W. Garth Smith
Q: In what direction are your U.S. Army and Marine customers pushing technology and solutions?
A: We see the Army and Marines pushing to extend the capabilities of their JTAC simulation for close air support training with an emphasis on greater realism.
Q: Over the past few years, there has been an increase in activity in Africa. How much emphasis are you placing on increasing your library for the continent?
A: We have built a 3-D virtual representation of the Somalian port city of Kismayo, which contains a variety of key environments for training, from dense urban neighborhoods to a built-up port area to a commercial airport. Customers can visualize the terrain in the latest version of our IG, Virtual Reality Scene Generator (VRSG).
We populated the virtual city with hundreds of geographically specific culture models of buildings and other structures built from ground-level photographs taken on the streets of Kismayo. Due to the lack of publicly available photographs of Kismayo, we hired an in-country photographer to take thousands of high-resolution geo-tagged photographs, which our modeling team used for geolocating and modeling the culture. We built the terrain with our Terrain Tools for Esri ArcGiS from 50 cm per-pixel satellite imagery city coverage, blended into 15-meter natural view imagery of all of Somalia.
Because of its highly detailed geospecific nature, the terrain can be used for a variety of AFRICOM training purposes.
Q: The Army is increasingly experimenting with manned-unmanned teaming between Apache attack helicopters and unmanned systems. Is MetaVR a part of that project?
A: Our customer built their manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) simulation lab using our visuals for both their helicopter simulator and UAV virtual environment to facilitate interoperability and testing between the two platforms, using common 3-D terrain. The resulting integration helped verify and enable the helicopter pilot to, among other things, steer the camera payload and set waypoints for the flight path through a protocol that was verified through the Manned Unmanned Systems Integration Capability (MUSIC) demonstrations.
Our IG can stream real-time HD-quality simulated video with KLV metadata using the H.264 protocol, which is indiscernible in composition from the real UAV video. This has enormous implications for the Army. Recently, the Army chose to team the Gray Eagle UAV as an armed scout with the Apache. We provide the virtual environment as an embedded training component for the universal ground control station that controls the Gray Eagle. These efforts recently resulted in the single largest sale in our company’s history.
Q: How does MetaVR match its R&D to what the military customer is going to be looking for one or two years out?
A: Key customers identify their needs far in advance of the marketplace by requesting certain capabilities. For example, our round-earth Metadesic terrain format was based on our UAV customers’ desire for whole-earth coverage. Because MetaVR does not perform contract labor software development, customers are often willing to approach us with requests for important capabilities that would normally require a contract to implement with other vendors.
Similarly, our JTAC simulation capabilities resulted from a groundswell of feature requests from key customers. We embarked on R&D in 2006, which ultimately resulted in 40 percent of our revenue this year coming from JTAC-related simulation sales. Fortunately, our profitability enables us to sustain such development over several years before we see substantial sales from it.
Q: How are your terrain and model packages offered, and can they be updated?
A: Our Metadesic terrain format consists of a whole-earth model comprised of discrete terrain tiles that can be individually recompiled. This means that as new imagery becomes available, we can recompile just the areas that have changed, rather than rebuild a monolithic terrain model. Our terrain model is routinely updated not only with imagery and elevation data, but also with 3-D content such as towns, cities and airports.
Often requests come from customers for terrain of some area on which they want to conduct training scenarios. Once we build terrain for a specific purpose, that terrain usually becomes available to all our U.S. government, NATO agency or contractor customers. Likewise, we update our 3-D model libraries in a similar manner, often from customer requests. Once we build a given model, we add it to our model libraries, thus making it available to all our customers.
Customers can update our terrain by extending it with their own terrain, which can be built with our plugin for ArcGIS from their source data or OpenFlight databases converted to our terrain format. Customers can also add culture to the terrain and create pattern-of-life training scenarios with our new Scenario Editor.
- Issue: 5
- Volume: 5