The objective of this project is to evaluate Augmented Reality (AR) technologies to expand firefighter training opportunities. AR combines virtual reality with haptic feedback and provides realistic simulations of smoke, fire, water, heat, and fire-extinguishing foams. Air Force Civil Engineering Center (AFCEC) will devise test matrices and protocols that objectively evaluate AR experiences and compare those experiences to live-fire operational training of Department of Defense (DoD) firefighters. If validated, AR will provide training and assessment of standard and non-standard techniques needed for new foam formulations and delivery technologies. AR training can be completed prior to expensive vehicle and equipment upgrades and ahead of any broad implementation changes across the DoD, as a response to the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act which prohibits the use of aqueous film forming foam (AFFF). The approach is directly responsive to WPSON-23-C5 to improve fire testing and training methodologies for new firefighting formulations. The study will leverage data and knowledge collected during live fire tests at AFCEC, specifically data obtained during military specification (MIL-SPEC) MILPRF-24385 testing of new foam formulations. This project will determine how AR may enhance training in operational environments and reduce the environmental impact of live fire training with foam agents, while maintaining or improving firefighter readiness and supporting the broader DoD mission.
The project evaluates AR technology as a training tool for firefighters; supplementing conventional training for emerging equipment, techniques, and new fire suppression agents. AR simulations created using a commercially available AR firefighting system will be compared to data previously obtained from live fire trials to evaluate the “fidelity” of the AR experience. AFCEC has an extensive database of historical live fire test data, obtained during rigorously standardized MIL-SPEC pan fires. The tests used both AFFF and perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)-free foam (PFF) fire suppression agents, those historic data can be leveraged in the approach to establish new AR scenarios that recreate the MIL-SPEC tests. After determination of initial AR fidelity, data and quantifiable outcomes from the database will be incorporated into the AR algorithm to enhance the realism of the experience. The data will include fire burn duration, effects from varying delivery method application flow rates, fire reaction, foam blanket formation/coverage, and fuel and foam movement. The AR experience will then be expanded to include fire scenarios relevant to PFF training, such as larger pan fires (325 ft2) and full-scale pit fires (7500 ft2), and then implemented as a training tool to learn pertinent PFF techniques.
Benefits of this project include the following:
• User Training: Increased safety and decreased costs to the DoD.
• Environmental Stewardship: AR reduces environmental cost and liability of training−decreasing water (and foam) consumption. Implementation will comply with recent Secretary of the Air Force/Installation Energy guidance (August 2019) to protect human health and the environment by mitigating PFAS and reduce future environmental liability to the Air Force; complying with federal, state and DoD policies.