12.11.14

3D audio boosts safety in the skies

AUTHOR: Inavate

Safety could be improved when flying if a sophisticated audio concept is deployed in control towers and cockpits, according to scientists at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). The Laboratory reports that it is using three-dimensional (3D) sound cues to help air traffic controllers monitor aircraft and help pilots fly straight and level by tackling a lack of natural audio cues when wearing headphones.

AFRL says that communications in aviation environments usually deliver flat, one-dimensional sound with no indication of direction or distance.

Three-dimensional audio can give the perception that sounds are coming from varying directions and distances through stereo headphones.

The system is also described as “dynamic”; if a listener hears a sound from the right and turns his head toward the sound, the sound then appears to be in front of the listener.

Douglas S. Brungart, Ph.D., technical advisor for AFRL's Human Effectiveness Directorate, Warfighter Interface Division, Battlespace Acoustics Branch, says that when multiple people are talking the system can help improve speech intelligibility by spatially separating the sources.

For air traffic control applications different radio transmissions would appear to come form different places so it is easier to distinguish between them. AFRL also reports that is has developed an “artificial audio horizon” for pilots to help then understand the position of the aircraft.