The start of the New Year has every industry considering future trends and priorities for the next 12 months. Many industry leaders are examining current challenges, opportunities for improvements, and growth trends they expect to see on the horizon. The military training and simulation community is no different, with huge strides being made in the LVC market, particularly in UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) piloting.
To get a better understanding of what the future holds for LVC adoption with regards to UAVs, we spoke with Dr. Tom “Mach” Schnell, a Professor in Industrial Engineering with a specialization in Human Factors/Ergonomics at the University of Iowa. Dr. Schnell explained some of the existing challenges that will likely drive innovation in UAV military training programs, elaborating especially on the bright future for manned-unmanned aircraft teaming.
Here’s what he had to say about 2018 and beyond for LVC:
If you look at where LVC was in the past, it was largely based on fixed-wing aircraft evolutions and all the things you can do with them. I believe that we’re seeing the creation of more content now for rotorcraft LVC integration. This includes helmet-mounted displays, flight integrated visual environments (real or simulated), and manned-unmanned teams, all as they are operating from within rotorcraft platforms. That’s where I think we will see a lot of new activity emerge in 2018 and beyond.
However, funding is always an ongoing challenge. It’s not always even the magnitude of funding; it’s more the timeliness of funding. LVC is a very knowledge-intensive technology and that means you have people that are good at it, that know what’s involved and the continuity of keeping them on that task is critical, in my opinion. That also means there is sustained funding flowing to very targeted, LVC programs of record so that these experts that have been blazing the trail can continue expanding and making this technology real.
Standardization of protocols is also always a challenge, as is testing these connections in a testbed environment. We would like to see more focus put on testing LVC and collaboration with real aircraft on the range or in range-less environments. But definitely I’d like to see more of a migration of technology towards higher TRL (technical readiness levels).
One big trend that I believe very firmly will come into play is manned-unmanned teaming and LVC is ideally suited to address this challenge. Think about a manned aircraft pilot controlling an unmanned aircraft operationally; even to test for this scenario is a big production. You have to get permission to fly the unmanned aircraft; you have to work through contingencies if something goes wrong.
LVC gives you the ability to make this unmanned aircraft a constructive entity. It doesn’t even exist as a physical embodiment of a UAV. You just create it in a semi-automated forces mentality and control its outer loop. In other words, you point it in different directions, but you can actually now simulate the entire pipeline of information as if it was a real UAV.
Then you can gradually migrate to maybe stand-in UAVs, with lower costs, simpler airframes operating in simple environments, and then going more and more towards the real thing. That would lead to the ultimate deployment of manned aircraft controlling unmanned aircraft in large numbers.
LVC, I believe, will be a key ingredient to getting there, and it should be properly incorporated into research roadmaps that allow us to get there. Manned-unmanned teams are going to be critical for the next air war capability. This is something that doesn’t just come for free, we have to develop it, and LVC is a great way to make that happen.
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