VR RHIB Trainer

Novatech, University of Portsmouth, and Royal Navy

The Royal Navy's training has gone virtual. In the past, RNR (Royal Navy Reserves) have relied on the right weather and available resources to train their part-time members.

Working within Bohemia Interactive Simulations’ Virtual Battlespace (VBS3), the team was able to model and extract telemetry data to produce a prototype of the RHIB sim based around the Pacific 24.
Paul Hobbs, Head of Marketing, Novatech

These external variables are frustrating because they limit the crucial training required to prepare RNR members for the unpredictable ocean conditions that RHIB (rigid-hulled inflatable boat) coxswains constantly face. Until now.

What started as a conversation at DSET 2018 with the University of Portsmouth, and key members of the Royal Navy at I/ITSEC 2018, around the use of commercially available gaming hardware within training, has developed into a first-of-its-kind affordable and portable motion simulator for the coxswains of tomorrow.

The project, led by students from the RIGPR unit at the University of Portsmouth and Petty Officer Neil Sutton of the Royal Navy, was initially developed on a 2 DoF (Degrees of Freedom) simulator chair, with a gaming style steering wheel, thruster and Oculus Rift headset.

"Working within Bohemia Interactive Simulations’ Virtual Battlespace (VBS3), the team was able to model and extract telemetry data to produce a prototype of the RHIB sim based around the Pacific 24," said Paul Hobbs, Head of Marketing, Novatech.  

Following a trial conducted by a Royal Navy coxswain, the motion simulator was deemed a realistic and efficient training sim alternative. Their professional comments led to the development of changing the simulator from just using pitch + roll to the introduction of heave. With this addition, the team was able to correctly mimic the ocean’s waves that affect a real RHIB.

The final RHIB motion simulator operates using a 3 DoF simulator platform, complete with a replica control console (minus the instrument panel). Trainees are pitted in various training scenarios within a realistic VBS3 VR environment, allowing RNR trainees to train within realistic and uncontrollable environmental conditions that they will be facing on the water.

"Starting with a connection made at DSET 2018, it was apparent that the opportunities offered by the hardware provided by Novatech met some specific interests put forward by the Royal Navy. From a development perspective, working with Novatech has been a very streamlined and positive process for everyone involved. As an introduction to the complexities of working with multiple external partners, it realistically couldn't have been better and has been an excellent first experience for the student developers working directly on the prototype," said Ted Turnbull, Course Leader, Computer Games Enterprise, The University of Portsmouth.

The goal of the project between the University of Portsmouth and the Royal Navy has been to incorporate gaming technology to enhance and evolve existing training processes. This advanced RHIB simulator will explore the use of force feedback in powerboat training and potentially allow RNR and Royal Navy users to gain a stronger sense of the RHIB’s performance in action.

Forget about the pressures of suitable weather or the vast spaces and resources demanded by simulator domes. With the RHIB motion simulator, all that is required to train multiple personnel at a time is the minimal space of a classroom. Cadets and coxswains will now, more than ever before, be able to grasp a strong understanding of the characteristics of their crafts through a virtual training medium, greatly reducing the 'real-world' training hours required.


Tools Used

Customer Profile

With over 32 years of experience in producing custom hardware solutions, ranging from Workstations and Servers, to fully configured and integrated racks, Novatech are helping to de-risk complex projects across a range of sectors, providing career-defining simulation and training IT hardware and integration services.


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Founded in 2001, Bohemia Interactive Simulations (BISim), a wholly-owned subsidiary of BAE Systems, Inc., is a global software company at the forefront of simulation and training solutions for defense and civilian organizations. Globally, many hundreds of thousands of military personnel are trained every year using BISim’s high-fidelity VBS software products. More than 60 NATO and NATO-friendly countries, and over 300 integrators/prime contractors use VBS technology, many making significant funding commitments to extend VBS product capabilities. BISim’s customers include the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, Canadian Armed Forces, French Army, Bundeswehr, Swedish Armed Forces, Australian Defence Force, New Zealand Defence Force and many major system integrators.