BAE Systems is aiming to shape future intuitive technologies for pilots with a “wearable cockpit” design.

“In terms of future concepts, we are looking at what we are calling a ‘wearable cockpit’. 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,” says Jean Page, lead technologist.

Pilots are heading toward congested military domains that will increase data sources and the complexity of assistive technology, according to BAE Systems. Instead of floundering within the information overload, pilots need quick access to critical information.

In order to streamline data access, BAE Systems’ specialist team of Human Factors engineers had to first collaborate with pilots to learn and anticipate the parameters, demands, and challenges of the cockpit. After surveying responses, the team created a device that utilizes eye-tracking technology and gesture recognition.

“In such a world, we need to think about what controls are critical to the pilot and then make them easier to manage. Eye-tracking gives you the option of looking at something to highlight it and then making a gesture to ‘press’ a button, rather than having a series of physical buttons on the aircraft,” says Page.

The team highlights the fact that the eye-tracking technology will be able to pinpoint what the pilot is looking at during particular mission phases. This information can be greatly beneficial, according to BAE Systems, since supportive intelligent structures can use that data to accurately and efficiently assist the task in progress.

“The really clever bit will be that based on where the pilot is looking, we can infer the pilot’s goal and use intelligent systems to support task performance and reduce the pilot’s workload. 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,” adds Page.

The company demonstrated the eye-tracking wearable in the Tempest, a future combat aircraft concept. It was unveiled for the first time at the 2018 Farnborough International Air Show, hosted in the U.K., July 16 to July 22.

(Image Source: BAE Systems)