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Real-time thermal cueing simulation: a physical-based approach
The targeting/laser POD Thermal Cueing simulation is a fundamental component of Full Mission flight simulators for training military pilots. It combines the capabilities of Thermal Imaging and magnified visible light (Electro-Optical), including high definition mid-wave forward looking infrared (FLIR) imaging. Pilots can select the best POD imaging mode (e.g. FLIR mode or RECCE mode) and, depending on the specific nature of the mission, activate Thermal Cueing. This significantly increases the combat effectiveness of the aircraft in all weather conditions, for both the attack of ground and air targets, effective with a large variety of standoff weapons. Once a target has been located on an imaging mode via Thermal Cueing, the laser designator can be used to guide a laser guided bomb towards the reflected laser energy. Thermal Cueing training solutions deployed in simulation normally use, in order to locate hot/white spots on POD images, either synthetic information coming from the Synthetic Environment (SE) or delegate the Thermal Cueing chevron designations to the Visual System. SE uses synthetic information which is a-priori known by the simulation and does not take into account in any respect either the actual POD image nor any physics. On the contrary, the Visual System considers the POD images purely, with a poor, if any, simulation of physical properties of materials in different frequency bands, nor consider in any respect the detection capability of the device itself nor environmental conditions. These two different approaches are the only existing methods capable of guaranteeing basic Thermal Cueing simulation with the time-critical data I/O operations with the rest of the simulator but they dramatically fail in assuring sensor realism to a high degree of fidelity. This paper describes the initial results of Leonardo research using a prototype real-time Thermal Cueing simulation capable of analysing in real-time images coming from sensor cameras (one or more Image Generator channel in any frequency band). It performs the extractions from the input video of the most significant targets according to physical rules (hot/white spots), collapse the candidate points passing the filtering phase into a smaller number of significant clusters and track them among consecutive frames of the video flow. The key point of this research was to tailor complex video processing algorithms into a physical-based simulation software able to run in real-time on commercial hardware. The model guarantees physical realism and allows the direct use of the true POD data package for its Thermal Cueing customization. Results permit to combine high fidelity computation with excellent realism. The fidelity of the resulting software was validated by comparing the simulator Thermal Cueing results with the outputs from military videos. Further research into adjacent fields, such as on real POD test beds in order to early diagnose possible problems and thus drastically reduce the use of expensive test campaigns in operational scenarios. Possible other dual usages of this technology are the monitoring of public events and medical research, using micro cameras to diagnose diseases at an early stage of development.
Paper for Seminar/Symposium/Conference
ITEC 2018 - International Forum for the Military Training, Education and simulation Sectors (15-17 May 2018 Stuttgart, Germany)
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