Optimal reconnaissance and decision support on the high seas

Operation Center of the Future (OPZ)

OPZ for floating platforms

© Fraunhofer FKIE
Simulated view out the window.

It all started in 2011 with the idea of starting from a completely clean slate and drafting the command center of a ship beyond the current boundaries of design. Innovative ideas would be implemented as prototypes, theory would take on a tangible form to touch and test.

The concrete application is the operations center of a combat ship highly exposed to asymmetric threats. When civilian ships, boats or aircraft suddenly turn out to be a hazards because they are controlled by pirates or terrorists, a swift response is essential. Even a diver could be a ticking time bomb. The usual methods for identifying enemy contact used for military assets do not work here.

Humans often recognize the dangers posed by asymmetrical objects faster and more reliably than sensor technology, which is why the operation center of the future (OPZ) will extend the view of the human operator by enabling the user to observe the reality unfolding around the ship despite a lack of windows.

© Fraunhofer FKIE
Model operation center of the future.

Each demonstrator developed at MMS for the German Navy provides another piece of the puzzle for the future vision of an operations center. Yet harmonizing the individual systems with one another and networking them to form a greater whole is only the first step towards OPZ simulation. Since a good system is not just the sum of its individual parts, further consideration is needed.

Additional technical components round out the newly created operations center. The swivel chair with joystick and touchscreen display as well as a circular screen with projectors, plus software for simulating the panoramic view and controlling the swivel chair. The role concept also has to be expanded continuously. After all, there are new roles in the operating center of the future such as »swivel chair operator«, which had yet to be created.

What makes sense for the operations center of a ship can also be useful for other military and civilian command and control centers. The concepts we develop can be applied wherever information converges and has to be displayed and evaluated for humans.

Entering the operating room of the future, the first thing visitors are likely to notice is the large panoramic screen suspended from the ceiling with a 360°panoramic view around the ship projected on it. Water, the horizon, the sky and, depending on the scenario, ships, aircraft or even divers can be seen – just like looking out the windows of a ship's bridge.

The next thing they might notice is the chair in the middle of the room with a touchscreen display and mounted on a rotating platform. If the operator touches an object on the map, the chair is aligned so that the operator can see the selected object on the panorama screen in real time, supplemented by further sensor information.

Additional workstations are arranged in a semicircle around the swivel chair. They are used for operational picture generation, classification, and threat analysis as well as weapon deployment. Tools are also available for reconnaissance and mission planning, firefighting and damage prevention as well as decision support.

© Uwe Bellhäuser
Swivel chair operator with panoramic view and OPZ workstations.
© Fraunhofer FKIE
52-inch touchscreen display with interactive operational picture.
© Fraunhofer FKIE
Tablet for damage assessment in internal combat.