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Operating Drones in Mixed Reality: How Inzpire Leverages Varjo for Next-Gen UAV Training

Inzpire’s compact, agile, synthetic environment system provides highly realistic UAV training scenarios directly to the front lines, adapting to the ever-changing modern day operational environments.

Expanding the Scope of Drone Operations

The use of drones in defence and security operations has become increasingly vital. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are used for various tasks such as aerial monitoring, surveillance, and reconnaissance. These operations are crucial for modern defence strategy as they provide a high level of situational awareness, reduce the risk to human life, and can be conducted in a variety of environments without direct human presence. 

The use of medium and small UAVs has surged in importance during the recent years, and so has the demand for precise, effective training for drone operators. 

Setting New Standards in Simulation Technology

Founded in United Kingdom, Inzpire Limited is a training provider consisting of numerous divisions and subject matter experts across all areas of defence. The company is at the forefront of developing groundbreaking synthetic environments and simulation technologies aimed to enhance the training capabilities for a variety of defence operations. 

Inzpire is one of the first training providers to integrate an UAV ground control station with a virtual battlespace simulation, all while utilizing a mixed reality headset as the trainer’s display. Inzpire’s compact, agile, synthetic environment (CASE) system, coupled with Varjo’s industry-leading mixed reality technology, provides a unique solution that allows for highly realistic immersive drone operator training. 

This compact system is designed to be deployable at the point of need, whether in the field or in a classroom. It can operate as a standalone system or be linked with multiple systems to provide comprehensive training.

Mastering the Skies with Advanced Immersive Training

By putting on the Varjo headset, Inzpire’s trainees are transferred into a realistic virtual battle space environment where they utilize a ground control station to navigate the user interface and have access to their real-world equipment. They can practice anything from type-specific flying techniques to error handling and emergency responses in the immersive mixed reality setting. The experience allows them to learn not only how to operate the equipment but also how to manage the payload, including cameras and sensor systems, all within a virtual environment that responds just like the real world. 

This type of training is invaluable, whether it’s for pre-deployment preparation, initial training, or ongoing proficiency training to maintain their operational skills. 

“Using Varjo’s technology has allowed us to achieve seamless integration between the live and the virtual. For students, this means that they can do procedures and tactics training all in the same environment, and it immerses them and enhances the believability,” says James Clarkson, Engineering Lead for Mission Training Devices at Inzpire.

“Using Varjo’s technology has allowed us to achieve seamless integration between the live and the virtual.”

James Clarkson - Engineering Lead for Mission Training Devices at Inzpire

A New Dimension in Training Effectiveness

Mixed reality introduces a transformative dimension to simulation systems by enabling the blending of live real-life pass-through video with virtual environments or objects. In Inzpire’s solution, this integration allows users to see their own hands, utilize their equipment, and employ planning tools, such as maps, within the simulation, all while using the ground control station that operates the UAVs. Mixed reality also allows the trainees to pass information and communicate with each other effectively during the simulation. 

“The introduction of mixed reality is a game changer. Mixed reality is now the forefront of immersive technology because it accurately matches the virtual and the real-world environment, which is extremely important,” Clarkson notes. 

Mixed reality adds to the level of immersion of the simulation, and as a result, the training becomes more operationally valid and effective, rather than users treating the simulation as a consequence-free environment.

“Trainees actually believe that what they’re doing is increasingly important and they’ll take greater care and therefore it’s more operationally valid.” 

“If you’re immersed in an environment, you forget that you’re wearing a headset. You forget that you’re in a training room or a training tent. You believe you’re in the field and you believe what you’re doing is part of your training and it’s part of your environment,” Clarkson says.

Elevating Situational Awareness with High-Resolution Clarity 

One of the key benefits of Inzpire’s training system is the user’s ability to clearly see objects at varying distances. The high-resolution displays of the Varjo headsets ensure that trainees can effectively identify and interact with elements, such as helicopters, aerial assets, vehicles, or troops, in the virtual environment, enhancing their situational awareness and operational effectiveness. “Having used virtual reality for about 20 years, the switch to a Varjo headset marked a significant improvement due to its superior quality and clarity,” Clarkson shares.  

The Varjo XR-4 Focal Edition takes this a step further, as users will be able to read all text and data clearly regardless of where they are looking, thanks to the XR-4 Focal Edition’s industry-first gaze-directed autofocus system.

The XR-4 is generating considerable excitement for us, because of its advancements in the focal range mixed reality camera technology, improvements in display resolution, and ergonomic enhancements,” says Clarkson. 

Preparing UAV Crews Across the World

Inzpire’s training solution is designed to be deployable directly in the field, allowing UAV crews to complete their training without the need to return home. Instead, they can complete their mission planning, mission rehearsal, and training anywhere in the world. This on-the-spot training capability ensures that training is available precisely when and where it’s needed. 

“With the growing importance of accurate and effective training, and as the operation environments are changing rapidly, our solution meets these demands by being inherently deployable to the front lines,” Clarkson states. 

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