Advantages of the Emulation Approach in Simulation

In case you missed out, this post on emulation is a continuation of the Disadvantages of the Stimulation Approach in Simulation and the Stimulation vs Emulation series.

Due to the significant drawbacks to the stimulation approach, an alternative approach has been widely used in the simulation community.  This simulator approach utilizes an emulation of the aircraft hardware and software to accurately simulate the operation of the aircraft. 

This approach emulates the aircraft software and the various aircraft subsystems, controls, and displays using proven simulation technology. From the perspective of the trainee, there is no perceptible difference in the simulation of the aircraft operation. Therefore, any possible improper training is minimized.

Many advantages to this approach involve the simplification of the software development task versus the many complications associated with flight software which includes operational suitability and aircrew safety.  Relief from these developmental constraints greatly simplifies the software development effort. Also, the associated costs for a suitable simulation of the aircraft for use in the trainer.

Emulation offers several key advantages as outlined below:

1.  Cost

The development costs associated with the emulation of the aircraft software are decreased. This is because software development and configuration management are simplified. The need to procure expensive licensing from the aircraft manufacturer is eliminated. 

The software can be executed using commercially available computing hardware and processes. They greatly reduce the costs associated with the development and support of the trainer.  Changes can also easily be made to the simulated software. The configuration management is not dependent on the development cycles of the aircraft.

2.  Data Restrictions

Since emulation software does not use the aircraft manufacturer’s operational flight program, the significant cost and data restrictions associated with its usage are avoided.

This significantly simplifies the acquisition of the trainer, particularly for international sales. In addition, it avoids the complexity of export licensing classified operational flight program software.

3.  Aircraft Concurrency

Aircraft concurrency is facilitated by the emulation of aircraft software. This is done by decoupling the changes made to the aircraft from the trainer.  Changes can be accomplished concurrently with changes to the aircraft. Thus the trainer remains updated with the latest version of the operational software. 

Oftentimes, any software changes for the trainer can be accomplished in less time than changes in the OV. So, when a new version of the aircraft software is available, the trainer is ready to make the switch.

Since the Apache helicopter is operated internationally, there are several “country-specific” differences in the aircraft software.  These differences include undesired or restricted aircraft capabilities. As well as unique radio/coms configurations and various aircraft survivability equipment and weapon armament.

The software is designed to quickly accommodate any of these unique differences which oftentimes may not be well documented.  This facilitates trainer concurrency where data may be difficult to obtain and can only be attained from the actual aircraft.

4.  Complexity and Life Cycle Support

Life cycle support is simplified since commercial hardware is employed. It can be supported and maintained with widely available resources. Especially compared to specialized training and equipment required for maintenance of operational aircraft components and power equipment. 

In addition, commercially available hardware can be purchased with much greater processing capabilities than the OV.  This additional processing capability is utilized to enhance the fidelity of the simulation. It avoids the complications of hosting operational flight programs on non-aircraft hardware.

5.  Security

Disadvantages associated with security concerns are greatly simplified since no aircraft equipment or software is utilized with the simulation approach.

Our next blog will conclude the Stimulation vs Emulation series with Reverse Engineering Methodology – The Fidelity Issue

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