Aircraft

Flying a plane with your mind comes closer to reality

Flying a plane with your mind ...
The technology has been tested in a flight simulator
The technology has been tested in a flight simulator
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The technology has been tested in a flight simulator
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The technology has been tested in a flight simulator
Control is by means of a cap that picks up brain impulses
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Control is by means of a cap that picks up brain impulses
The brain impulses are run through an algorithm to separate the control commands
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The brain impulses are run through an algorithm to separate the control commands
The technology allows pilots to control an aircraft with their mind
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The technology allows pilots to control an aircraft with their mind

Flying is most definitely a hands-on (and feet-on) job, but it may not always be that way. Turning science fiction into fact, researchers at the Institute for Flight System Dynamics of the Technische Universität München (TUM) and the TU Berlin are developing a way for pilots to control aircraft with their minds alone. According to the team, they have not only demonstrated that it’s possible, but that it can be done with a surprising degree of accuracy.

Though the idea of a mind-controlled airplane seems a bit magical, it’s actually based on “pure signal processing.” Part of the EU-funded project "Brainflight," the technology involves the pilot wearing a cap fitted with electroencephalography (EEG) electrodes. These pick up electrical impulses from the pilot’s brain, which are analyzed by an algorithm developed by TU Berlin, which in turn passes on only those brain impulses specifically defined as piloting commands.

Of course, the technology hasn't been tested on real planes (so there’s no need to look nervously at the sky), but in a flight simulator. Seven subjects with different levels of flight experience, including a complete novice, took part and the results were surprising even to the team. The subjects controlled the simulated aircraft with such precision that it would have fulfilled part of the requirements for a flying license. One person kept the simulated aircraft within 10 degrees of a heading 8 out of 10 times, and others landed in poor visibility with remarkable precision without ever touching the controls.

The brain impulses are run through an algorithm to separate the control commands
The brain impulses are run through an algorithm to separate the control commands

According to the team, the technology still has a long way to go before it can take to the air. For one thing, it lacks the physical feedback that is an important part in telling a pilot if the aircraft is pushing the envelope as the loads become too great. The team is therefore working on some alternative form of feedback.

"A long-term vision of the project is to make flying accessible to more people," says aerospace engineer and TUM project leader Tim Fricke. "With brain control, flying, in itself, could become easier. This would reduce the workload of pilots and thereby increase safety. In addition, pilots would have more freedom of movement to manage other manual tasks in the cockpit."

Source: TUM

6 comments
Stuart Wilshaw
So it's been tested in a simulator has it? Let's keep it there; then it's even safer!
Slowburn
Let give the tech a couple decades of controlling prosthetic limbs and bypassing damaged nerves first.
ezeflyer
Congratulations to IFSD for this promising advance.
Bob Ehresman
This sounds like a magnifying lens for Target Fixation....
Griffin
DEFINITELY gives new meaning to the term "COMPUTER CRASH !"
Mark Lee
Where can I get a hat like that? It fits perfectly with the book I am writing.