Hydra Systems for Police

HYDRA is an immersive simulation training system that provides learning scenarios focusing on decision making skills. During training candidates will split into groups and will receive information about the relevant tasks via a combination of projected image, computer and printed sheets. Training is not carried out in real time so the scenarios can be stopped and started on request.

A debriefing facility is incorporated for discussion on how teams handled their tasks and allows any decision making subject to be explored.

A Hydra training system gives everyone a chance to experience working with any type of incident, large or small, at any level, within a safe and challenging training environment.

Created in 1998 by Dr. Jonathan Crego for the Metropolitan Police Directorate of Learning Technologies (now NCALT), Nebula Audio Ltd are proud of their involvement and contribution in creating the first operational Hydra System that was to become the prototype for all future systems whether created by Nebula Audio or others.

Since the first implementation, Hydra has evolved into different formats to suit differing levels of requirements as well as to embrace new technology. Whilst Hydra systems are generally tailored to specific needs, the format when used with the Police Service tends to remains the same with:-

There are usually 3, 4 or more Pods. This is where the teams work together on progressing the case or incident. Each pod is supplied complete with a computer, printer and any other maps, stationary and other equipment that is normally required in an incident room. Generally a projector augments the computers monitor is allows both locally generated images as well as images routed from the control room to be displays along with associated audio from wall mounted or ceiling loudspeakers.

Each of the decisions the delegates make is recorded in the control room and to enable this each POD also contains one or two cameras, with associated microphones that are wired back to the control room. This enables the controller to escalate situations and to see what the delegate would do when confronted with the training exercise in the real world.

A Plenary Room in which the teams are brought together at different points during the simulation for meetings, debriefings, and general discussions regarding decisions made and the incident.

In addition to these addition rooms are often added for:-

The facilities required depends upon the scale of the system and if the rooms are to be used for other purposes to maximise the investment on infrastructure.

A common factor in all Hydra system is that the control room should be separated from the other rooms and it should not be necessary to pass the control room to get to the Pods or Plenary room, thus eliminating any chance of hearing or seeing any events planned for during the exercise. Similarly it is also preferable that the plenary room can be reached without passing the pods to limit any observation of how a team are progressing other than under the instructor’s control.

The main Control Room where the system is run from. Facilitators, who are subject matter experts, run the exercise from here where they can see and hear the teams at all times via the CCTV, as well as observe the decisions they make. In addition, each team can communicate with the control room via their computers. This is for the purpose of requesting specific information or issuing instructions to ‘virtual’ staff on their enquiry team.

Additional information is available to public sector bodies who are looking to implement a Hydra or Minerval system, these can be obtained by following the link below.

These notes are intended as a guide to the possible implementation of a Hydra System as provided by Nebula Audio

Whilst ideally the rooms used as Pods will be dedicated to this function, it is often a requirement that the rooms are multipurpose. This will be reflected within the AV infrastructure and the method of control although the Hydra computers should always be dedicated to this function and be augmented with additional computer hardware for non Hydra use.

A common feature of all Pods is the incorporation of a method of splitting the computers video and audio outputs to allow monitoring of these both within the Pod as well as the main control room. Each Pod will also contain a camera and microphone(s) linked to a monitor within the control room for observing the progress of the exercise. Recording facilities are also often incorporated to allow later review of performance.

In the schematics below we show a basic hydra only Pod as well as a multipurpose version.

In the basic Pod, in addition to the computer hardware there is also a projector for easier group viewing. The projector is locally controlled but can be remotely shutdown.

In this example of a multipurpose room, the hydra computers can be either laptops or desktops to allow their disconnection when the system is used for non-hydra purposes.

This final example incorporated full AV facilities to allow the room to be used either as a hydra Pod or a self contained training room with PC & DVD facilities. A touch screen is incorporated to allow menu selection of the room’s usage to provide the users with the correct and appropriate control surface.

Pods, also known as Syndicate Rooms



Computers and Software

Probably the most important aspect of the system. The software is normally provided and supported by ncalt. The computers, printers and peripheral equipment can be supplied by Nebula although it is preferable to use the clients’ usual IT supplier for these to ensure ongoing system compatibility


Each Pod will require a single computer, monitor and printer with the feed to the monitor split to also feed the control room and any local large LCD or projector.

In the control room the main control computer for the Hydra system will be located with this usually requiring a triple screen layout. In some instances this computer is also used for the expert decision making although if space permits a separate dual screen computer is preferable for this function.

All the computers are to be interconnected via a dedicated network that is either completely separate from the building network or on its own dedicated VLAN.

Plenary Room

Being in general larger that the Pods, these typically are multipurpose rooms and require a more comprehensive AV system to maximise the rooms potential and allow its use for non-hydra presentations.

When used as part of the Hydra system it is usual to display the Pods computer on the main screen whilst displaying the camera from the Pod on a separate large format LCD screen. If space prohibits this then a picture-in-picture unit can be used to insert the camera image into the main screens display but care should be taken with its location so as not to obscure an important part of the pod computers image.

For system control the use of a touch screen is highly recommended as this allows room users to select between hydra and non-hydra operation therefore only displaying the controls required as well as allowing controlled access to the monitoring of pods during an exercise. It is of course possible to provide minimal user controls within the room for non hydra use and control all hydra functionality from the main control room.

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