Drone tech advances

It looks like the ultimate new video game: the operator in the comfortable leather chair uses dexterous thumbs on a hand-held console to maneuver an aircraft, with its trajectory displayed on three large flat screens.

But the chair is for a qualified pilot and the landscape on the screen is downtown Baghdad, as defense contractor Raytheon Inc. provides a first look at its new control system for unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.

The company says its Universal Control System, which uses some hardware from the gaming world, will shorten training time and help prevent crashes of expensive unmanned drone aircraft by providing a more interactive experience for the pilot.

While older systems used only a keyboard, single screen and joystick, a key factor for Raytheon was making the system more intuitive - replacing key strokes with a game console - after consulting with experts and discovering that thumbs are the most energy efficient and accurate way to control an aircraft.

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