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49th Wing implements virtual reality training capabilities

MQ-9 aircrew receive modernized training materials

Capt. Evan, left, 9th Attack Squadron Remotely Piloted Aircraft instructor pilot, and Master Sgt. Dustin, right, 9th ATKS instructor sensor operator, test out Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headsets, April 12, 2021, on Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. As part of the RPA Training Next initiative, the headsets will be used to provide a visual aid for student RPA pilots and sensor operators, to aid in familiarizing them with MQ-9 cockpits early on in their training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Quion Lowe)

MQ-9 aircrew receive modernized training materials

Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headsets are displayed on a table, April 12, 2021, on Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. The implementation of these headsets is the latest innovation in the Air Education and Training Command’s Remotely Piloted Aircraft Training Next initiative. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Quion Lowe)

HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --

The 16th Training Squadron began using cordless virtual reality headsets for training MQ-9 Reaper aircrew students, April 15, 2021.

This innovation is the latest project in Air Education and Training Command’s Remotely Piloted Aircraft Training Next initiative.

“We believe the 49th Wing is working with industry to explore how Artificial Intelligence can increase the realism of the MQ-9 training systems,” said Lt Col. Jonathon Ferro, 19th Air Force RTN program manager. “This has the potential to improve training throughout the MQ-9 course.”

The Oculus Quest 2 headsets will be used to provide a visual aid for student RPA pilots and sensor operators to aid in familiarizing them with MQ-9 cockpits early on in their training.

“When creating the course material, we put the camera over the shoulder of the pilot and once students put the headset on it's like they're in a simulator with the instructor,” said Capt. Jon Schwartz, 16th TRS special projects manager. “Students can watch the instructor go through tactics, techniques and procedures that they would normally learn through an academic PowerPoint, or read about.”

Although this project is in the beginning stages, Ferro believes this use of modern technology will positively impact MQ-9 training and help educate students better, faster and for cheaper.

 “This new tool allows students to step through the material as though they are there in the Ground Control Station with the crew,” said Ferro. “Students can view this content anytime, anywhere and as many times as they want. The system also quizzes them on general knowledge and tracks how often they use the content. Early presentation of this content should allow students to be better prepared during earlier phases of training so their instructors can focus on improving student proficiency.”

As technology continues to modernize, the 49th Wing continues to accelerate capabilities, change techniques to match industry standards and produce combat ready aircrew.

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