Dare to Advance Aviation

Tom “Mach” Schnell


Associate Professor, Industrial Engineering
Director, Operator Performance Laboratory
Director of Project Development and Researcher, Center for Computer-Aided Design
Researcher, Heartland Center for Occupational Health and Safety

College(s): Engineering

If you look up in the skies over Iowa City some sunny day and see an aircraft sporting Hawkeye colors, chances are good it’s Tom “Mach” Schnell (mach schnell is the German phrase for “go fast” or “speed up”), an Associate Professor in Industrial Engineering, conducting research out of the UI’s Operator Performance Lab, which he founded as part of the UI Center for Computer Aided Design. Schnell is a commercial pilot, research test pilot, and flight instructor with helicopter, jet, and glider ratings with 5,700 hours of total flight time in manned aircraft (he also performs at air shows) and about 2900 hours in unmanned aircraft. He specializes in human factors/ergonomics, and his research focuses on sensor fusion systems, pilot spatial orientation capability, assessment of operator performance in flight, airwarfare systems, and surface transportation. His most recent work involves a partnership with Rockwell Collins to study how unmanned aircraft systems—more commonly known as drones—might behave autonomously should they lose radio contact with their operators. He has authored or co-authored 39 peer reviewed journal papers, 90 conference proceedings papers, and more than 30 technical reports. In addition to many research flight sorties, he lead the production of more than 26 live flight demonstrations to large audiences involving a total of around 100 aircraft sorties annually. Related videos.

Banner location: not on display—