Military Embedded Systems

U.S. Navy flight-deck systems will soon go digital


June 22, 2017

Lisa Daigle

Assistant Managing Editor

Military Embedded Systems

U.S. Navy flight-deck systems will soon go digital
Image: Office of Naval Research

ARLINGTON, Va. The Office of Naval Research (ONR) TechSolutions program has sponsored the development of the Deployable Ship Integration Multitouch System (DSIMS) -- a mobile software package for use on the flight decks of ships including aircraft carriers -- that features a digital touchscreen image of a ship?s flight deck or hangar bay that can be used by ship personnel on a laptop or desktop computer.

The system enables aircraft handlers to change flight-deck configurations anywhere on the ship, perform pre-deployment planning, and collaborate digitally with other DSIMS users for enhanced cooperation.

When mapping out various situations that could occur on the flight deck -- called evolutions -- with the DSIMS touchscreen, users can move around virtual aircraft with their fingertips or a computer mouse to show which aircraft need to be in which location and where crates and other equipment should be positioned. The package also features special screen modules tracking aircraft fueling needs, maintenance requests, and availability for flight. Each evolution can be saved and recalled either during actual operation or used for briefings and training.

At present, handlers on ship flight decks use a tool they call the "Ouija board" to track the movements of aircraft and equipment on the flight deck. The currently used tool is a waist-high, six-foot-long physical replica of the deck that is covered with toy-like plastic models of aircraft, each marked with colored thumbtacks to designate maintenance, fuel, or flight status. The design of this tracking tool has changed little since World War II. Despite its longevity and effective use, however, it does have some limitations: For example, if aircraft handlers need to plan for upcoming or unexpected scenarios -- for instance, inclement weather or a surprise visit by a VIP -- they must do so while underway, and then change the Ouija board back to its original layout after completing the planning session.

Tim Zieser, an engineer at Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Lakehurst, New Jersey, said: “DSIMS allows for planning of future evolutions. It also enables aircraft handling officers to create briefs that can be used to inform the chain of command, and train their people before a complex evolution, so everyone is on the same page.”

Zieser recently demonstrated DSIMS at Lakehurst’s Carrier Analysis Lab for sailors and marines from the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7) before it deployed. Following testing on several ships during 2017, Zieser and his team hope to see the system roll out to the entire fleet in 2018.