Iowa State University
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News Service

News Service:

Annette Hacker, director,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777

6-3-05

Contacts:

James Oliver, Virtual Reality Applications Center, (515) 294-2649

Mike Krapfl, News Service, (515) 294-4917

Air Force awards virtual reality center $2.8 million

AMES, Iowa - Swarms of unmanned aerial vehicles are flying over enemy territory. And a single, nonspecialist soldier far from the battlefield is somehow managing to do all the command and control work.

How?

Researchers at Iowa State University's Virtual Reality Applications Center think a virtual reality control room is the answer. With a $2.8 million grant awarded this week by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, they'll be working for the next two years to develop new techniques for operating unmanned aerial vehicles. The vehicles are piloted by remote control. They can carry cameras, communication equipment and weapons systems. And they can be used to fly the most dangerous military missions.

Project researchers -- James Oliver, the director of the Virtual Reality Applications Center and a professor of mechanical engineering; Eliot Winer, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering; Derrick Parkhurst, an assistant professor of psychology and human computer interaction; and teams of students -- will build a virtual environment that mirrors the operations theaters unmanned aerial vehicles fly over. That environment will allow operators to see the vehicles, the surrounding airspace, the terrain as well as information from instruments, cameras, radars and weapons systems.

The project will require substantial upgrades to Iowa State's C6, a virtual reality room that surrounds users with computer-generated images. The upgrades will improve the facility's image resolution, brightness, frame rate capacity, visual effects and movement tracking. The upgrades will be made during the first year of the project.

"It's really exciting," said Oliver, the leader of the Air Force project. "This fuels a tremendous amount of work for us."

A major benefit of the project will be the upgrades to C6. Oliver said there haven't been substantial infrastructure improvements to the facility since it opened in 2000. He said the improvements will benefit every researcher and student who uses C6.

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Quick look

Iowa State University researchers are working to help the Air Force find a better way to control unmanned aerial vehicles. The vehicles are piloted by remote control and can carry cameras, communication equipment and weapons on the most dangerous military flights.

Quote

"It's really exciting. This fuels a tremendous amount of work for us."

James Oliver, director, Virtual Reality Applications Center