REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- The Battlefield Highly Immersive Virtual Environment Laboratory, or BHIVE Lab, occupies an area in building 5400 here that's steeped in history.

The high bay in the Advanced Prototyping Engineering and Experimentation-2 Laboratory where the BHIVE Lab is now located originally had a terrain table of northern Alabama on tracks that allowed operators to move it. Seekers were attached to an overhead moveable cradle and the now-aging lighting system allowed engineers to change the environment in the bay from nighttime to daytime and anything in between.

The original virtual environment used to simulate missiles, so it's appropriate that a lab like the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center's BHIVE Lab now occupy this space.

The BHIVE provides customers with an actual and virtual world to view the needs of their projects, said Joseph Creekmore, lead engineer and lab manager, APEX II.

"The BHIVE provides customers with rapid functional engineering to respond to their urgent needs," Creekmore said.

There are about 25 support contractors working in the BHIVE who provide tasks and experimentation support; anything from logistics support to Human Factors Engineering. On a routine basis, two additional government lead engineers run experiments in the BHIVE using one of four of their Engineering Analysis Cockpits, Creekmore said.

"The lab can rapidly engineer simulated software solutions to support the determination of requirements for the PMOs."

The four cockpits used in the BHIVE include Chinook, Blackhawk, Armed Reconnaissance and Apache. One of many customers who use the BHIVE is the Air Warrior Product Office.

"The Air Warrior Product Office provides aviation life support equipment, which is everything worn, consumed or carried by aircrew members assigned to all Army aircraft platforms," Maj. Jay Maher, assistant product manager for Air Warrior/Air Soldier, Air Warrior Product Office, said.

A persistent threat to safe aviation operations is brown-out conditions or any other condition that limits visibility for the pilot and crew.

"The Air Warrior Product Office is evaluating the potential capabilities that reduce cognitive workload and increase the crewmember's ability to operate in degraded visual environments," Maher said.

The BHIVE studies allow the Air Warrior PO to evaluate the results of the experiments and refine projected development efforts in the upcoming engineering and manufacturing development phase, according to Maher.

One of the ways the engineers collect information is through video. There is a camera mounted on the pilot's helmet which tracks and records the eye movement of the crewmember during the experimentation.

This data shows exactly where the crewmember looked during the experimentation, said Ben Schwartz, SAIC, technical data writer and human factors engineer, System Simulation and Development Directorate, AMRDEC.

After each experiment is completed, the data is analyzed by the lab and the human factors engineers collect data from their sources within the experimentation environment.

"Data is reviewed to determine the inside-to-outside ratio for each crewmember and analyzed to provide feedback to answer questions related to the cockpit's design," Schwartz said. "If a crewmember's attention is drawn to a particular instrument display or control longer than it should be then the data will show that."

The information from the crewmembers' experience is also important.

"After each mission in the BHIVE the pilots are given a survey to complete and this data is used to determine whether or not they are aware of the state of the environment," Schwartz said. "This helps the HFE determine if the crew is getting the right information effectively from the cockpit displays."

Finally, each crewmember is asked what they thought about the test, what worked and what didn't work, and any other comments that they would like to make on the test. These answers are invaluable, Schwartz said.

The BHIVE provides a means to conduct experiments in simulated environments which allow project offices to realize change which can lead to saving dollars and ultimately saving Soldiers' lives.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16