Virtual Reality (NAVY)

VR environment powers Navy equipment installation, training

Navy engineers created virtual environments of spaces on three ships that will allow more accurate documentation for ship builders and installation engineers -- and help to train sailors on new equipment before it is placed onboard.

Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command 3-D Ship Scanning Team used off-the-shelf LIDAR technology to measure designated spaces on board the USS San Diego, USS Truxtun and USS Anchorage down to the exact millimeter, according to SPAWAR. The scanned data was then processed into a virtual reality model.

Once the model was created, sailors could don virtual reality goggles and virtually navigate through a remote part of the ship.

“LIDAR technology requires only a small team of two to three people who know the equipment and can create an accurate, to the millimeter, virtual 3-D representation of a ship’s installation compartment,” said Lt. Jessica Fuller, who worked on the project. It reduces the chance of human error and  increases  accuracy, she added.

"In addition to using these scans for installation … sailors can now train 'virtually' on their ship, in their exact spaces, with their exact equipment because of these scans," explained Heidi Buck, director of Battlespace Exploitation of Mixed Reality Lab and project advisor. "New systems can be prototyped and inserted into the ‘virtual’ ship environment for design and testing purposes."

The next goal is to be able to input the scanned data into augmented reality software, which will allow sailors to access virtual maps and scans while on the job.

Sailors wearing AR-enabled devices could also be scanning areas of the ship they walk through and updating the ship’s 3-D map. "This technology will eventually close the loop and provide a mechanism to automatically refresh the ship's documentation, all while making our sailors more effective,” said Mark Bilinski, SPAWAR mathematician and project advisor.

“Regardless of the current technology and processes used to generate the documentation of our ships, the data eventually gets old and is only as good as our most recent ship check – which could be months or even years,” Bilinski said. With this technology, documentation on every Navy ship can be "only days, hours or even minutes old," he said. 

On June 5, the 3-D scanning team received the 2016 Secretary of the Navy Innovation Award in the category of Automated Process Development.

This article was first posted to Defense Systems, a sister site to GCN.

About the Author

Katherine Owens is a freelance reporter for Defense Systems


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