NATO group eyes UAVs for virtual prototyping

SILVER SPRING, Md. - Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are on the short list of weapon systems to which members of a NATO-sponsored research group would like to apply new techniques in virtual prototyping.

Dec 1st, 1998

By John Rhea

SILVER SPRING, Md. - Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are on the short list of weapon systems to which members of a NATO-sponsored research group would like to apply new techniques in virtual prototyping.

This approach would be an attempt to optimize designs, says David "Bart" Bartlett, manager of modeling and simulation in the Chantilly, Va., office of Silicon Graphics Inc., which is headquartered in Mountain View, Calif.

One problem with UAVs is they can put their human support personnel at risk. One example is shipboard operations, where crews must perform dangerous tasks in launching and recovering the vehicles at sea. Virtual prototyping, which uses computer-based simulations to define equipment configurations and the operational procedures, can contribute to safety in addition to its established benefits of cost and time savings, Bartlett notes.

The research unit, known as the Specialist Team on Simulation-Based Design and Virtual Prototyping (ST-SBDVP), is evaluating a broad range of shipboard and aircraft programs as candidates for virtual prototyping. Team members are expected to choose three or four programs to apply new techniques to by the end of 1999.

The 13-nation group began with a September 1997 workshop in Germany, with a followup meeting last October at the Silicon Graphics office in Silver Spring, Md. About 60 government and military personnel and representatives from about 15 U.S. companies participated.

Bartlett, who is the Silicon Graphics representative, says he expects simulation-based development to evolve beyond its traditional base in training and analysis. He cites the Boeing experience in developing the 777 jetliner as a major step in computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing. "The next big leap will be to combined arms and joint and coalition operations," he states.

Bartlett also warns that this technology is widespread and that even commercial computer war games are sufficiently realistic to enable hostile forces to make accurate assessments of the capability of advanced U.S. aircraft. "The commercial side has really picked this up," he comments.

ST-SBDVP is part of the NATO Naval Armaments Group, NG6, and includes non-NATO countries among its members: Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, and United States.

The purpose is to coordinate threat identification, asses s available technology, and try to determine the extent of NATO, government, and industry involvement.

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