Stunt pilots race virtual counterparts


London : Stunt pilots raced against virtual opponents for the first time – in a contest combining the real and the virtual at 400 kmph.

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Using technology developed, in part, by a University of Nottingham spin-out company, an air-race in the skies above Spain saw two stunt pilots battle it out with a virtual plane which they watched on screens in their cockpits.

They were able to merge the virtual with the real world, using a combination of satellite navigation technology (GPS, or global positioning system) and inertial navigation system technology (INS).

The virtual aircraft was piloted by a computer-gamer who never left the ground, but could likewise see the relative location of the real airplanes on his own computer screens as the trio swooped around each other during the Sky Challenge race.

The result of the Sky Challenge was a narrow victory for one of the real pilots – but he was only 1.5 seconds ahead of his virtual rival, according to a release of Nottingham University.

The event could pave the way for massive online competitions, and also demonstrates the power and scope of the very latest in GPS and related systems.

The technology that made it possible was supplied by the Geospatial Research Centre (GRC), a joint venture between The University of Nottingham, the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and Canterbury Development Corporation.

David Park, chief executive officer of GRC, said: “We’ve been involved with the development of Sky Challenge since July 2007. Our role has been to develop a technology solution that can provide the position and orientation of each of the real aircraft, in real time.”