Phil Perey, Head of Technology – Defense & Security, on CAE’s new TRAX Academy and Sprint Virtual Reality trainer. Perey spoke with Halldale Group Editor Marty Kauchak.
Today at I/ITSEC in Orlando, Florida, CAE introduced its TRAX Academy. The acronym “TRAX” is a corporate label to address Training, Acceleration and a nod to the emerging “X” factor in this space – virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality. Concurrently, CAE also launched their Sprint Virtual Reality trainer, an integral part of TRAX Academy, which is claimed to support “self-paced learning in an immersive, high-fidelity virtual environment.”
CAE’s new products are entering the market space at a time when military services around the world are grappling with pilot and instructor shortages. Indeed, the US Air Force’s embryonic Pilot Training Next (PNT) program, is one of a number of activities in the air training domain designed to rethink, and, when necessary, break down traditional constructs of aircrew training. As for the “Academy” part of the moniker, Perey emphasized this product supports a training continuum, “a complete training solution, focusing on how to get pilots trained faster. While the training tool, the Sprint device, is one part of it, it’s really about how you link all of those pieces together into a very cohesive and complete training plan that is much more efficient than what it was in the traditional sense of pilot training.”
Perey pointed out TRAX is taking many of the concepts and ideas behind PNT, but in some regards ‘upping it’ in terms of better fidelity for simulation, cueing and helmet-mounted displays. “But more importantly, linking that into digitally enabled courseware, and bringing in a foundational piece of data analytics that covers all the aspects of where the student learns, is able to practice and perform, and have a validated 1:1 session with the instructor. This is the backbone that will enable continuous, iterative improvement of your training programs going forward.”
The CAE TRAX Academy capability was initially designed to support pilot communities across fixed-wing and helicopter platforms.
The industry veteran conceptually outlined how a student in one of the communities would progress through its academy. At the front end of the training continuum, a class of aspiring aviators completes computer-based training to learn platform fundamentals (fuel and other systems) as well as flight dynamics. “They also have a form to interact with other students in the class and schedule 1:1 time with an instructor – they are essentially running at their own speed,” Perey noted. When basic skill sets have been gained, the students progress to refining maneuvers and other parts of a syllabus using a PC and HMD headset. “They are virtually immersed in the aircraft environment and able to get the coaching and other instruction needed to advance to the next step – the Sprint VR Trainer.”
One trainer attribute is providing a student with the ability to complete a training syllabus task unassisted – graded by CAE Rise. An accompanying learning management system assists the qualified instructor in determining whether to allow a student to advance to a next phase or possibly graduate. Perey emphasized that the student’s final phase could occur in a training device that is Rise-enabled. “This provides that full continuum of data to validate the training transfer, and safety and proficiency of those students who graduate.”
Perey said at this early point in TRAX Academy’s development, the company projects high-level returns on investment: increased student throughput and such. He added, “Conservatively, we also think that you will at least have a saving of 25% of bringing a student through a TRAX-type program versus a traditional training program.”
“There are two key areas we are addressing with TRAX that are huge customer ‘pain points’,” he continued. “First, if we can have the students learning more on their own, ultimately it means the number of instructors needed for a given class of students will be lower – fewer instructors which air forces don’t have to spare. Second, and as important, we’re shortening time the student spends in their training program – time the students can use to move on and start their transition or other next-phase training. That means you can graduate a certain percentage more pilots.”
The new capability builds upon internal CAE products and programs, as well best-of-breed content from other industry sources.
TRAX Academy’s foundation includes the company’s early deliverables from its five-year Project Digital Intelligence research and development program implemented in 2018. “This is yielding some pretty impressive capabilities very quickly. We launched CAE Rise and CAE Medallion Series E image generator last year. This year, we’re bringing these capabilities into TRAX – one further step.”
CAE is also taking advantage of COTS components from industry partners. A short list of content under consideration for integration from these collaborative efforts includes: helmet-mounted displays, the Sprint component, cloud computing services, artificial intelligence and other materiel. “This is an effort of integrating pieces – a fair number of them on the software side come from our own technology stack, other pieces come externally,” Perey summarized.
CAE TRAX Academy continues to be developed with the informal perspectives of current and prospective customers from around the globe. The CAE executive added, “We’ve iterated it and have made changes, with user community inputs from the UK, Australia, New Zealand and even the US Navy – it’s been a multi-tiered input during the last year.”
There is currently a 12-month delivery and fielding window for CAE TRAX Academy – from contract signing to having the solution in training with a customer.
The TRAX Academy program roadmap for the next 12-18 months is succinct: tailoring TRAX and its enabling Sprint trainer to get the capability into the hands of air forces and other military services’ aviation branches as soon as possible.
Perey concluded: “There is incredible enthusiasm by our counterparts on CAE’s civil side for applicability of this capability. We fully expect this sort of capability would be used over the next year in the civil realm for a number of different aircraft platforms.”
At this early point in CAE TRAX Academy’s development, the company projects customers to benefit through increased student throughput and a saving of 25% compared with a traditional training program.” Source: CAE
CAE also launched their Sprint Virtual Reality trainer, an integral part of the CAE TRAX Academy. Source: CAE