The flight decks of aviation-capable vessels like aircraft carriers bustle with noise and danger–screaming jets, snapping steel cables and powerful tractors and forklifts. Planning and orchestrating this high-octane dance requires precision and accuracy from those responsible for directing deck traffic.
To make the jobs of aircraft handlers easier, the Office of Naval Research’s (ONR) TechSolutions program has sponsored the development of the Deployable Ship Integration Multitouch System—DSIMS, for short.
DSIMS is a mobile software package that features a digital, touchscreen image of a ship’s flight deck or hangar bay, and can be used on a laptop or desktop computer. It enables aircraft handlers to change flight deck configurations anywhere on the ship, plan operations before deployment, and share information digitally with other DSIMS users for improved collaboration.
“This interactive, computerized system is a leap forward for naval aviation,” said ONR Command Master Chief Matt Matteson. “It’s a fairly straightforward technological solution that brings with it tremendous functionality and saves time.”
To track the movements of aircraft and equipment on the flight deck, handlers currently use a tool informally called a “Ouija board”—a waist-high, six-foot-long physical replica of the deck. Located in the ship’s flight deck control center, the board is covered with toy-like plastic models of aircraft, each marked with colored thumbtacks to designate maintenance, fuel or flight status.
The Ouija board’s design has barely changed since World War II. Despite its effectiveness, however, it does have limitations. For example, if aircraft handlers need to plan for upcoming or unexpected scenarios—bad weather or a surprise VIP visit—they must do so while underway, and change the Ouija board back to its original layout after completing the planning session.
By contrast, DSIMS can help plan such situations months before a ship leaves port. When…