Flight simulators from the Czech company are also used by the US Air Force and Navy. The state-of-the-art combination of virtual glasses, simulator and mixed reality technology was recently tested by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi. The Deník reporter has now tried a practice flight in the F-18 SuperHornet.
The Deník reporter tried out the most modern technology of the F-18 fighter jet simulator. The system of unique virtual glasses, simulator and mixed reality is being developed by the Czech-American company Vrgineers in Prague’s Holešovice
| Photo: Diary/Přemysl Spěvák
Up the stairs, one foot first on the seat, the other down on the floor of the cockpit of the F-18 fighter. Do not interfere with the control devices, sit down, take the stick in your right hand, the gas lever in your left hand. And prepare for the flight as Tom Cruise – movie Maverick in the new version of the hit Top Gun. Moment. Missing helmet. “It’s not. You will wear our special virtual glasses for mixed reality,” technician Boris Šídlo tells the reporter.
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Faithfully airplane simulators is being developed in Prague’s Holešovice by the Czech-American company Vrgineers. They help train professional pilots in different corners of the world. “Training in the air will not completely replace our technology, but it will help prepare pilots to handle most situations that may arise,” says Vrgineers co-founder Marek Polčák.
The company donated one portable trainer to Ukraine. He even tried out the F-16 fighter simulator this year President Volodymyr Zelenskyi. “Ukrainian soldiers are familiarizing themselves with the features of modern Western technology and learning its possibilities,” the Ukrainian president’s office wrote afterwards.
Preparing for the F-35?
In its portfolio, the company has detailed types of fighter aircraft such as the F-16, F-18 Hornet, even fifth-generation machines like the F-35, but also helicopters. “We cooperate the most with the US Air Force and Navy. We have supplied products to the British, Brazilian and German air forces, Western aircraft manufacturers, and we are negotiating deliveries to Africa and Asia,” Polčák describes.
Vrgineers is also one of the thirteen companies and universities included in the industrial cooperation in the framework of the acquisition of the F-35 system, whose purchase was recently approved by the Czech government. “On our simulators, it is possible to prepare pilots even before the first plane arrives to a very high level, I estimate up to seventy percent,” says Polčák. He adds that at Vrgineers they are able to deliver trainers and virtual glasses in just a few months.
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According to Polčák, they are the only company in the world that manufactures its own headset and simulators. “Together, the system enables complex exercises of interconnected components – missions for entire operational teams. From multiple pilots and aircraft to radio operators and operators to command on the ship or on the ground. In addition, it is a relatively small solution and many times cheaper than older systems of trainers with data projectors. Our headsets cost hundreds of thousands of crowns less,” he explains.
And the benefits of technology directly for pilots? “WITH virtual glasses you are actually in the cockpit. Thanks to mixed reality, you can see your hands and control everything naturally. Believability is so high that pilots who train with our glasses learn not only to react to situations technically, but also to react emotionally,” explains Polčák.
The basic test program of the F-18 simulator proves him right. Complete novices, such as the Deník reporter, begin their training flight already in the clouds. The starting procedure is more demanding and relatively lengthy, up to half an hour. This time it’s a mission somewhere in Nagorno-Karabakh region. “Do you have a vomit bag?” asks the laughing technician Šídlo.
The Deník reporter tried out the most modern technology of the F-18 fighter jet simulator. The system of unique virtual glasses, simulator and mixed reality is being developed by the Czech-American company Vrgineers in Prague’s HolešoviceSource: Diary/Přemysl Spévák
The first slight shift of the joystick to the left, fighter tilts and the “pilot’s” brain reacts with it. “No worries. You can get used to it quite quickly,” assures Šídlo, who has spent thousands of hours flying in simulators.
Really. After a few minutes “in the air”, the reporter’s head also takes over the so-called corkscrew maneuver. The speed of sound in a fighter jet has a different effect when the pilot is flying above the clouds and otherwise below them. As it nears the ground, the machine appears to be quite sluggish. No fun. A successful aerial duel requires a good few hours of flying time. A beginner has trouble hitting the runway at all when landing and coordinating the speed with the pitch of the aircraft.
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Peripheral vision, the ability to turn the head brings a unique perceptual experience. Video game flight simulators are in a different league. “Computer games they currently have high image quality, but they lack more detailed data for realistic processing of how the aircraft behaves physically and dynamically,” Polčák compares. But what even their technology can’t handle is overload. There are also certain reserves in the change of view into the distance and up close – the dashboard. The glasses themselves are lighter than they appear physically.
Vrgineers first offered the headset more or less successfully to car companies of world brands. Just before the pandemic, they noticed more interest among pilots and in the aviation and military sectors. The company pioneered the introduction of virtual glasses and mixed reality in this area.