A partnership made in heaven: data from space enables innovative pilot training on the ground
Two years ago, a small and unspectacular business meeting in Sydney seeded a partnership with potential to disrupt the huge global pilot training industry and significantly improve outcomes for flight schools and trainees.
In 2015, when SynFlyt Founder and Director Ross Maclennan had coffee with Peter Kinne, Regional Director of DigitalGlobe, they discovered that they shared a passion for innovative technology and a flexible, win-win approach to doing business.
They also brought together the key elements needed to change the future of pilot training by making premium quality flight simulators accessible to all flight schools, large or small.
‘Until now, flight schools have faced major challenges in providing adequate simulator training to students, namely lack of indoor space and financial resources,’ says Ross. ‘We have removed these barriers by creating the world’s first outdoor, high tech but affordable, Synthetic Flight Training Device with three degrees of motion freedom.
‘SynFlyt offers flight schools zero cost placement and an ongoing commission, with full technical support and maintenance included, so they can offer students the most realistic, cost-effective and convenient simulator training ever.
‘Most flight simulators use computer generated imagery – like you see in video games. Thanks to our partnership with DigitalGlobe, SynFlyt’s Innovation 21TM is the first flight simulator to exclusively use satellite imagery of the Earth, enhanced with correct elevations, to create terrain of superior realism on our seamless, 210-degree screen.’
‘When Ross showed me what SynFlyt was doing, I found it very inspiring,’ says Peter. ‘SynFlyt has cracked the nut of cost-effective, high quality pilot training through brilliant design and a novel, sustainable business model. DigitalGlobe is proud to be helping SynFlyt to reach global markets.
‘With the most sophisticated commercial satellite constellation in orbit, DigitalGlobe creates images of our entire planet with accuracy trusted by industries and governments internationally. We can provide images to 30cm resolution and have greater than 16-year time-lapse image library of the whole Earth.
‘Our satellites collect data from more than three million square kilometers daily. We’re providing SynFlyt with the most up-to-date imagery available.
‘DigitalGlobe is excited about SynFlyt’s potential and we want to enable their worldwide expansion, so we have a flexible partnership arrangement that will scale up as SynFlyt grows. Initially, we are providing SynFlyt with image data for Australia and New Zealand only, but we will increase the territory covered as required, to match SynFlyt’s customers’ needs.
‘DigitalGlobe provides SynFlyt with current, raw data at the highest resolution,’ says Ross. ‘Our proprietary software processes the data to optimise it for our purpose.
‘We preserve the highest resolution images for airports, runways and the adjacent regions, because that’s where it matters – for takeoffs and landings. For efficiency, we use lower definition imagery for more remote, less critical areas that lack essential landmarks – when you’re flying over the Simpson Desert, for example.
‘DigitalGlobe’s extraordinary archive provides access to cloud-free images for the entire globe, which we optimise through precise seasonal adjustments and colour balancing. Then we render it three-dimensional using a separate elevation data set.
‘Our partnership with DigitalGlobe means that in SynFlyt’s Innovation 21TM, pilots will be able to practise on any runway in the world, according to their specific training needs, as determined by their flight school.
‘We can install any light commercial or military cockpit configuration to suit training requirements, including single- and multi-engine light aircraft, single-engine jets and gliders. The cockpit configuration can be adapted or replaced as required,’ Ross explains.
‘SynFlyt’s Innovation 21TM will pitch, roll and yaw while trainees feel the effects of changes in dynamic pressure on the control surfaces through the cockpit controls. In complete safety, users can train in visual or instrument meteorological conditions, generated by SynFlyt’s weather system.
‘As well as having the smallest footprint, SynFlyt’s Innovation 21TM is the only flight simulator that can be located outdoors, for 24/7 access. At their convenience, students can log a large percentage of their required training hours in it, and achieve competency standards across the Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s curriculum,’ says Ross.
‘The pairing of SynFlyt’s innovative technology and business model with DigitalGlobe’s awesome data gives us the power to transform pilot training, making it far more affordable, safe, convenient, immersive and effective.’