Common, baseline technologies are being adapted and tailored for use in more civil aviation and military training organizations. The trend will continue. Group Editor Marty Kauchak reports.
Ever-more-complex flight operations are setting apart military aircrews from their civil aviation counterparts: manned-unmanned platform teaming, more lethal and complex onboard weapons and other systems, and other forward-leaning battlefield tasks. Yet, at the end of the day, aviators in both military and civil sectors continue to have vital, intersecting training goals, including developing airmanship skills and achieving safety of flight – for starters.
To introduce and reinforce skills through community members’ lifelong learning, training organizations in both sectors are acquiring common, baseline technology software and hardware, and tailoring the products and systems for their unique learning audiences. CAT examines these developments through the perspectives of six diverse simulation and training sector suppliers.
Dual Use Software Tools
One significant trend common to both sectors finds software system providers advancing their technologies by integrating artificial intelligence, cloud-based storage and other capabilities.
MINT Software Systems’ Training Management System (TMS) is typically requested by civil aviation end-users as a cloud-based (SaaS) solution, as many training operators nowadays want to avoid the overheads of in-house IT infrastructure costs. Military customers, however, typically request a local deployment of the solution to satisfy operational, security and related unique requirements. These differences aside, emphasized Frank Vieira Hugger, Director of Sales and Marketing at MINT, the TMS works in the same way for both models, and his team supports all customers independently of their location and system deployment. He added, “All recent customers that signed for MINT TMS during the past few years have decided on the cloud-based option.”
Hugger says MINT’s TMS “is the leading aviation training and qualification management system, has been on the market since 1998, and is used by many global aviation players such as airlines, training providers, and MRO organizations. Of the 70 customers worldwide, about 85% are using the cloud-based SaaS [software as a service] model, with the GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation]-compliant hosting services by our partner network, Amazon Web Services.” He added that some military customers also use MINT TMS for their flight and ground crew training management; “for example, the German Airforce, which manages the training operations of their Airbus A400M cargo aircraft with our system.”
Bert Sawyer, Director for Strategic Management at FlightSafety International, built the business case for civil aviation and defense departments to invest in his company’s FlightSmart for pilot training. (The Halldale editorial staff first viewed FlightSmart at I/ITSEC 2019).
Developed in collaboration with IBM, FlightSmart is, in essence, an advanced, automated tool that employs AI and machine learning to provide objective analysis of a crew member’s performance and discover trends for better training management.
Pointing out intersecting returns on investment for both communities, Sawyer’s “short list” included: better trained pilot; better utilization of media, training devices, and instructors; better insights into trends, strengths and weaknesses of all pilots in a flight department; objective change management evaluation; better view for organizations on pilot performance; better understanding of training impacts; support evidence-based training (EBT); and safer operations – all themes resonating with CAT readers.
With respect to defense end-users, FlightSafety has deployed FlightSmart on government applications, meeting US DoD standards, with active solutions operating on US Air Force KC46 and T6A training devices. Sawyer added that the technology has also been adapted to corporate business jets to service owner/operators and jet charters. Sawyer noted, “We are actively rolling FlightSmart out to FlightSafety Learning Centers.”
Activities at Modest Tree embody yet another rapidly evolving technology thrust – immersive learning. The firm has stepped up its pace of product offerings and customers since the author first met this Halifax, Nova Scotia-based team at a recent WATS.
Modest Tree’s Software Suite, which contains such immersive development platforms as Xplorer and Editor, is currently accessible enterprise-wide across the Canadian Department of National Defence (DND) to provide all personnel across the four department branches (Navy, Army, Air Force, and special forces), and all DND training schools, with access to advanced 3D immersive training applications that can be accessed remotely from any available platform. Laura Bohnert, the company’s Director of Public Relations and Marketing, explained, “This same software has been used by Modest Tree to develop immersive 3D training solutions for the defense industry, including an Air Marshalling Virtual Trainer that we built for the Canadian Air Force that enables trainees to react to emergency situations, such as an engine catching fire, safely in a scenario-based, realistic 3D virtual learning environment.”
Beyond the military sector, the same software has also been used for commercial and civil aviation training requirements. According to Bohnert, “The Modest Tree Suite of Software, formerly known as the Modest 3D Suite, has been used to develop scenario-based cockpit training, cable inspection simulations, and most recently engine ground-run training for such clients as Jazz Aviation.”
Hardware Common Use Cases
End use cases for dual use baseline S&T products extend beyond the software space into the hardware market.
Frasca International’s expanding presence in both the civil and military sectors has many examples of providing a common baseline FTD (flight training device) to military and civil communities around the globe. Randy Gawenda, the company’s Business Development Manager, noted while Frasca’s military devices focus on mission-specific training and tactical elements, the underlying flight and systems modeling are very much the same, especially when Frasca addresses high-level FTDs that are type-similar, or type-specific, to the aircraft platform.
For examples, Gawenda responded, “Our EC225 FFS delivered to Bristow, for instance, is really a parent FFS for a military EC725 and Super Puma. A commercial Bell 212 or 412 is much the same, as say, a CH146 or UH1N or weaponized UH1Y. A Frasca EC145 delivered to a civil customer will look very much the same as the UH72A Lakota devices for the Army National Guard.” He emphasized, “Some of the closest similarities though, are typically in the initial entry pipelines where a civil Bell 206B that we’ve delivered to Bell, PHI Group, or FlightSafety International, amongst others, will very closely resemble a Navy TH57, Army TH67, or RCAF CH139 FTD that we’ve delivered to those military customers.”
While additional UHF and VHF radios and other materiel help militarize and differentiate Frasca’s defense offerings from its commercial products, commonality remains a core competency and advantage this S&T company seeks and achieves. Indeed, the industry veteran noted, “When Frasca builds a 407MRH or OH58D, there is still a large amount of commonality to the civil Bell 407 FTDs we’ve built for Bell Training Academy, Charlotte-Mecklenburg [North Carolina (US)] Police Department, Horizon International Flight Academy, Med-Trans, and Helicopter Institute. So, there is a lot of existing development we can leverage from commercial programs.”
At Barco, Dave Fluegeman, the company’s VP of Simulation, reminded CAT that all the Barco F-series projectors are designed for the simulation market and can be used for both civil and military aviation. Of significance, he pointed out, it is primarily resolution, type of light-source and the available budget that ultimately determines which type of projector fits best for which application. He offered Barco’s FL40 projectors as an example: “This newest projector range has been sold almost as much into the civil aviation space as into the military space; however, the subtle difference is that in most cases military customers also require the projector to stimulate NVGs (night vision goggles) to be able to fly at night with night optics gear.” Fluegeman pointed out, “Our FS line of projectors, in this case the FS40, will therefore have an extra infrared LED illumination built-into the projector transmitting IR wavelengths that will stimulate the NVGs of the trainee.”
Ton Stamm, Sales Director at E2M Technologies, an MTS company, provided context to the rapidly evolving trend of S&T companies having growing market shares in different sectors. The Netherlands-based subject matter expert observed, “It varies year-by-year, but on average, 20 percent of our revenue is related to military projects. Approximately 50 percent comes from the civil aviation industry and the rest is divided over entertainment and land-based vehicle simulation.”
Stamm’s insights were additionally from the perspective of E2M’s standard full-electric motion systems and control loading systems for full-flight simulators being used for both military and civil aircraft. He noted, “L3Harris, for example, will install the exact same motion system under their civil and military full-flight simulators. Another good example is the use of an E2M electric motion system, originally designed for a business jet cabin crew training device [operated by Dynamic Advanced Training, based in Dubai South], similarly used for a C130 Aeromedical Evacuation Training System built by CAE for the United States Air Force at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia.”
The differences an observer would see in a side-by-side comparison between one E2M product used in a civil sector training system and one in a defense organization device? Stamm replied, “In general, we don't see major differences in technical requirements for military or civil aircrafts of the same type.”
At the end of the day, aviators in both military and civil sectors continue to have vital, intersecting training goals, including developing airmanship skills and achieving safety of flight. Image credit: US Air Force/Senior Airman Kayla A. Palmer.
On the Horizon
The pace of diverse technologies and enablers being used to support military and civil aviation learning audiences is on a trajectory to quicken well into and beyond 2021.
Kiel, Germany-based MINT is working on many areas of enhancements and new functionality for its TMS. Hugger noted, “We plan to upgrade both the myMINT mobile app and the MINT training portal. Flight crews and instructors like these tools as they allow them to work on the go and not from the office. We want to enhance the mobile user experience and provide even more straightforward access to individual training data, training assignments, qualification expiry dates, and other relevant information – anytime and anywhere.”
FlightSafety’s Sawyer pointed to a “ground-up redesign” of FlightSmart’s UI (user interface) to maximize the user experience, resulting in FlightSmart UI 2.0. FSI will concurrently be focused on algorithm advancements to draw on deep-learning techniques as well as its API (application programming interface) for data ingestion of FOQA (Flight Operations Quality Assurance) information to draw correlations between FOQA and SOQA (Simulator Operations). And while the FlightSmart team is also currently adding all known accident and safety reports data to the baseline system, driving greater insights and safety, FlightSmart algorithms will be adapted to rotary-wing aircraft, the commercial air transport category and regional airlines.
The FlightSafety executive further emphasized, “FlightSmart is easily adapted, through APIs, to eye tracking (biometrics), communication analysis or cognitive loading evaluation.” He revealed the FlightSmart team will be collaborating with a Boston-based technology firm in 2021 “to apply our advanced AI and machine learning algorithms to their cognitive loading software to better understand a pilot’s physiological state during training.”
Barco is launching its second-generation FL40 projector – the FL40 MKII – which Fluegeman reported is a brighter version of the powerful FL40 LED projector series. “This projector upgrade allows for even higher refresh rates – up to 240Hz on the WUXGA resolution version. Combining LED illumination technology with Barco Pulse electronics performance, the FL40 delivers visual excellence and extreme reliability with a low total cost of ownership to both the civil and military customers.”
He added that another recent launch is Barco’s latest addition to its F70-series of projectors, the F70-4K4. “This came out as a result of feedback received from some of our customers operating with high-speed simulation applications that don’t require all the brightness an F70-4K6 gives. This product is optimized to remove the typical challenges occurring when viewing fast-moving content, such as when an aircraft is rolling, pitching, or banking.”
FlightSafety Services Corporation was recently awarded the TH73A GBTS (Ground Based Training System) contract from US Naval Air Systems Command. As a subcontractor to FSSC, Frasca will be producing 18 TH73A FTDs which are the military designation and configuration of the civil Leonardo AW119MkII. Gawenda added, “Our teammate Aechelon Technologies will be producing the specific visual databases and training areas for Chief of Naval Air Training’s TRAWING 5 end-user as part of the training services contract.”
Further, a Cessna 208 for US Africa Command should be delivered to Rwanda in 2021 as well. The Frasca executive concluded that his company “is close to wrapping up a T53 FTD for the US Air Force Academy. The T53 is the military designation of the civilian Cirrus SR20 aircraft. This project is close to completion and will be shipped out to Colorado Springs, Colorado before the end of this year.”
Modest Tree’s Bohnert noted her company’s goal for 2021 is to move toward the development and subsequent integration of automated training content to make the development of virtual, data-driven technology more cost- and time-proficient. She added, “Since training content has traditionally been associated with high costs, manual integration, and a lengthy time-to-field, our core solution driver for 2021 will be to simplify the entire learning design and delivery process by creating customer-specific development frameworks that centralize and integrate data from all systems into a modular format.”