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The US Air Force (USAF) has awarded a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II award to HTX Labs to support the remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) aircrew training programme.

The contract will see the company modify and integrate its EMPACT virtual reality (VR) platform to provide immersive training for RPA pilots and sensor operators.

It follows the USAF SBIR Phase II award to HTX Labs in August 2019 to continue the development of the EMPACT platform.

EMPACT platform will be integrated with the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Vigilant Spirit Control Station.

The company will partner with the 558th Flying Training Squadron (FTS) and the Texas Air National Guard (TXANG) on the effort.

HTX Labs co-founder and CTO Chris Verret said: “We look forward to delivering a capability that provides an adaptive, future-proofed, student-directed learning environment to better prepare RPA students for remotely piloted aircraft such as MQ-9 Reaper and RQ-4 Formal Training Units (FTUs).”

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According to HTX Labs, the company’s EMPACT Platform ‘will be leveraged to satisfy RPA Initial Qualifications syllabus items for T-6A systems academics, emergency procedures and pattern flying procedures’.

EMPACT provides multi-modal learning that will enable RPA aircrew to witness training on VR-head mounted displays, laptops, and tablets.

This allows students to effectively ‘train anytime, anywhere, on any device’ and sustain immersive training across the airforce.

HTX Labs co-founder and CEO Scott Schneider said: “Our new SBIR contract advances HTX’s collaboration with the airforce and continues the expansion of our EMPACT immersive training capabilities to support unmanned pilot training initiatives and elevate the level of proficiency and readiness of RPA aircrew.”

In April 2019, HTX received an SBIR Phase I award from the USAF to develop training simulations built on the EMPACT platform.