How hyper real immersion is revolutionising military training in the information age

“We have to wake up to the idea that our ability to turn data into information advantage, our ability to respond faster through cleverer decision-making which is enabled by the flow of information, is actually frankly as important if not even more important than whether our tanks out-range an anti-tank missile,”

– General Sir Gordon Messenger

The challenges of defence in the information age

The world of defence is currently undergoing a revolutionary period of change, moving from an industrial to information age. With advances in technology and communications, there has been a shift from hardware-driven, to data driven defence solutions. This has significant implications across the sector, from Government strategy through to the everyday challenges faced by military personnel active in the field.

As Sean Bell, Chairman of Close Air Solutions comments, “The traditional approach to defence strategy has always been driven by hardware solutions, making sure that we buy the most advanced equipment. This, however, is an outdated view of the challenges in today’s society, where our military forces are faced with keeping up with the changes in threat and the response that we need to be prepared for.”

“These changes are significant in terms of ensuring military personnel have the skills and knowledge needed make informed and lightning quick decisions when they are faced with a tsunami of information, especially as a wrong decision could have catastrophic consequences.”

Within this environment of change and challenge, taking a new approach to training, including harnessing immersive technologies, is crucial to ensure that defence personnel are highly skilled and able to work effectively in high risk situations.

This is opening up new opportunities within the defence sector for SMEs, such as Close Air Solutions who are able to combine an understanding of the challenges faced for era of modern defence, coupled with technological know-how, and the ability to innovate and implement new ideas far more quickly than either governments, or established defence companies can.

About Close Air Solutions

Founded in 2012 by former RAF military personnel, Tom Ball and Mike Squires, Close Air Solutions has developed an innovative training programme using immersive technology that meets the needs of a modern defence force. Close Air Solutions’ response to the gap in military training requirements has been to develop new hyper reality training technology to create a real-life environment to practice simulated air strikes.

Hyper Real Immersion (HRI) is a project that brings all the advantages of simulation into the live environment, using cutting edge technology to deliver immersive, outdoor mixed reality training. Trainees are provided with AR headsets to reveal a mixed reality space that overlays the real world with a convincing view of a correlated digital world. Photo-realistic entities are placed in the real environment, looking and acting like they belong there.

By combining the advantages of synthetic training in a live environment, HRI gives trainees a new sense of realism; by creating a mixed reality space that enables forces to fight as they train. This provides a more dynamic, challenging and immersive training.

Close Air Solutions hyper real immersion

Why mixed reality training is a gamechanger

For many working within the military sector, simulated training is a familiar way to train for combat operations, providing a replication of the complex environment that is often cluttered, contested and may also include the presence of non-combatants. In spite of this, there are several key disadvantages to simulated training. On the whole, this type of training would take place in a sterile and benign environment, which compromises the effectiveness of the training experience. Additionally, simulated training is often a solitary experience, which again is unrealistic as it doesn’t reflect the complexity of a modern combat environment, where the actions of others can significantly change situations and impact on the individual’s decision making.

Moreover, this technology can be easily applied anywhere in the world in any environment, making it an attractive prospect for the Ministry of Defence and beyond, as well as providing Close Air Solutions with a commercially viable product.

Close Air Solutions Chinook

Opportunities and support for SMEs

Sean believes that the collaborative approach is the key to addressing the challenges faced in the defence sector, effectively combining contributions from a diverse range of organisations, from the Ministry of Defence through to large established companies, as well as innovative small businesses. “SMEs have an important role to play as they have the flexibility and agility to act quickly on new innovations in a way that would be difficult for larger, more established companies” notes Sean. “The challenge for the Ministry of Defence is, how do you make it all gel and work in a coordinated way in the face of such fast paced change?”  Sean points to the Defence Growth Partnership as an organisation that effectively brings together Government with the defence sector to both strengthen the UK’s capabilities in innovative and effective ways, as well as providing joined-up support in the international marketplace.

There are still many challenges for SMEs working within the sector who may hope to take advantage of these opportunities. Moreover, for SMEs to rise to their potential and contribute in a meaningful and effective way within the defence sector, being able to access business support and funding is crucial. “Developing new products is costly, so getting a product to market is high risk for SMEs, and a lack of funds is a potential barrier.  For Close Air Solutions, winning two Innovation Challenges through the Defence, Technology and Science Laboratory (DTSL), as well as support through the Defence and Security Accelerator was crucial, helping us to develop our ideas into a demonstrable product.”

International opportunities for growth

Sean also believes that developing a good relationship and winning contracts with the Ministry of Defence, as well as working closely with the Defence Growth partnership can also help SMEs to break into the international market, as the connection adds credibility to their products. “Close Air Solutions are now in a position to exhibit their innovative product at international shows, such as Umex/Simtex 18 – UAE, where we have received fantastic responses, helping us to open up new opportunities to export around the world.”