Airport Digital Test Bed for Autonomous Vehicles

Allowing physical and virtual entities to be tested simultaneously.

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Digital test-beds can be applied to any sector.

The Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC) wanted to connect advanced robotics within the physical, synthetic and virtual worlds, using a simulation of the Liverpool John Lennon Airport terminal area, to assess the safety and reliability of autonomous systems testing within the highly regulated aerospace industry. The project was to act as a showcase for the work of its Robotics and Autonomous Systems Laboratory (RASL) and Virtual Engineering Systems Laboratory (VESL).

The VEC had to create a virtual test bed which allowed physical and virtual entities to be tested simultaneously on a true-to-life scale, to ensure realistic and effective testing and evaluation. It also had to be capable of testing a range of scenarios, including human interaction with autonomous systems, for example from a pilot or air traffic controller. The aim of the hardware and software in-the-loop testing was to provide a showcase for all the VEC’s capabilities and facilities, including distributed simulations.

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  • Interaction between the virtual and physical entities creates an extremely realistic testing environment, while the almost unlimited variety of scenarios for testing offered by the HLA optimised the reliability of results. High performance computing enabled millions of high-fidelity tests to be swiftly analysed to support the verification and validation process
  • The ability to test millions of scenarios meant the test bed could be used to pinpoint potential danger points on the ground at JLA, as well as other potential hazards as a result of, for example, human activity or adverse weather
  • The test bed based on JLA data could be applied not only to any other airport, but also to any other industrial setting or technical challenge. The HLA also allows for a system to evolve in a distributed, modular and scalable manner
  • The project illustrates both the benefits of distributed simulation and interconnection between physical and virtual environments, and the capabilities of the two VEC laboratories which brought it to fruition

Client opinion

"BAC have collaborated with the Virtual Engineering Centre for over seven years and they have certainly played a part in our successful growth bringing their digital expertise along with access to their wide network of organisations. Our collaboration is a key demonstrator of how effective local industry and the knowledge base, working together, creates impact and a legacy for the region. "

Neill Briggs,
Technical Director
Briggs Automotive Company (BAC)