One-G Merges VR with Flight Sim for Augmented Reality Flight Deck

 - August 6, 2018, 7:31 AM

A decommissioned simulator sits in the corner of one-G Simulation as a fixed reminder of the company’s garage beginnings. The machine designed by Xylon Saltzman, CEO of one-G Simulation, was not originally destined for FAA approval but rather as a tool to help Saltzman’s students during flight training. After receiving positive feedback from his students along with requests to be able to log time in the simulator, Saltzman launched on the path toward FAA approval. In 2011, Saltzman received his first letter of authorization (LOA) from the FAA approving the “Flagship 1” device as an advanced aviation training device (AATD).

The company now offers multiple FAA-approved AATDs for various aircraft including Cessna, Beechcraft, TBM, and Pilatus models. Last year, one-G entered the rotorcraft simulator market with its Torrance 44 Augmented Training Platform (ATP). The ATP is based on the Robinson R44 and combines virtual reality (VR) technology with flight simulation for an augmented reality flight deck. The 360-degree visuals in the device ensure the student has a comprehensive visual reference inside and outside the helicopter.

Saltzman said the company had received requests for a rotorcraft device and debuted the machine last year at EAA AirVenture, where it received significant interest. “We are trying to further the technology and bring the FAA onboard with changes we’re seeing in technology," said Saltzman. "We have FAA approval pending for a version that will be an AATD. What is different about the Torrance 44 and sets it apart from our other devices is the utilization of the VR headset.”

Flying the Torrance 44

At one-G Simulation’s facility near Seattle, I was able to try out the serial number one version of the Torrance 44. Before I got into the virtual right seat, the instructor showed me the 1G-IOS wireless instructor operator station paired to the simulator. The 1G-IOS software application allows the user to create complex scenario-based situations for the pilot flying the simulator. The application provides complete control of all simulator parameters and features a simple touchscreen interface of platform-agnostic design. The 1G-IOS also integrates with the cloud-based one-G portal, which automatically logs student and instructor training hours while providing administrative tools including training documents, record keeping, account maintenance, and billing.

One-G does all software development in-house, including the 1G-IOS and one-G Portal.

“We decided to integrate software development after we were initially using third-party products kind of cobbled together," said Saltzman. "That’s fine if you’re building a few devices but not so great if you’re trying to make a company that can control bottom-line price point, the availability, and all of the features, and the ability to customize the devices. We started writing our own software in-house and we now have a team of developers working here. We have FAA approval for our entire line of avionics, everything you see in the panel, 1G-IOS, and the web-based portal as well. We’ve created a fleet of devices that operate on the same software platforms and have seamless integration, which has opened the door for a lot of new programs for us."

After familiarizing myself with the respective software application, I stepped into the simulator and put on the HTC Vive HMD virtual-reality headset. I could look in all directions and see toward the front of the aircraft and beyond, to the left, right, below, and even into the virtual backseat of the R44. I was extremely interested in experiencing the virtual hovering capabilities of the Torrance 44 and began to pick up into a simulated hover. The combination of the 360-degree view and aerodynamic haptic feedback aided in making the hovering experience feel fairly life-like. I also found the stereo sound to be of value throughout the hover and rest of my virtual flight as it enhanced the simulator experience. I performed various maneuvers and emergency procedures induced by the operator of the 1G-IOS before removing the headset and entering back into reality.

The Torrance 44 supports full integration with the PilotEdge real-time air traffic controller system and wireless support for ForeFlight and WingX Pro moving-map apps. The device as it stands as an ATP is priced at an entry-level cost of $30,000 and the AATD version, when approved, is expected to start at a price of $45,000.

To Virtual Reality and Beyond

One-G has continued to evolve with expanded offerings including a youth-access program, creative solutions studio, and a sister company called Modern Pilot. In support of the company’s mission to provide training devices to all pilots, one-G launched the youth-access program this year. “We wanted to support our initial mission of making devices more affordable and readily accessible for pilots of all levels," said Saltzman. "We recently launched the one-G youth-access program to get devices into STEM programs around the country.”

The company has established its creative solutions studio to develop functional prototypes, custom commissioned projects, and internally funded research. Additionally, one-G’s sister company, Modern Pilot, uses one-G’s fleet of AATDs in a classroom setting.