Using Ray Tracing for Helicopter Flight Simulation
Traditional flight simulator image generators are designed for Jet flight: fast, high altitude, very far away from everything. Helicopter flight is very different: slow, low altitude and, especially for EMT and law enforcement pilots, in many situations they have to land wherever the job requires them to, no matter how tight it is. As a consequence image generation for helicopter flight needs flight quality visuals and especially depth through stereo.
For this project we worked with Micoy
, who own a patent on omni-directional stereo for dome projections. Their algorithm was designed for movie production and as such is based on ray tracing
. Ray tracing is generally considered a very computationally expensive image generation method and as such has not been used productively for flight simulation.
We developed a prototype image generator that uses ray tracing on NVIDIA GPUs. The results work fairly well, for typical scenes like the flight strip we can generate 30-40 frames per second. For dynamic scenes like the coast (which has vertex-animated water) or the spheres (which are all animated individually based on physics) the framerate drops to 20-30 frames, which is still pretty impressive. New generations of hardware will help speed this up, and allow us to move to more complex and complete scenarios.
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