Virtual Reality Ensures Safer Flying of Planes and Drones

Steve Adubato goes One-on-One with Nidhal Carla Bouaynaya, PhD, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Rowan University and James Ritchie III, Graduate Student, Rowan University & Electrical Engineer, Federal Aviation Administration, who discuss the ways their teams are using virtual reality to ensure safer flying of planes and drones in the sky.

4/20/18 #2126






"Hi, Steve Adubato at the Virtual Reality Center at Rowan University. We're pleased to be joined by Dr. Nidhal Bouaynaya, who is Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rowan University and James Richie III, a graduate student here at the University, and also Electrical Engineer at the FAA, otherwise known as the...? Federal Aviation Administration. Now if you didn't know that, we were in trouble. Yeah! [laughter] Let's do this. We're gonna be seeing some video in a minute. Doctor, let me ask you, the whole question of airspace safety, what's the connection between us being safe, pilots, and those of us who are flying? Right? With... in an airplane? Or whatever way we're getting around? What is the connection between that and virtual reality? Well virtual reality allows us, actually, to see what goes in a three-dimensional space. What do you mean, three-dimensional space? Explain that. That's the space where we live in. Okay. We live in a 3D space. Actually, if you count time, then we are living in a 4D space. Okay. [laughter] So... Three, now four, with time? Yeah. So it's basically given us the ability, in this sense, to visualize things much better. So James, let me ask you, from an FAA perspective, why is this important to the average person watching on whatever platform you're watching us on? Why is it so important for all of us? So we want to maintain the safest airspace in the world, and safety is our number one priority. So using virtual reality, we can understand some of the complexities that are going on in our airspace system. We can see different things that you normally wouldn't see just by looking at the raw data itself. And so let's do this. Can we go right to some video? Yeah. Jen, can we do this? Let's take a look. As we look at the video... it's behind you right now. Yeah. Break this down for us, if you care, James. What are we looking at? So right now we're looking at an output of a system that we have been working on, and it is... it generates the trajectory, or the path, that the aircraft is going to fly in for us. By the way, before you go any further, my understanding is this is a video simulation of an Airbus 380 and a Boeing 737? Yes. Yes. Go ahead, keep talking. So what we're trying to do in the simulation is we're trying to create two trajectories in which the aircraft will actually lose legal separation between each other. By the way that's a little jargony. Yeah. What does that mean? So aircraft have to be away from each other by a certain distance to remain safe in the air space system. That's two and a half nautical miles horizontally, and a thousand feet vertically. So as long as they're not that close or closer, we want them further away than that, then that's perfect. But how does this help us do, doctor, what hadn't been done before this? And what information are we looking at right now, where we say, "Wow, that's more accurate or more relevant or more useful than..."