Successful integration and the ultimate adoption of 3D Synthetic Vision (SV) systems into the flight environment as a cockpit aid to pilot situational awareness (SA) depends highly on overcoming two primary engineering obstacles: 1) storing on-board terrain databases with sufficient accuracy, resolution and coverage areas; and 2) achieving real-time, deterministic, accurate and artifact-free 3D terrain rendering. These combined elements create a significant, inversely-compatible challenge to deployable SV systems that has not been adequately addressed in the realm of proliferous VisSim terrain-rendering approaches. Safety-critical SV systems for flight-deployed use, ground-control of flight systems such as UAVs and accurate mission rehearsal systems require a solution to these challenges.
This paper describes the TerraMetrics TerraBlocks method of storing wavelet-encoded terrain datasets and a tightly-coupled 3D terrain-block rendering approach. Large-area terrain datasets are encoded using a wavelet transform, producing a hierarchical quadtree, powers-of-2 structure of the original terrain data at numerous levels of detail (LODs). The entire original raster terrain mesh (e.g., DTED) is transformed using either lossless or lossy wavelet transformation and is maintained in an equirectangular projection. The lossless form retains all original terrain mesh data integrity in the flight dataset. A side-effect benefit of terrain data compression is also achieved.
The TerraBlocks run-time 3D terrain-block renderer accesses arbitrary, uniform-sized blocks of terrain data at varying LODs, depending on scene composition, from the wavelet-transformed terrain dataset. Terrain data blocks retain a spatially-filtered depiction of the original mesh data at the retrieved LOD. Terrain data blocks are processed as discrete objects and placed into spherical world space, relative to the viewpoint. Rendering determinacy is achieved through terrain-block LOD management and spherical rendering geometry.
This research was pursued in part under contract to the NASA Langley Research Center, Aviation Safety Program (AvSP). A successful working proof-of-principle demonstration of the TerraBlocks 3D terrain-rendering method has been produced.