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.
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.
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.
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.
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.