Several studies have revealed that the activity of neurons is sufficiently capable of providing enough data to enable the control of an electronic device using solely signals provided by the brain.
Project BRAINFLIGHT proposes the application of this kind of control in the world of aircraft, to enable people to control aircraft using only neural signals emitted from their brain. This kind of approach constitutes a novel concept for the control of these platforms.
The goal of project BRAINFLIGHT is to create a novel approach to aircraft control, and to assess the performance of this concept. This project is mainly focused on investigating what are the best approaches that allow fast learning to control an aircraft using brain signals, while allowing pilots to multitask.
Project BRAINFLIGHT will test an innovative approach for brain control of flight, which takes advantage of the amazing ability that the brain has of learning to use novel tools using operant conditioning. The project will test how the use of this approach, as well as different feedback mechanisms for the pilot (visual and/or tactile), will affect learning and performance compared to conventional control.
The project will also test the ability of pilots to multi-task using brain control by performing experiments where integration and interference between multimodal signals are investigated. In addition, if the control described above does not allow control of many degrees of freedom or allow for multitasking, we will test an alternative approach in which pilots will use their neural activity to select particular tactile sensory stimuli in order to control the aircraft.
Finally, after the best approach and parameters are selected, the functionality of this brain control scheme will be tested in a high fidelity simulator as well as in a real life UAV, which will provide the basis for the applicability of this project to future transport systems.
Brain-driven aircraft ─ True or false?
Until recently, the idea of using our brain to control aircraft was relegated to the realms of science fiction. However, EU-funded researchers have demonstrated that this is indeed achievable through the use of a brain-machine interface (BMI).
Under the aegis of the 'Brain controlled aircraft flight using multiple feedback mechanisms' (BRAINFLIGHT) project, researchers worked on developing suitable BMIs for aeronautical application.
The neurons in the brain produce electrical signals that can be converted into commands to control or guide aircraft through active, passive or reactive response.
Researchers successfully defined the requirements, functionalities and interfaces between various subsystems in the system architecture along with appropriate validation scenarios. The five aviation scenarios considered include general, acrobatic and commercial flights as well as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
To ensure safety, preliminary designs for two controllers were completed to enable control through the brain as well as manually.
Scientists adapted the Ground Control System (GCS) obtained from one of the consortium members along with the flight simulator to ensure compatibility with the electroencephalographic system. The electroencephalographic system is used for recording brain signals.
Researchers designed and optimised a tactile suit with a control module and 16 tactors after testing in a flight simulator and successfully improved tactile feedback.
The performance of BRAINFLIGHT system components ─ the BMI, GCS and simulator ─ were successfully validated in a simulator environment. The pilot was trained to use this system and a learning test was conducted. Following this, the BRAINFLIGHT system was field-tested in a UAV with good results. Project outcomes were widely disseminated via scientific papers and widespread media coverage.
BRAINFLIGHT technology is a breakthrough in aviation that will permit people with certain physical disabilities to fly an aircraft after undergoing requisite but less rigorous training.
Using neural signals to control an aircraft by developing 'subconscious' capability would also free the pilot to focus on other important functions and at the same time reduce workload. This would indeed be a boon for pilots in the current scenario of increasing air traffic and aircraft complexity.
- TECHNISCHE UNIVERSITAET MUENCHEN
- GROOTJEN MARC - EAGLESCIENCE
- FUNDACAO D. ANNA SOMMER CHAMPALIMAUD E DR. CARLOS MONTEZ CHAMPALIMAUD