Managing multiple unmanned aerial vehicles from a 3D virtual environment
One hundred and three years ago the aviation age began with the Wright brothers in Kittyhawk, North Carolina. It is well known that manned aviation has made tremendous progress over the decades that followed. Less familiar are the deep history and roots of unmanned aviation, which is often thought of as a recent phenomenon. Initially, modern unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were instruments of war, and the challenge was to develop an unmanned system that could fly a preplanned route and return home. Once this level of autonomy was reached, it became clear that UAVs would have a considerable impact on future conflicts, but the possibilities extend beyond the practice of war and have potential to affect almost everyone's lives. This potential, however, will not be met with current interface technologies, which require a team of operators to control one UAV. New technologies must be created to reverse this ratio. One operator must be able to control multiple UAVs. To accomplish this goal, the operator must be able to manage the UAVs' flight paths and sensor feeds. The operator must also be able to maintain good situational awareness. This dissertation presents a 3D immersive ground control station capable of dynamic real-time path re-planning and in-context target confirmation as one possible solution to these challenges.