Temporal Fidelity in Flight Simulators

Riccio, G., McMillan, G., and Merriken, M. (1988). Temporal fidelity in flight simulators: A guide for research and development. Wright-Patterson, AFB: Armstrong Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory.

Simulation temporal fidelity is defined as the degree to which the simulator system accurately reproduces the time between operator input and perceptual output response of an actual aircraft. Due to the implementation of the simulation software and hardware, temporal distortions due to the simulator system exist. The total delay of a simulator system is made up of two main components: transport delay (also refered to as transmission lag and pure time delay) and delay due to aircraft dynamics. Transport delay adds a linear phase shift to the frequency response without altering the gain curve. The resulting phase lag results in a less stable system.

Development of any human-controlled system requires a deep understanding of the effects of time delays on stability and performance of the human-system combination. In an adaptive human-system interaction, stability is determined by the ability of the human controller to stabilize the physical system. While individual differences in the human dimension and other idiosyncrasies of a situation introduce moment-to-moment variation in this ability, empirical research can lead to statistical conclusions about factors affecting stabilizability of a physical system by a human controller. In the specific context of flight simulation, such findings provide a deep understanding of the utility of a simulator for training. The associated methodologies enable the quantitative evaluation of transfer of training, and they foster qualitative insights about the very nature of a simulation and the meaning that is made of it by a human controller.

A multifaceted program of research and development was initiated at Wright-Patterson AFB in the 1980s to provide an unprecedented breadth of understanding of flight simulation. In essence, the program de-fragmented thought leadership from many sectors of the industry and across a wide variety of scientific disciplines that had not previously appreciated the potential for cross-fertilization and attendant breakthroughs in science and technology. This required development of an ontology for all aspect of flight simulation that related to perception and action. An early form of this ontology was utilized in the design of a program specifically to address time delays in flight simulators. The ontology also was used to present methodologies and findings in a format that facilitates comparisons across different kinds of investigations and different kinds of simulators. Details of the format were inspired by the Engineering Data Compendium: Human Perception and Performance produced in the 1980s at what is now the Air Force Research Laboratory.

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Gary Riccio

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