Warplanes: Cockpits For UAVs

Archives

August 6, 2008: U.S. UAV operators are trying to convince UAV manufacturers that it would be in everyone's interest if the UAV controls were literally based on a fighter aircrafts cockpit. That setup is the result of over 80 years of research and experience. Why try and reinvent the wheel for UAVs. Even non-pilots (who operate many of army and marine UAVs) are familiar with modern fighter cockpits, from playing with flight simulator game software. While these games are basically designed for a computer keyboard, they will also work with joystick accessories you plug into your computer.

Ideally, the UAV operators would like workstations laid out like a cockpit, with the flat panel displays (displaying what the UAV cameras see) placed so as to show what the pilot would see if they looked in a particular direction (assuming the UAV had a camera that showed anything in that direction.) One problem with UAVs is that they don't give the pilot a lot of views, but it saves the pilot seconds if he just looks in the direction the camera is pointing.

Laying out a lot of other instruments and controls, using cockpit conventions, would save lots of time. Modern fighter cockpits put a lot of the workload on a few multi-function displays, some of them using a touch sensitive screen. But these are designed to maximum ease of use. A particular peeve of fighter pilots flying UAVs, is the hassle they have to go through to launch a Hellfire missile. It's a lot quicker in a fighter cockpit. In fact, everything is done a lot more quickly in a fighter cockpit.

The larger UAVs, like the Predator and Reaper, have a sensor operator (who, even in the air force, is not a trained pilot) and that job resembles that of the GIB (Guy In The Back) in two seat fighters. The sensor operator keeps track of what the cameras (and other sensors) pointed to the ground, are picking up. A little better controls layout would help here as well, but not as urgently as some help for pilots.

The video game manufacturers have already seen their game controller technology adapted to operate micro (under 10 pound) UAVs used by the infantry. The UAV manufacturers, and companies that supply cockpit equipment, or play accessories for flight software games, see a sales opportunity, and new gear for larger UAVs is in the works. UAVs are considered a growth market, with ample future opportunities.

 


Article Archive

Warplanes: Current 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 


X

ad
0
20

Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close