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Oct. 15, 2004

UI Lab Wins $466,000 NASA Grant For Aircraft Vision System

The Operator Performance Laboratory (OPL) in the University of Iowa College of Engineering Center for Computer Aided Design (CCAD) recently received a two-year, $466,032 grant from NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. to develop a low-cost synthetic vision system (SVS) to improve safety for general aviation (GA) pilots.

Project principal investigator Tom Schnell, associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering and OPL director, says that the project will result in an affordable system helping pilots to better see surrounding terrain and potential hazards. He adds that the high cost of existing SVS devices may deter many pilots from purchasing them.

"The idea is not to design a system to compete with existing certificated systems, but to obtain the knowledge to design SVS units that are affordable and through which widespread operational experience and acceptance can be gained. This widespread entry-level exposure to SVS is likely to be beneficial for the providers of already-certificated SVS systems," he says.

Schnell adds that his study will evaluate whether low-cost SVS devices should be operational and integrated with primary flight instrumentation to provide pilots with such benefits as flying precision approaches to lower altitudes, or merely advisory stand-alone units, providing pilots with advisory information only.

"Each concept will result in different requirements for human actors, hardware, software, and integration. This project will provide the knowledge of these requirements to support future certification efforts," he says.

Related OPL research includes a $195,000 study for Rockwell Collins on Spatial Orientation Enhancement Systems (SOES). Research under this grant will investigate ways to use auditory (sound), tactile (touch), and visual signals to give pilots additional cues about the aircraft orientation. The research team believes that the addition of auditory and tactile cues will reduce workload and prevent entry into unusual attitudes during flight with primary reference to instruments.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009,