RMIT University has invested in a new state-of-the-art simulation and test laboratory that will allow researchers to work with the aviation industry to develop and test a wide range of new technologies.
The $200,000 custom-designed simulation laboratory, developed in conjunction with SimRoom, will support research into new communication, navigation, surveillance and avionics systems for manned and unmanned aircraft, as well as decision-support tools and human machine interfaces for air traffic controllers.
The laboratory at the School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering’s Sir Lawrence Wackett Aerospace Centre in Bundoora also features sophisticated eye and head tracking equipment that will allow researchers to study human performance in the monitoring and control of aircraft.
The 230-degree, floor-to-ceiling, high definition visualisation and motion system, provides a realistic experience for test pilots, who, through the push of a button, can fly aircraft ranging from small four-seat planes, commercial passenger aircraft through to modern jet fighters.
Deputy Director of the Wackett Centre, Dr Reece Clothier, has overseen the design and installation of the simulation laboratory and was enthusiastic about its potential to test pilot performance.
“The level of autonomy in cockpit and in air traffic control systems is increasing, and this creates new issues in the human interaction with these systems,” he said.
“Physical, social and cognitive issues – such as user situational awareness, task load, fatigue, boredom, complacency, fixation, trust and mode confusion – can all contribute towards errors in the operation of highly automated aerospace systems.”
Collaborative research is already underway at the lab, with RMIT air traffic management (ATM) expert Associate Professor Roberto Sabatini leading a project with Thales Australia’s Centre for Advanced Studies in ATM (CASIA).
The project is exploring trajectory-based operations – a new approach to aircraft flight planning and operations from airports, with the potential to significantly reduce fuel, noise and delays.
Thales Australia is also working with RMIT researchers on a system allowing unmanned aircraft to talk and respond to air traffic controllers like pilots, and on issues associated with integrating unmanned aircraft into Australian airspace.