Brain-computer-interface technology is moving along by leaps and bounds. In recent years, it has expanded beyond the labratory to fields as diverse as the medical industry and gaming. One of the most recent applications is mind-controlled aviation. Professor Florian Holzapfel and his research team at the Institute for Flight System Dynamics of the Technische Universität München (TUM), Germany, are studying how to make brain-wave controlled flight a possibility. According to the Transport Research and Innovation Panel, earlier studies showed that neuron activity can produce enough information to control electronic devices using only brain-wave signals. The EU funded project, known as “Brainflight,” uses neural signals from a pilot’s brain to allow him or her to control an aircraft while multitasking. A report in Yahoo News describes the preliminary simulations, which involved seven pilots, each wearing a cap fitted with an array of electroencephalography (EEG) electrodes designed to record neural signals from the pilot’s brain. Cables attached to the EEG transmitted the brain signals to a computer programed with a specially developed BCI algorithm. Upon receiving the transmissions, the computer converted them into control command that were conducted wirelessly. By thinking alone, the pilots were able to perform take-offs and landings, as well as maintain a fixed direction. Although project Brainflight is currently testing the functionality of BCI flight control in high fidelity flight simulators, once the team has fine-tuned the parameters, the BCI flight control program will be tested in a real UAV with the aim of applying the process to transport systems in years to come. In an interview with Livescience, Tim Frike, an aerospace engineer at TUM says that once the technology is perfected, such an intuitive mode of flying will be safer and even pilots with little flying experience could take advantage of the new technology. Image credit: A. Heddergott/TU München
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