June 15, 1976 - Maritime Reporter and Engineering News

World's Most Sophisticated Maritime Research Simulator

A $12-million computerized marine simulator was unveiled in May at the Maritime Administration's Computer-Aided Operations Research Facility (CAORF) at Kings Point, N.Y., by Robert J. Blackwell, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Maritime Affairs.

Described as the world's most sophisticated maritime research simulator, CAORF is designed to conduct a wide range of experiments to evaluate human factors, shiphandling and navigational standards, bridge layout and equipment and collision-avoidance procedures.

Mr. Blackwell in his remarks advised that, "The research conducted here will enable us to answer questions concerning proposed new ship hull designs, harbor configurations, and operating procedures in a controlled environment without any of the risk and at a fraction of the cost of at-sea testing." In his concluding remarks, he stated: "We are indebted to Sperry Division of Sperry Rand Corporation and to Grumman Data Systems Corporation for the design, construction, and operation of CAORF. Sperry has created a unique hardware system far superior to any marine simulator in the world. Grumman has designed a comprehensive and sophisticated software system incorporating every factor relevant to the planned research, as well as clearly defined objectives for that research." CAORF uses a full-scale bridge mock-up fitted with contemporary bridge controls and computerized equipment to simulate, through sight and sound, a wide range of navigational traffic situations and environmental conditions. The computers can be programmed to provide the ship-handling characteristics of any type of vessel — from small harbor craft to very large crude carriers (VLCCs). The term "own ship" is used to designate the vessel which is operated from the simulated wheelhouse and to differentiate it from other vessels in the operating area.

The view through the bridge windows is a full-color projected image of a port or harbor on a cylindrical screen measuring 60 feet in diameter by 15 feet high, which provides visibility of 240 degrees in azimuth and 24 degrees in elevation. Five projectors mounted above the wheelhouse project the computer-generated simulated image. The shoreline, prominent buildings, bridges, navi- gation buoys, docking areas, and other ships are generated as a life-size panoramic view.

As the ship handler changes course or speed, a central computer alters the visual scene accordingly and immediately adjusts all instrument readings including the radar pictures. The view from the bridge can be adjusted from day to night and from zero to full visibility. The fact that the image display is in color enables running lights of other vessels to be identified in night-time sequences.

The bridge contains steering and propulsion controls and displays, two radar display units, and a wide variety of internal and external communications systems. New or modified equipment can be easily installed for evaluation.

A central data processor (CDP), the heart of the system, responds to steering and propulsion commands from the bridge and controls three other computers. These other computers generate the image on the screen, signals for the radar displays, and situation display data for the experiment controllers.

At the control station an experiment is initiated, monitored, directed, and terminated.

Personnel at this station also direct the courses and speeds of other vessels displayed on the screen and radars. In addition, they can cause any number of machinery malfunctions on "own ship," including loss of steering, which could set up a collision situation.

A "bird's eye" view of the entire operational area is provided by the situation display, which presents a synthetic relativemotion radar display of "own ship," other ships, land masses, and navigational aids.

Up to six controllable moving vessels can be displayed in the visual scene at the same time. This gives CAORF a unique capability not found in any other marine simulator.

At present, the computers are programmed to provide the ship-handling characteristics of an 80,000-dwt tanker operating on the open sea or in New York Harbor between Ambrose Tower and Port Newark. Computer programs can be developed for any other ship type and any other port or area in the world.

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