HTX Labs has received a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I award for a new US Air Force (USAF) virtual reality (VR) training programme, to support the next generation of pilots.

The SBIR award will ensure funding for the continued development of training simulations based on HTX Labs’ EMPACT VR platform.

HTX Labs co-founder and CEO Scott Schneider said: “We are honoured to be a SBIR Phase I Select company, and are excited to help the Air Force train the aviator of the future.

“The ability for a start-up to work with any branch of the military based on the SBIR process is a tremendous opportunity, and we’re looking forward to developing simulations that improve student responsiveness and accuracy to situations that are inherently dangerous.”

The simulations will be used by the USAF to enhance student understanding, retention and mastery of military procedures and protocols.

Prior to the award, HTX has successfully deployed a VR training programme previously initiated for the USAF’s Pilot Training Next (PTN) programme.

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“We’re looking forward to developing simulations that improve student responsiveness and accuracy to situations that are inherently dangerous.”

The SBIR Phase I award will provide a fast-track mechanism to facilitate direct interaction between any military branch and HTX on training simulations.

The project involves the development of immersive technology that uses artificial intelligence, advanced biometrics and analytics to measure the effectiveness of a training programme.

The solution compares an aggregate of students or a single student against an expert or a group of experts performing the same work.

USAF PTN programme lead Paul “Slew” Vicars said: “HTX has provided us an immersive emergency procedure trainer that filled an essential gap in our pilot training programme. They are a responsive and attentive company that have been great to work with!”

According to HTX, the hands-on simulations will allow students to learn the necessary skills in a controlled environment and to experience a real-world situation.

During the PTN programme, student pilots will be tested on how they respond and initiate emergency procedures under the distress of challenging conditions they might encounter in the cockpit.

In January 2019, the USAF declared that it was replacing its older training aircraft with Boeing’s T-X Trainer aircraft, which can work with VR applications.