September 7, 2021
A cadre of senior Marine Corps aviation leaders visited the Tactical Advancements for the Next Generation (TANG) team at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) on March 17 for an overview of the USMC Future Vertical Lift (FVL) Cockpit Experience project.
Lt. Gen. Mark Wise, the Marine Corps Deputy Commandant for Aviation (DCA), and Brig. Gen. William Swan, the Assistant DCA, were among the visitors briefed on interactive demonstrations of multiple cockpit simulations and early-phase technology prototypes. “If you want my honest feedback," Wise said, when the briefing ended, “I've been here for five hours and I think I have blinked once because of how impressive this work is.”
Lt. Gen. Wise is the principal advisor to the Marine Corps Commandant on all aviation matters. DCA develops, integrates and coordinates plans and policies to manage Marine Corps aviation programs. The vertical lift project kicked off in the fall of 2018 to explore a challenge: create a cockpit experience for aircraft that adapts to future Marine Corps missions and emerging technologies for 2035 and beyond. “This challenge yields tough questions about future technologies, users and missions,” said Emily Mintman, the TANG assistant program manager, from APL’s Air and Missile Defense Sector. “We are in the prototyping phase to deliver a modular, simulated cockpit with integrated technology concepts that inform requirements and demonstrate the value of customization, flexibility and adaptability in a 2035 environment.”
Under the TANG program, managed out of APL’s Force Projection Sector, staff members from multiple Laboratory sectors and departments teamed up with partners like TheIncLab and Cantina to develop mixed reality, haptics, artificial intelligence and flight control prototypes for this future cockpit experience. The team took a human-centered design approach to address pilot needs as well as those of sponsors, maintainers, engineers and aircraft developers.
“We approached this effort using design and systems thinking methodologies to understand user needs, bring diverse perspectives and imagine the future,” Mintman said. “The team continues to explore how modular systems design might enable pilots to experience the cockpit in a new and innovative way and help the system avoid obsolescence.”
The project team will deliver a modular, simulated cockpit to serve as a demonstrator and to test technology concepts with users between now and the system’s implementation.
The Applied Physics Laboratory, a not-for-profit division of The Johns Hopkins University, meets critical national challenges through the innovative application of science and technology. For more information, visit www.jhuapl.edu.