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Airways Goes For Virtual

12 July 2004

Airways Goes For Virtual

In a joint release today, Airways New Zealand CEO Ashley Smout and Animation Research Limited Managing Director Ian Taylor announced a multi million dollar collaboration to build a new generation Air Traffic Control Simulator.

“We have been in the market for over a year looking for a replacement air traffic control simulator for our training facility in Christchurch and after an extensive world wide search we were delighted to find what we believe will be a world leading solution virtually at our back door,” said Mr Smout.

“Animation Research Limited has a proven track record in developing highly innovative solutions across a wide range of 3D applications and the prototype which they developed for us demonstrates that they are going to deliver again, this time in the aviation industry.”

After evaluating the initial prototype built by the team at ARL, development teams at Airways, ARL and Pathfinder Technologies (a technology consulting company set up by ex ARL member Chris Hinch) spent almost a year working up a full design specification which they are confident will deliver a simulator that will meet a growing demand for a highly flexible, low maintenance training facility built entirely around standard PC hardware.

“Traditionally, full functioning simulators have been built around proprietary hardware and software that makes the cost of ownership and maintenance prohibitive for all but the highest end users. The ARL solution comes on the back of the work they have been doing for 3D visualisation for television which has demanded a high level of real time performance from standard PCs that are easily maintained, low cost and continue to deliver higher and higher performance, particularly in the area of photorealism.”

ARL’s America’s Cup graphics application is a proven example of how the advances in technology have lowered costs and significantly increased performance, says Ian Taylor.

“In 1999/2000 when the America’s Cup event was first staged in Auckland we were using a computer that was the size of a small fridge and cost $500,000. In 2003, just three years later the hardware we used was the size of a shoe box and cost $3,000. Today we are able to run the entire application on a laptop. The fact that we are not tied to any proprietary hardware solutions means that we are able to take full advantage of the changing technology. We like to say what you see now is the worst it is ever going to look and the most expensive it is ever going to be.”

“Hewlett Packard NZ have been closely involved in the hardware specifications for the project from the outset. For a small company like ours it was important that we found an international hardware provider that was prepared to support us on a project that we intend to take to a global market and the team at HP(NZ) have been fantastic.”

Blair McKenzie, Product Marketing Manager, Workstations, HP New Zealand, says HP New Zealand are delighted to be working with ARL on this innovative project.

“We are very excited to be able to support this project with the leading-edge technology requirements that ARL have, and we are working together to ensure their high performance expectations are met,” said Mr McKenzie.

For Managing Director of ARL, Ian Taylor, the Air Traffic Control Simulator project is the kind of collaboration that was envisaged by the ICT Task Force he was involved in last year.

“The Task Force has set some ambitious goals –100 companies doing a $100 million in export business by 2012 being the main one. One of the ways identified by the Task Force to achieve this goal was the need for much more collaboration by New Zealand companies.”

“Small niche companies like ours will always struggle in the International arena but when you find a New Zealand company that is already in that market place, as Airways is, then your chances of success are much greater.”

“We owe a great deal to the team at Airways for having the faith in us to deliver. By going with us I believe they are sending a signal to other New Zealand companies that says we are not only going to talk the talk about our innovative solutions providers in this country, we are actually going to walk the walk as well,” said Mr Taylor.

The project will be jointly funded by Airways and Animation Research Limited together with investment from Technology New Zealand, the Government’s research and development funding agency. Technology New Zealand is contributing $536,857 to the project through its Technology for Business Growth (TBG) scheme.

Alan Groves, Technology New Zealand Investment Manager, says the collaboration will deliver widespread economic benefits.

“ARL is breaking new ground in the private-public sector interface and the work it is doing across a wide range of sectors is demonstrating that the virtual reality technologies ARL has become famous for, have as much relevance and application in these industries as they do in sport or the creative sector,” said Mr Groves.

Minister of Research, Science and Technology, Pete Hodgson said that he was delighted the collaboration had received TBG support and that the idea was further evidence that Kiwis can do anything, and do it with a global market in mind.


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