Indiana State University (ISU) is collaborating with Corsair Engineering Inc., which created the simulator to teach students in the university’s unmanned systems program. The simulator, which will be integrated into unmanned system courses next fall, was created specifically for college students to learn the basics of operating unmanned vehicles. The ISU simulator is for unmanned aircraft.
“You don’t have to spend time learning how the [specific aircraft] systems work,” said Doug Smith, senior vice president of Corsair Engineering, who helped install the simulator at ISU. “In this case, you’re just learning the core skills associated with UAS operation and employment. It is much more efficient and cost effective.”
Indiana State first contacted the company in August, after seeing another simulator Corsair had initially created for an airplane manufacturer that eventually sold it to the University of North Dakota, Smith said.
Several members of ISU’s aviation technology department then began collaborating with the engineering company, resulting in the simulator known as the Integrated Multi-Mission, Multi-Platform UAS Trainer (IM3PUT). In the simulator, multiple unmanned aircraft can be put into scenarios that simulate different terrains or times of day. The simulator also allows for additional unmanned systems, such as ground and underwater unmanned vehicles, to be added.
“We’re still in the learning mode,” said Jeff Hauser, a brigadier general in the Indiana Air National Guard and ISU’s director of unmanned systems. “But I will tell you, it offers things for the students that we couldn’t simulate any other way.”
Different scenarios can be created to help students learn to use a variety of equipment, such as different sensors to analyze objects or terrain. An infrared sensor would be used on an unmanned vehicle at night, while another kind would be used during the day, Hauser said.
“So different scenarios would use a different type of sensor,” he added, “and that’s where a lot of the training will come in.”
The simulator was initially installed in late-March, and Hauser and Richard Baker, director of the Center for Homeland Security and Crisis Leadership at ISU, have been training to learn more.
“We received it late enough in the semester that we weren’t able to incorporate it into the classwork as much as we wanted to,” Baker said, “but the students have seen it work, they’ve seen how it works, and it’s really raised a level of interest.”
While ISU faculty members are still learning more, Corsair Engineering has been in contact with them to discuss additional elements that can be incorporated into the simulator, Baker said. The engineering company also is developing scenarios.
“We’re a training company, so we’re obviously very interested” in strengthening the collaboration, Corsair’s Smith said. “The (unmanned aircraft system) industry is one of our core areas, and we’d like to continue closely our relationship with ISU. It’s a good team. They have a good vision of where they want to go.”
While many people envision unmanned systems to include drones and military equipment, many additional opportunities for non-military use exist for unmanned systems, Baker and Hauser said. They cited examples in construction and agriculture, such as hyperspectral imaging, which can determine water or chemical content in the ground where crops would be planted.
The Center for Unmanned Systems Outreach and Human Capital Development, which includes the unmanned systems program, was named as part of Unbounded Possibilities, a multi-year, multi-million dollar initiative by Indiana State to address multiple community and societal needs.
More universities have been exploring developing programs in unmanned systems, Baker said. Still, only a few have developed a four-year major, or even a minor, which ISU currently offers. The university plans to have a four-year major available by spring 2013.
One of the reasons the field has been growing in popularity is the multi-disciplinary approach, as unmanned systems incorporates aviation, computer science, criminology, environmental sciences and psychology, among others.
“You name it, there are a lot of disciplines that can get involved in this field,” Baker said, “and it all comes together in how we use these unmanned systems for the extensions of people: arms, legs, ears and sight.”
(Courtesy of ISU Newsroom)