Novatech has won a contract to deploy 15 x 3 degrees of freedom (DoF) and 5 x 2-DoF Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boat (RHIB) simulators to all Royal Naval Reserves establishments across the UK and Northern Ireland.

The Royal Navy use Pac 24 RHIBs for search and rescue, transferring stores and people, research and reconnaissance. Several shore establishments operate RHIBs. They are used to train and maintain the skillset of sailors selected for the demanding duty of coxswain at sea.

This development comes from the strong relationship forged between the RN Future Training unit (FTU) and the Computer Games Enterprise team at the University of Portsmouth. This relationship has enabled the FTU to experiment with disruptive technologies and innovative ideas.

Each year the FTU work with the university on several projects. One was to investigate how current technologies, including virtual reality and motion, could be utilised in virtualising RHIB coxswain training. This project, led by Chief Petty Officer Neil Sutton, helped provide the initial prototype. This was based on a proof of concept 2-DoF simulator chair, which was provided by Hampshire-based specialist IT supplier, Novatech.

Working with commercially available gaming peripherals and an Oculus Rift HMD, the University of Portsmouth team was able to produce a virtual 3D model and extract telemetry data to create a prototype of the RHIB sim based around the Pacific 24 within Bohemia's Virtual Battlespace (VBS3) - selected in 2016 as the MoD's preferred Defence Virtual Simulation (DVS) training software.

Royal Naval Reserves

Following a trial conducted by a Royal Navy coxswain, the Novatech simulator was deemed a realistic and efficient training alternative. The coxswain’s experience and significant professional input from the RN led to changing the simulator from just simulating pitch + roll to the introduction of heave. With this addition, the team was able to correctly emulate the effect of the ocean's waves on a RHIB.

The outcome of this project has helped produce a cost-effective, first-of-its-kind portable 3-DoF RHIB platform, complete with a replica control console (minus the instrument panel). The compact footprint of the simulator allows RNR members to train within realistic and challenging environmental conditions within a safe classroom environment.

"Novatech has supplied lots of specifically engineered COTs IT hardware into the MOD over the last ten years, albeit indirectly through the major Defence primes, such as Thales, BAE Systems and Airbus Defence & Space, to name a few," said Cdr I C Pethick RNR - Commander Maritime Reserves SO1 RNR TRAINING.

"The confidence that the primes have shown in Novatech's capabilities made them a clear choice as a collaborative SME partner for the Royal Navy."

The Royal Naval Reserves features around 3000 men and women, who give up their free time or take work sabbaticals. They train alongside the full-time sailors, learn new skills and deploy in support of operations around the world.