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MetaVR - Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV)

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: 14 April, 2008  (Technical Article)
The Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) is an important component of Future Combat Systems (FCS). While its uniqueness offers a tactical advantage, that same uniqueness presents a series of training complexities.
How will operators be trained effectively and efficiently? How will a UGV interact with the terrain and its environment? What unique information can the UGV platform provide? How will other systems communicate or control the UGV and its sensors? Distributed mission training using immersive simulation of the UGV is a critical and cost-effective first step to answering these questions.

A typical sensor payload for UGVs is an E/O or IR camera used for navigation, reconnaissance, and forward observation. Part of the complexity in simulating UGV missions, such as for training driver/operator navigation and control tasks, is their size. With a short wheelbase (1-3m), realistic training using a UGV payload simulator requires accurate and extremely high-fidelity terrain to reconstruct the motion and dynamics that the sensor payload would experience in the real world.

MetaVR has developed a visual database with 0.3m geospecific imagery and 1m elevation information encoded into the terrain representation to support FCS experiments at General Dynamics Land Systems. The visual database, compiled with MetaVR’s WorldPerfect database generation system, is rendered in an interactive (60Hz) simulator using the MetaVR VRSG image generator to drive the visual display. The simulator provides the realism for both the visual cueing required in navigation training and the terrain relief needed for dynamic physics modeling of the vehicle as it traverses the terrain.

This simulator/database combination is a point of departure for the distributed mission experiments envisioned in the FCS training. Because the terrain database encodes real geography, experiments will be able to mix virtual and live entities, establish positions of friendly and opposing force troops, vehicles, and emplacements, and dynamically update the terrain and environment according to live sensors. On the virtual side, the networked perspective of the experiment provides a 3D environment to facilitate decision-making from unit-level tactics to command-level strategy. UGVs will be training in the same space as UAVs, special operations forces, close-air-support platforms, and ISR assets.

On the live side, the GPS instrumented players not only coexist in the virtual environment but also provide a data collection mechanism for improving the virtual terrain database. As UGVs or instrumented troops traverse the real terrain, elevation data and georegistered images can be recorded and transmitted back to the terrain creation process, which in turn updates the terrain database. Likewise, as real UAV or ISR assets are included in mixed experiments, any downward looking high-resolution imagery could be recorded and fed back into the terrain creation process to continually refine and improve this “living” terrain database.

In anticipation of the micro-UAV and micro-UGV components of FCS, the updated sections of virtual terrain, given sufficient bandwidth, can be retransmitted to the virtual components of the experiment. A typical scenario might center on a MOUT operation with a first wave of UGVs hosting on-board micro-UAVs that can be deployed by special forces for reconnaissance to aid maneuvering and establishing support placements. As special forces (or in the future, Objective Force Warriors) enter the area, they can provide better coordination with close-air-support by leveraging the UAV/UGV sensors via direct communication.
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