New ways to train Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams using virtual environments are being developed by researchers at the University of Birmingham’s School of Electronic, Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The new simulation, provided to the Defence Explosives Ordnance Disposal and Munitions Search School (DEMSS) for classroom evaluation, runs on a typical gaming laptop and uses low-cost, freely distributed software. It is based around a typical small town in the UK and features a petrol station, shops, office blocks, a multi-story car park, a railway station, industrial area and a school.

The scenario can be used to guide the trainee through processes such as interacting with witnesses and members of the police, setting up safety cordons and deploying specialised remotely controlled vehicles to deal with the bomb threat.

It is hoped that the new interactive system will support training for those military personnel who are dispatched to deal with any devices that are discovered in homeland settings, complementing ‘hands-on’ experiences with actual EOD equipment. Future developments could extend the training scenarios to include other operational settings, such as Afghanistan, so that the technology could help troops who face bomb threats on a daily basis on the front line.

Professor Bob Stone, lead investigator, said, ‘The system has been designed to help develop threat awareness lessons for new recruits to the bomb disposal fraternity. The disposal instructor teams are under increasing pressure to prepare specialists for a variety of national and international operations, so it is crucial that there is the opportunity to train these personnel with realistic simulator technologies.’

Richard Allen, at the Ministry of Defence’s Counter Terrorism Science and Technology Centre, said, ‘The scenarios that Prof. Stone and his team are developing are incredibly absorbing and have been enthusiastically embraced by the instructors at DEMSS. This technology has massive potential and I’m very keen to explore how we could further use synthetic environments and simulations in the EOD classroom. Simulation won’t replace hands-on experience with complex equipment such as remote controlled vehicles, the guys ultimately have to be confident they are able to do the job for real, but virtual equipment familiarisation and scenario walk-throughs, for example, could offer huge benefits to the delivery of EOD training.

The work has been sponsored by the Ministry of Defence’s Counter Terrorist Science and Technology Centre and Defence Science and Technology Laboratory and has been carried out in close co-operation with Defence Explosives Ordnance Disposal and Munitions Search School personnel.

For further information
Kate Chapple, Press Officer, University of Birmingham, tel 0121 414 2772 or 07789 921164.