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University of Iowa News Release

July 22,2005

Engineering Lab Unveils Navigation System At Air Show July 25-31

The Operator Performance Laboratory (OPL), a program in the University of Iowa College of Engineering Center for Computer Aided Design (CCAD), will unveil its novel portable navigation system for pilots July 25-31 at the largest aviation convention of its kind -- the 2005 Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Airventure Convention in Oshkosh, Wis.

For one week, the annual convention is the focal point of all things aviation from all corners of the world. OPL will exhibit in the NASA pavilion.

Formally known as the Synthetic-Flight-BagTM (SFB), the device is a low-cost portable navigation system that pilots can carry in their aircraft to make flying safer. It provides them with a synthetic image of the surroundings and an advanced pathway-in-the-sky guidance, affording an unprecedented level of situation awareness in low visibility conditions, such as fog or at night. The development of the SFB is the culmination of a multi-year research program funded by NASA under the General Aviation Element in the Synthetic Vision Systems Project of the Aviation Safety and Security Program (AvSSP).

Tom Schnell, associate professor of industrial and mechanical engineering, OPL director and team leader and a commercial pilot himself, says that extensive research, design and consultation went into the design of the SFB system to meet the requirements of general aviation aircraft pilots. He says that the requirements included providing a flight planning tool, information about terrain, obstacles and a flight plan route in the form of a pathway. Other important informational elements include airspace boundaries affording pilots the situation awareness to avoid restricted airspace, such as the airspace around Washington, D.C.

"Providing the situation awareness to avoid such restricted airspace is extremely important, as recent events have clearly demonstrated," Schnell says. "The research also included flight simulator studies to determine the best form factor of the symbologies and the required display characteristics. The research findings were then transformed into a software program and a rugged hardware package that over the last two years became the SFB."

In addition to Schnell, team members include research associates Jason Wenger, Carl Richey, and Mike Keller, and undergraduate students Jim Wagner, Royce Fullerton, Andy Pelzer, Kyle Ellis, and Anand Bhatia. The undergraduate students are also members of the Iowa Space Grant Consortium (ISGC) Base program at OPL.

Over the next six months, the OPL team will test the SFB in flight using the Computerized Airborne Research Platform (CARP), a research aircraft owned by CCAD and operated by OPL.

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

CONTACTS: Media: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009,; Program: Tom Schnell, 319-631-4445