ARL’s futuristic dashboard would give air traffic controllers, maintainers, and commanders a clear view of the health, usage, and location of any air, ground or unmanned vehicle in their fleet at anytime, anywhere in the world. (U.S. Army illustration)
By T’Jae Ellis, ARL Public Affairs
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — A futuristic dashboard could change the way Army aviation operates, allowing for autonomous location tracking and updates on the health of an aircraft even at the material level.
U.S. Army Research Laboratory scientists are conceptualizing technologies to deliver a more accurate and real-time view into aircraft operations of the future.
Today’s black boxes capture basic flight operational information and are not for real-time monitoring. However, possibly three decades from now, Army researchers hope to provide automated real-time solutions for aviators to safely complete their missions, according to Dy Le, an ARL division chief who specializes in sciences for maneuver.
“It’s an integrated capability designed to automatically gauge changes in air, ground, and autonomous systems vehicles’ functional state at the material level; assess vehicles’ maneuvering capabilities taken into account of measured functional state in the context of upcoming or even ongoing missions; and enable operators or Soldiers to maneuver accordingly to achieve mission requirements,” Le said.
The system is called VRAMS, or the Virtual Risk-informed Agile Maneuver Sustainment Intelligent State Awareness System.
Total awareness of location and status of all air assets would provide Army commanders with enhanced situational awareness and the decisive edge. But researchers are also aware of the importance of protecting this information.
“This is one of the challenges that we will be working on as we progress through various stages of VRAMS maturation,” Le said. “Data/information assurance to protect aircraft position/identity is one of critical pieces to safeguarding the national aviation infrastructure from real cyber attacks.”
The dashboard framework would depend on technologies that currently do not exist but would help air traffic controllers, maintenance teams and commanders detect real and potential system and component damage of aircraft.
The concept was inspired by Dr. Bill Lewis, U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center Aviation Development director, whose desire was to have fatigue-free aircraft to protect from aircraft catastrophic failures, as well as to reduce operation and sustainment costs.
The project hopes to achieve the Army sustainment goal, for example, zero-maintenance, by containing or eliminating aircraft structural fatigue using the VRAMS Intelligent State Awareness System.