Research Topics

  • Artificial intelligence
  • Automated vehicles
  • Autonomous systems
  • Cognitive
  • Command and control
  • Data analytics
  • Flight research - avionics
  • Flight testing
  • Human factors/ergonomics
  • Human simulation
  • Photonics/optical sensors
  • Sensors
  • UAV research
  • Wireless communication

The Operator Performance Laboratory (OPL) is a world-renowned flight test laboratory that conducts research on human-in-the-loop and intelligent autonomous systems to increase efficiency, inter-operability, and safety.

The lab has been in operation for 21 years with 2,400 hours of flight test and 305-plus projects. OPL has 11 instrumented aircraft (six manned, five unmanned) and six flight simulators. Systems of particular interest include flight decks, airborne sensor systems, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems, and automotive user interface systems. 

OPL resources and capabilities include the following:

  • Labs, shops, hangars, tooling, fixtures, instrumentation

  • Current USAF/AFRL Public Aircraft Operations (PAO)

  • Flight Test process for DoDD 5030.61/AWB-340 and GFR

  • Experienced flight testers and human factors professionals

  • Cognitive Assessment Tool Set (CATS)

  • Flying physiological episode assessment sensors: ECG, EEG, GSR, SpO2, respiration, temp, air quality, physiological shirts, eye tracking, etc.

Research Team

Tom Mach Schnell portrait

Tom Schnell, PhD

Associate Director, Iowa Technology Institute
Director, Operator Performance Laboratory
Captain Jim "Max" Gross Chair in Engineering

News

Schnell Mi2

UI military helicopters takeoff to demo tech for Joint Forces officials

Wednesday, January 12, 2022
University of Iowa Technology Institute
University of Iowa Technology Institute has not one but two Mi-2 Hoplite helicopters, and this month both were airborne as part of a live flight test range demonstration incorporating high-powered night vision cameras mounted on the nose of one of the helicopters. 
Picture of the IBBA Luncheon at the OPL

OPL hosts Iowa Business Aviation Association luncheon

Wednesday, December 1, 2021
University of Iowa Technology Institute
The University of Iowa’s Operator Performance Lab hosted aviation professionals from around the state for the Iowa Business Aviation Association’s (IBAA) quarterly luncheon.

Contact the Director

OPL Brochure

Legacy Website

VISIT OPL