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UC research to provide tactile tech to the Army

Marcus Butler

16 September 2015: Australian Army pilots will be able to make better-informed decisions while flying helicopters with new assistive technology being created by the University of Canberra with research funding from the Australian Defence Force's Capability and Technology Demonstrator (CTP) Program.

The University of Canberra has welcomed the announcement it will share in $14 million funding for a project to develop new instruments to be used by the pilots of Australian Army helicopters.

The project aims to develop a tactile 'display' that uses the sense of touch to provide critical information to helicopter pilots flying in low visibility environments. The technology delivers a touch sensation at any point around the pilots torso that can indicate the direction of a target, or information related to the aircraft's flight.

The University will collaborate with the Adelaide-based, elmTEK Pty Ltd to produce this next-generation assistive technology which can be used in situations where personnel are facing threats or at times when low visibility could affect their safety.

Lead researcher Dr Braden McGrath said the Tactile Cueing System (TCS) complements existing visual displays and provides necessary information when a pilot's visual and auditory senses are already engaged with the task at hand.

"The TCS has the potential to provide helicopter pilots with accurate information regarding aircraft flight data, such as altitude, velocity, navigation, acceleration, and threat/target location," Dr McGrath said.

"The rapid and instinctive response to touch allows the pilot to make the fastest possible response to a threat or changing environment."