Why pilot a plane with your hands and feet when you can do it with your brain? Thought-controlled flight could be arriving soon, according to the EU-funded “BrainFlight” project.
A team of scientists from the Institute for Flight System Dynamics and the Berlin Institute of Technology says it has translated brain impulses into control commands, enabling pilots in a plane simulator to achieve a range of remarkably precise maneuvers without touching the controls or pedals.
Wearing a cap with lots of cables attached, pilots in the simulator were able to land a plane simply by looking at the screen and moving the control stick with their thoughts, correcting the plane’s position repeatedly until it landed.
To achieve the breakthrough, the researchers connected electroencephalography (EEG) electrodes to a cap to measure the pilot’s brain waves. An algorithm created by Berlin Institute of Technology scientists enabled a program to decipher the brain waves and convert them into commands fed into the plane’s control system.
Once it’s perfected, brain-controlled flight could reduce pilot workload and increase safety. Freeing up pilots’ hands would give them freedom of movement to manage other manual tasks in the cockpit.
The German team conducted its experiment using seven test subjects with a range of flight experience, including one who had no experience whatsoever.
The team reported that all seven, flying the plane only with their thoughts, managed to achieve accuracy that would meet some flying license requirements. Astonishingly, even the participants with little or no prior training succeeded in landing the planes.
One participant was able to follow eight out of 10 target headings with only an incredibly small 10-degree deviation. Another was able to land within only a few meters of the runway’s center line.
Some even managed their approach in poor visibility conditions.
Imagine what trained military pilots might be able to do with this technology.