Navy virtual reality technology will help upgrade ships and train sailors

U.S. Navy engineers used 3-D imaging capabilities of LIDAR technology to measure designated spaces on board the USS San Diego (LPD 22), USS Truxtun (DDG 103), and the USS Anchorage (LPD 23) down to the exact millimeter, according to a SPAWAR media report. Then, virtual reality and virtual environment software processed the hundreds of gigabytes worth of scanned data into a less than one hundred gigabyte file of a virtual reality model of the scanned areas.

A Secretary of the Navy 2016 Innovation Award was presented to a 3-D scanning team from the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) last week for their use of Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) technology to make virtual reality scans a tool for future onboard technological development and sailor training. 

“LIDAR technology requires only a small team of two to three people who know the equipment and can create an accurate…virtual 3-D representation of a ship’s installation compartment,” said Lt. Jessica Fuller, a member of the SPAWAR 3-D scanning team.

The LIDAR system uses a special, near-infrared laser that emits electromagnetic pulses in the form of light and measures the return wavelengths to discern the distance and 3D shape of objects in its path. SPAWAR reports that the 3-D scanning team used commercial-off-the-shelf technology and software to ensure state-of-the-art results.

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

“In addition to using these scans for installations…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. “Also 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 scan data into augmented reality software, which will allow sailors to access 3-D augmented reality maps and scans while on the job, giving the sailors a mobile capability to better understand and maintain the ship, according to Dr. Mark Bilinski, a Mathematician at SPAWAR.

The LIDAR scanning itself took only nine days when first performed on the USS San Diego, and the other two vessels were scanned and modeled within the same year. There is no timeline for implementing the new method and technology across the Navy, however SPAWAR officials are confident that it will become a model for Navy virtual

About the Author

Katherine Owens is a freelance reporter for Defense Systems

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