Wednesday, August 10, 2022
University of Iowa Technology Institute

The University of Iowa Operator Performance Lab (OPL) provided flight testing for the capstone demonstration event for DARPA’s Pheme project.

Pheme is intended to create a low-cost, highly accurate air-to-air, air-to-ground, and communication-on-the-move network in which a direct signal transfers data communications between military positions. The project offers important communication security benefits by establishing a reliable and direct signal that is nearly impossible for opposing forces to detect.

Tom Mach Schnell portrait
Schnell

“The Operator Performance Lab team is honored to be involved in so many important projects that benefit the defense of our nation,” said Tom “Mach” Schnell, professor of industrial and systems engineering, OPL director, and chief test pilot. “These significant projects also benefit OPL by attracting top level talent to our lab.”

OPL hosted officials from Collins Aerospace, the project lead; Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA); Raytheon Technologies, the U.S. Army Aberdeen Proving Ground; and other government and private entities at the Iowa City Municipal Airport.

OPL’s two AV L-29 Delfin jets flew in a circular rotation around the airport where a mobile command station was based. Each position had directional radio arrays to relay data transfer.

With more than 20 years in operation, OPL is a go-to flight-testing laboratory for public and private sector partners around the nation to quickly and inexpensively evaluate new technology. OPL is sought after for its ability to problem-solve and respond quickly, its technical expertise, and its array of aircraft.

Based at the Iowa City Airport, OPL has two L-29s, a larger Aero L-39 Albatros jet, two MI-2 Hoplite helicopters, two piston aircraft, a Humvee, and an array of sensors, helmets, and simulator stations.

OPL