Virtual reality takes flight

Posted on 25 Mar 2010 by The Manufacturer

The MoD has signed a contract for Virtual Reality Parachute Trainers for the Parachute Training School at RAF Brize Norton to help Armed Forces personnel hone their parachute jumping skills.

Under a contract worth over £300,000, Gloucestershire-based Pennant Training Systems Limited will design, manufacture, install and support the eight Virtual Reality Parachute Trainers. The trainers will work with students hanging from a metal frame by standard issue parachute harnesses and wearing virtual reality goggles that recreate a jump in a range of virtual environments.

Students will be able to jump in three environments, including a village, a wooded area and water, as well as practise jumping as individuals and as a ‘stick’ (when a group of parachutists exits the plane one after the other) within the same virtual environment. The equipment is expected to be ready for training later this year.

Instructors will be able to control conditions, including the ability to simulate rain, fog and snow, and choose the time of day – daytime, night-time and dusk. Wind speed and direction can also be adjusted to make the descent more difficult. Parachute instructors will be able to simulate situations where a jump goes wrong, monitor a student’s performance and provide feedback using digital video recordings.

Project manager, Martin Gabb, from the Defence Equipment and Support Flight Simulation and Synthetic Trainers Project Team, based in Bristol, who are responsible for the contract, said: “The Virtual Reality Parachute Trainers will give students a real-time experience in a virtual world that simulates a parachute descent in either free fall or static line. It will allow trainees to practise parachuting and malfunction skills in a safe but realistic virtual environment.”