IMAGE Perfect: NVIDIA Quadro Brings Stunning Realism to Flight Simulators

by Doug Traill

Early flight simulators maneuvered a closed circuit TV camera above a physical terrain model to mimic flight.

Today’s simulators are complex computer systems that render terrain databases ranging from hundreds to thousands of square miles. Systems such as NASA’s OBVA simulator use multiple 4K projectors to provide a scene with 20/10 visual acuity.

These “virtual reality” training environments let pilots suspend their disbelief so they feel like they’re flying a real aircraft. With the stakes so high in learning to fly commercial planes, the last thing you want is to spoil the illusion.

Yet visual scientists have shown the human eye can detect the slightest imperfection or dropped frame within a scene at ultra-high resolutions. That’s why so many flight simulators rely on professional-grade NVIDIA Quadro GPUs to create a perfectly synchronized image.

Industrial strength: The projector array used to create NASA’s OBVA simulator.
Industrial strength: The projector array used to create NASA’s OBVA simulator.

“Our goal is to make pilots forget they are in a flight simulator,” said Tim Woodard, chief technology officer at Diamond Visionics, a New York-based maker of 3D visualization tools. “With the Quadro M6000, we saw a 100 percent performance improvement over the previous generation, while maintaining a 60Hz frame rate at 4K resolution.”

Image Society’s annual IMAGE event for visual simulation attracts experts from fields such as laser display technology, vision science and display screens. (Of course, they’ll be using NVIDIA GPU technology to drive the visuals.)

At this year’s conference, taking place July 7-8 in Dayton, Ohio,  Shalini Venkataraman, a senior application engineer at NVIDIA, and I will lead a session on how to unlock NVIDIA’s Maxwell GPU architecture to create greater levels of realism.

In a separate session, Diamond Visionic’s Woodard will talk about his  how his company uses NVIDIA OpenGL.

We hope to see you there. In the meantime, learn how you can use NVIDIA’s Scalable Visualization Solutions (SVS) technology for flight simulation, or contact us at