BAE Systems has high hopes for virtual cockpit controls

BAE Systems has high hopes for virtual cockpit controls
Fighter pilots are surrounded by an array of instruments and controls – but how can these be updated quickly and easily, as well as adapt to the needs of a particular mission? That’s what BAE System’s virtual cockpit project aims to solve, and now an eye tracking virtual display is in development.

“In terms of future concepts, we are looking at what we are calling a ‘wearable cockpit’,” said lead technologist Jean Page. “Here, you remove many of the physical elements of the cockpit, and replace it with a virtual display, projected through the helmet. Essentially, it’s a software-only cockpit that’s upgradeable, adaptable and reconfigurable.”

Of course with virtual controls you can also make sure the pilot has the correct information at their fingertips. How do you make sure the pilot has access to critical controls? How do you make sure alarms are obvious and easy to react to? Much of the answer lies in eye tracking

The eye tracking technology deployed by BAE Systems allows the system to understand what the pilot is looking at, which could, for example, increase the effectiveness of warning signals so that the pilot is given the right cues and can respond appropriately.

Page said this promotes critical controls and makes them “easier to manage.”

This will offer the pilot the option of looking at a control or gauge to highlight it, and then control the aircraft with gesture rather than physical buttons. 

The intelligent system can, using vision tracking, infer the pilot’s goal and support them to reduce their workload, Page said. “We want to do it in a way that doesn’t always ask for permission, because that would get very annoying very quickly but equally, it is essential that it is always evident to the pilot what task the intelligent system is performing.”

The system was demonstrated at the UK’s 2018 Farnborough International Air Show by BAE Systems Human Factors team in Tempest, a concept model of a future combat aircraft. The concept fighter jet was developed by the UK Ministry of Defence, RAF and industry partners included BAE Systems. 

Most Viewed