Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

Paul A. Blue, PhD


The Advanced Navigation Technology (ANT) Center at the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) is currently exploring ways to develop and advance the employment of autonomous Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) by the Department of Defense for military purposes. The research in this thesis describes the development of a tool that enhances situational awareness and provides synthetic vision in a program called the Aviator Visual Display Simulator (AVDS) during UAV flight. During flight testing, the Situational Awareness and Synthetic Vision Relay Tool (SASVRT) developed provides the test coordinator and pilot, as well as the safety observers, with the most pertinent information regarding operational safety. In addition to improved safety, the enhanced situational awareness provided by SASVRT provides improved operational capabilities. SASVRT provides users with real-time information regarding hard boundaries, interpolated terrain, flight ceilings, and other aerial vehicles present. The hard boundary is a user defined area within which the UAV is to stay at all e.g. as designated by a Safety Review Board (SRB). Pertinent data to this boundary is both distance and time until crossing, and is provided to the user during flight by SASVRT. The interpolated terrain part of SASVRT allows the user to input contours of altitude and based on all present information, interpolates a minimum safe altitude for flight. This information is also relayed to the user during flight. If multiple aerial vehicles are recognized by the autopilot operator interface) SASVRT will relay to the user the distances between a vehicle and any other vehicles present. Finally, in order to provide synthetic vision, SASVR:T relays telemetry data from the aircraft to AVDS, an aircraft simulation program, to provide a real-time visualization of the aircraft's position and attitude relative to a synthetic terrain constructed based on information entered by the user. The visualization can be thought of as the view from a virtual camera that can be placed anywhere relative to the UAV or ground. Furthermore, the virtual camera can be oriented such that it provides a view from the cockpit, providing synthetic vision for the UAV operator, the fidelity of which is limited only by available maps and GPS accuracy. This report and the accompanying SASVRT program, provide a much enhanced methodology for safe operation during UAV flight testing, as well as improved operational capabilities.

AFIT Designator