Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Using thoughts to control airplanes

Date:
May 27, 2014
Source:
Technische Universitaet Muenchen
Summary:
Pilots of the future could be able to control their aircraft by merely thinking commands. Scientists have now demonstrated the feasibility of flying via brain control -- with astonishing accuracy.

Simulating brain controlled flying at the Institute for Flight System Dynamics.
Credit: A. Heddergott/TU München

The pilot is wearing a white cap with myriad attached cables. His gaze is concentrated on the runway ahead of him. All of a sudden the control stick starts to move, as if by magic. The airplane banks and then approaches straight on towards the runway. The position of the plane is corrected time and again until the landing gear gently touches down. During the entire maneuver the pilot touches neither pedals nor controls.

This is not a scene from a science fiction movie, but rather the rendition of a test at the Institute for Flight System Dynamics of the Technische Universität München (TUM). Scientists working for Professor Florian Holzapfel are researching ways in which brain controlled flight might work in the EU-funded project "Brainflight."

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

Surprising accuracy

The scientists have logged their first breakthrough: They succeeded in demonstrating that brain-controlled flight is indeed possible -- with amazing precision. Seven subjects took part in the flight simulator tests. They had varying levels of flight experience, including one person without any practical cockpit experience whatsoever. The accuracy with which the test subjects stayed on course by merely thinking commands would have sufficed, in part, to fulfill the requirements of a flying license test. "One of the subjects was able to follow eight out of ten target headings with a deviation of only 10 degrees," reports Fricke. Several of the subjects also managed the landing approach under poor visibility. One test pilot even landed within only few meters of the centerline.

The TU München scientists are now focusing in particular on the question of how the requirements for the control system and flight dynamics need to be altered to accommodate the new control method. Normally, pilots feel resistance in steering and must exert significant force when the loads induced on the aircraft become too large. This feedback is missing when using brain control. The researchers are thus looking for alternative methods of feedback to signal when the envelope is pushed too hard, for example.

Electrical potentials are converted into control commands

In order for humans and machines to communicate, brain waves of the pilots are measured using electroencephalography (EEG) electrodes connected to a cap. An algorithm developed by scientists from the Department of Biological Psychology and Neuroergonomics at the Berlin Institute of Technology allows the program to decipher electrical potentials and convert them into useful control commands.

Only the very clearly defined electrical brain impulses required for control are recognized by the brain-computer interface. "This is pure signal processing," emphasizes Fricke. Mind reading is not possible.

The researchers will present their results end of September at the "Deutscher Luft- und Raumfahrtkongress."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Technische Universitaet Muenchen. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Technische Universitaet Muenchen. "Using thoughts to control airplanes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140527101454.htm>.
Technische Universitaet Muenchen. (2014, May 27). Using thoughts to control airplanes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140527101454.htm
Technische Universitaet Muenchen. "Using thoughts to control airplanes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140527101454.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

AP (July 28, 2014) — AP Investigation: As the Obama administration weans the country off dirty fuels, energy companies are ramping-up overseas coal exports at a heavy price. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shipping Crates Get New 'lease' On Life

Shipping Crates Get New 'lease' On Life

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 25, 2014) — Shipping containers have been piling up as America imports more than it exports. Some university students in Washington D.C. are set to get a first-hand lesson in recycling. Their housing is being built using refashioned shipping containers. Lily Jamali reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Europe's Highest Train Turns 80 in French Pyrenees

Europe's Highest Train Turns 80 in French Pyrenees

AFP (July 25, 2014) — Europe's highest train, the little train of Artouste in the French Pyrenees, celebrates its 80th birthday. Duration: 01:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans

TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans

AP (July 24, 2014) — TSA administrator, John Pistole's took part in the Aspen Security Forum 2014, where he answered questions on lifting of the ban on flights into Israel's Tel Aviv airport and whether politics played a role in lifting the ban. (July 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins