IISRI signs major research contract with Australian Navy

Navy firefighters are set to benefit from FLAIM Trainer™ – the Deakin-developed virtual reality training system.

Deakin University’s Institute for Intelligent Systems Research and Innovation (IISRI) has been awarded a $2.16 million contract by the Federal Government’s Defence Innovation Hub.

IISRI will develop and demonstrate a next-generation virtual reality hot fire training system, allowing for safe, repeatable and realistic immersive training of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) personnel.

At the heart of the deal is the IISRI-developed FLAIM Trainer™. As a virtual reality simulator, FLAIM Trainer™ can accurately represent heat, jet reaction and step-up forces, along with sound and visuals, to immerse a trainee in a “real” fire. It offers a cheaper, portable, safe and more effective training option for firefighters.

The system will also see the development of advanced breathing apparatus simulation, incorporating trainee performance monitoring, allowing the most realistic training experience possible.

The development by IISRI aims to provide RAN the capability to train firefighters for situations and scenarios that are inherently unsafe and difficult to reproduce, may no longer be possible due to environmental constraints, and incur significant training cost in time, people and assets.

In a ship environment, firefighting is a core skill and training these skills is extremely difficult.

“Once scaled up, the system will be used by thousands of navy personnel around Australia,” said IISRI Director and Pro Vice-Chancellor for Defence Technologies, Professor Saeid Nahavandi.

Professor Nahavandi noted that a feature of the system is that it uses virtual and augmented reality markers to superimpose flames within any environment, such as from within the engine room of a ship. This means that the user can gain firefighting experience in the virtual and real locations where they are most likely to be confronted with it – safely.

He explained that IISRI researchers are world leaders, particularly, on the haptic (force feedback) aspect of the technology. In FLAIM Trainer™ this represents the “kick back” of water pressure, which, combined with virtual reality, allows trainees to use the system in any location.

“FLAIM Trainer™ is the result of a large team effort over the past two years, with a number of IISRI researchers working on its development, including Associate Professor James Mullins, Dr Mick Fielding, Dr Lei Wei, Mr Sameer Deshpande, Dr. Zoran Najdovski and Dr Matthew Watson,” he said.

The deal marks a significant achievement for IISRI, given that over 135 proposals were submitted. It is one of eight Innovation Contracts funded as part of the Federal Government’s $1.6 billion commitment to developing the Australian Defence Industry and Innovation sector. It was announced by the Minister for Defence Industry, the Hon Christopher Pyne, who emphasised that the contracts would support local jobs.

“A number of organisations across Australia will benefit from this initiative to develop game-changing Defence equipment,” Minister Pyne said.

The “Innovation Contract” acknowledges that the combination of technologies offered by the IISRI system is “unlikely to have occurred elsewhere in the world.

Published by Deakin Research on 2 August 2017.

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