USAF’s uptake of virtual reality technology accelerated by COVID-19 pandemic

Following the recent news that the US Air Force (USAF) has committed to $67m worth of deals to increase the scale of virtual training, giving two contracts to Mass Virtual;

William Davies, Associate Aerospace and Defense Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers his view:

“Despite some previous investment by the USAF and other federal agencies into virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), there has been limited practical uptake of these technologies. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated spending on the technology, as well as the amount of training that takes place using it. An increase in US defense spending on VR and AR, and contracts will help maintain training schedules and push pilot training.

“Along with technology developments in AR and VR, military forces are shifting their focus to flexible training solutions in the area of advanced distributed simulation, wherein live training is combined with constructive and virtual simulation by networking. While these contracts will help promote aircraft familiarization, they will not have the capabilities to replace manual instruction completely, and the Air Force faces a balancing act in training for both maintenance and combat. Air Force officials have reported that social distancing measures have slowed the production of new pilots and that increased uptake of VR technology could address this slowdown.

“Air Force leaders recently announced that they saw future virtual pilot training as a way to facilitate training in a way which is both cheaper and faster, and specifically cited the COVID-19 pandemic as enhancing their potential to innovate and utilize new technologies. This five-year contract with Mass Virtual signals that the Air Force considers the uses of VR technology to go beyond the pandemic and are looking to integrate the technology into training long-term. The is a positive move as USAF can strongly benefit from using virtual training for military training purposes.”

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