The University of Southampton

Southampton academics 'fly' supercomputer

2 December 2008

A new paradigm for flight simulation is being demonstrated by a team of engineers from the University of Southampton this week in Orlando, Florida. They will be 'flying' a supercomputer at the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference 2008.

This groundbreaking, proof-of-concept demonstration represents a leap forward in the fidelity that flight simulators are able to achieve, providing great benefits for flight training and safety.

Dr Kenji Takeda, Senior Lecturer in the School of Engineering Sciences, and co-director of the Microsoft Institute for High Performance Computing based at the University, explains: "The ability to easily link a human-in-the-loop flight simulator with a supercomputer means that we are no longer limited by what a single computer can calculate to solve the mathematics of flight. Previously we had to use simplified models to calculate the physics in real-time. Now we can exploit thousands of processors to use much higher fidelity models to more closely recreate the world experienced by pilots."

The conference demonstration involves modelling the aerodynamic interaction between a helicopter and a moving ship, a challenging situation facing Navy pilots around the world every day when trying to land. It is the first time that computational fluid dynamics has been used to compute the effect of the helicopter on the ship's airwake, and vice-versa, while being piloted in real-time.

Dr Takeda adds: "We are only limited by our imaginations in what we can recreate in a simulator now. This represents a step change in human-in-the-loop vehicle simulation technology, enabling us to use much more realistic mathematical models than ever before."

The concept is described in the paper 'Real-time computational fluid dynamics for flight simulation' which will be presented at at the conference.

The demonstration uses Microsoft ESP and Windows High Performance Computing Server 2008, and was developed with assistance from Silicon Graphics Inc. Visitors can fly the demonstrator on the Microsoft exhibition stand #3718 at I/ITSEC 2008 at the Orange County Convention Centre, Orlando, Florida from 1-4 December 2008.

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