Wednesday, September 29, 2010

U.S. Department of Defense Announces Latest Contract Awards

Even in a tight economic climate like the one we're in now, the military continues to invest millions of dollars in training simulation technology. The reason? Training simulators work. The ROI that training simulators deliver is tangible: fewer resources are used, fewer engine-use hours are logged on real-world equipment, trainees are kept out of harms way, and operators can practice difficult maneuvers repeatedly until they are fully mastered.

The U.S. Department of Defense released a list today of their latest contract awards. Two projects of interest on the list are the following 2 training simulator projects, with budgets totaling more than $21 million to be spent by the end of the fiscal year.

  1. VSD, LLC, a Virginia Beach, VA based company was awarded a $15 million undefinitized contract to develop four offshore support vessel training simulators to be used by Iraqi Naval Forces. The Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division in Orlando, Fla., is the contracting agency. The simulators are scheduled to be completed in October 2011.

  2. Cubic Applications, Inc., a Lacey, Washington based company was awarded a $6.7 million firm-fixed-price contract to develop a virtual constructive & gaming-integrated training environment in support of Army training strategies for the U.S. Army National Simulation Center. The Mission & Installation Contracting Command in Fort Eustis, Virginia is the contracting agency. The simulators are scheduled to be completed in August 2011.
U.S. Department of Defense Contract List, September 29, 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010

Exercise Coalition Virtual Flag

Last week Exercise Coalition Virtual Flag took place in Melbourne Australia. Exercise Coalition Virtual Flag is the largest virtual military simulation event ever to take place, and was hosted this year by The Australian Defense Science and Technology Organization. Australian, American, British and Canadian defense forces participated in a four-day simulated session to train and plan for joint-combat missions around the world. The exercise is a virtual air war that allows soldiers to train alongside coalition forces in realistic theater-level combat scenarios.

Royal Australian Air Force pilots, at the Air Operations Simulation Center in Melbourne, joined the virtual exercise in their virtual F/A-18 Hornets located in the center's sophisticated simulation cube and dome facilities. At the same time, United States Air Force pilots participated in the simulation from the Distributed Mission Operations Center located at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, which is where the exercise was hosted last year. Over 600 hundred soldiers were connected simultaneously, from more than 25 separate facilities, across 3 different continents.

The Australian Minister for Defense Science and Personnel, Hon Warren Snowdon MP, who facilitated this year's exercise, said in a July 2010 Military Technology News article on Exercise Coalition Virtual Flag:

"Virtual exercises are a valuable means of determining important combat mission data in an environment that is safer, less expensive and requires fewer resources. The outcome of the exercise is expected to benefit participating nations by providing mission-critical information relevant to future deployments.”

The Distributed Mission Operations Center in New Mexico was recently recognized by the Pentagon, and awarded the Department of Defense Modeling and Simulation Award for Training. In a United Press International article, Brigadier General Steve Hoog, USAF Warfare Center Commander said:

"Realistic, integrated virtual training using high-fidelity models and simulations is no longer the wave of the future, it is the here and now. Through exercises like Virtual Flag, the Air Force's primary venue to train the entire Theater Air Control System from the Air Operations Center to the shooters, the great folks at the Distributed Mission Operations Center are building and enhancing joint combat capabilities that will increase the likelihood of victory in the next conflict."

It's clear from the investment and commitment that militaries around the world put toward simulation-based training, that these tools and techniques not only work well, but are a necessary component of any training process that involves complex systems, processes, or equipment.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mining & Drilling Industry Relies On 3D Training Simulators

These days we are seeing more and more industries that require the use of heavy equipment and expensive consumables turn to 3D simulators when it comes to training employees. The Mining and Drilling Industry is no exception.

The July, 2010 issue of Drilling Contractor (the official magazine of the International Association of Drilling Contractors) featured an article discussing the major hazards present on offshore oil and gas structures, and how simulation-based training can be used to overcome these dangers.

Interestingly enough, the articles says that most fatal injuries that occur on offshore gas and oil rigs are due to the lifting of equipment. And while providing training simulators for operators to learn on is not new, providing multi-user 3D training simulations for entire crews to train on is. Using technology typically reserved for online video games, multi-user 3D training simulators allow organizations to train their employees on techniques and maneuvers that require a team to work together collaboratively.

Traditional training materials will always have their place, but more and more companies are turning to simulation technology to make sure their employees are receiving the highest possible level of training. In addition, the younger generations spend more and more time working with computers, on the internet, watching televisions, and using cell phones - to this so-called "Net Generation", traditional training materials may fail where newer technology solutions may succeed.

The article references a study done by Chief Learning Officer magazine that draws the following conclusion in regards to simulation-based learning:
"Simulation-based training was seen to have a positive effect and was recommended for ongoing or expanded use in every case. In equipment maintenance, for example, it was found that trainees achieved the same level of proficiency in nearly 60% less time. In truck driving, one hour in a simulator was found to be equivalent to four hours on the road, and operators used less fuel."
Luminant, the largest competitive power generation business in Texas, has a new training facility in East Texas that provides state-of-the-art training simulators to their employees to ensure the safe operation of critical mining equipment. From operating a dragline, to driving a hauler through a mine, the simulators allow operators to train for daily activities before ever putting lives, equipment, or materials at risk.

Luminant Simulator Video

The complexity and cost of modern mining equipment, demands highly skilled and well trained operators. Such operators are required to consistently achieve high production targets while maintaining exceptionally high levels of safety - individually challenging tasks, done simultaneously they become exponentially more difficult. This is where training simulators come in. 3D training simulators are well suited to provide year-round training of mining and drilling related tasks so that operators are as well prepared as possible.

To this end, The Northern Manitoba Mining Academy recently purchased a load haul dumper and an articulated dump truck simulator from ThoroughTec:
"Each simulator cab is a highly realistic replica of the actual equipment, allowing the student to fully familiarize themselves with the controls, instruments and operating procedures. Emergency procedures such as engine fires, tire blow-outs and brake failures can also be safely practiced over and over again on the simulator without fear of damaging equipment or endangering lives - impossible to execute in any other manner. Simulator trained operators are therefore better prepared to deal with these hazardous situations should they occur in the underground environment."
Just like the aviation industry, that is obsessed with safety and the bottom line, more and more industries rely on simulations to help them overcome the training challenges they face.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Zen Bus Driving Simulator

Check out Zen Technology's Bus Driving Simulator, used to provide standardized training by India's State Transport Department:

Drivers must learn to operate the vehicle and handle a number of challenging conditions like traffic, precipitation, freezing temperatures, and dust. The simulation software tests the driver's ability to preform critical tasks, for example the amount of time it takes them to bring the bus to a complete stop in the case of an emergency.

The simulator monitors driver's fuel consumption rates, to alert administrators to inefficient driving, and also delivers a list of all driver mistakes at the end of a simulator session. In the transportation industry, where fuel costs are at a premium, 3D simulators help operators gain the necessary expertise, while allowing organizations to overcome the high costs typically associated with heavy equipment training.