recreates a 3D image of the environment, giving the pilot a natural sense of how far away the drone is relative to obstacles.
3D Spatial Sound Effect
SIMNET VR also features 3D spatial sound. In an analogous way to stereoscopic vision, spatial sound modulates the sound in each ear to provide the pilot a sense of where the aircraft is in relation to them. This allows the pilots to learn to use these auditory cues to maintain situational awareness during operation.
Virtual Reality headsets offer a number of features that can enhance the drone simulation experience. These features can be utilized to enhance pilot training, allowing the pilot to learn and experience things that are not feasible on a computer screen. SIMNET Simulator’s new Virtual Reality feature makes it easy and low-cost to start simulating in VR, requiring only a low-cost Meta Quest 2 headset and a SIMNET account. Thanks to its capable physics engine, SIMNET captures the performance and flight characteristics of specific drone platforms, while its environmental simulation features can faithfully reproduce geo-specific and application-specific training scenarios. The end result is a capable and cutting-edge solution for pilot training that can be easily integrated into the workflow of drone operators and training institutions.
If you are a training institution, or a UAS developer interested in offering SIMNET Simulator as a training solution for your clients, contact us today at https://www.simnet.aero/simulator.