Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The University of Iowa College of Engineering’s Operator Performance Laboratory (OPL), in collaboration with Rockwell Collins, recently completed successful testing of a commercial avionics system that may one day lead to safe, unmanned flight over U.S. skies.

The system tested was the Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion, which was previously selected for 17 aircraft, including military, rotary wing, and business jet flight decks. The joint


Collins tests demonstrated its operational use as a ground control station and airborne avionics for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) applications.

OPL Director Thomas (Mach) Schnell noted that the tests once again demonstrate OPL leadership in flight-testing manned and unmanned aircraft systems.

“At OPL, we have worked on unmanned aircraft systems for some time now,” Schnell says “A recent OPL project, called the Skill Appropriate Training Environment (SKATE), is a system for unmanned vehicle operator training and activities using unmanned aircraft for applications ranging from precision agriculture to homeland security.

“The current project is another example of a successful teaming arrangement between OPL and Rockwell Collins to successfully accomplish a difficult goal in a short amount of time,” Schnell says.

The flight demonstration involved controllers on the ground using Rockwell Collins avionics to remotely control an OPL experimental aircraft, which also contained a pilot for safety purposes.

Rockwell Collins officials noted that the successful demonstration paves the way to a certified avionics solution for unmanned systems.

“Our vast experience in certifying avionics for manned vehicles gives us the expertise to apply the same principles to UAS,” says John Borghese, vice president of the Advanced Technology Center at Rockwell Collins, in a company news release. “The purpose of these tests was to show how certified production systems may be used to meet the certification requirements being formulated by the Federal Aviation Administration.”

Company officials also note that OPL and Rockwell Collins have developed a unique operational and development environment over the last 10 years allowing cutting edge UAS research.

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