Would you take a flight on a plane whose pilot was wearing a skullcap with wires coming out of it so that he could control the aircraft using just his thoughts? Would you do it if he was sober? Would you do it if YOU were sober?
This idea sounds farfetched, futuristic and somewhat frightening but it’s closer to reality than you might think. Researchers at the Institute for Flight System Dynamics of the Technische Universität München in Munich recently were successful in demonstrating mind-controlled flying using a flight simulator.
Under the direction of Professor Florian Holzapfel, seven volunteers took part in this phase of the EU-funded “Brainflight” project. One volunteer had no piloting experience whatsoever while the others had varying levels of expertise. Each wore a cap with electroencephalography (EEG) electrodes connected to a computer which used an algorithm developed by the Department of Biological Psychology and Neuroergonomics at the Berlin Institute of Technology to translate electrical brain signals into flight control commands. Aerospace engineer Tim Fricke, the project leader, points out that this was not mind reading.
This is pure signal processing.
Whatever it was, the results would have allowed the test subjects to obtain a pilot’s license. They followed target headings and even simulated landing under poor visibility.
The next step is to figure out how to give feedback to the pilot to replace the resistance in steering one would feel when the plane responds to various conditions. Fricke says the goal is to make flying accessible to more people.
With brain control, flying, in itself, could become easier. This would reduce the work load of pilots and thereby increase safety. In addition, pilots would have more freedom of movement to manage other manual tasks in the cockpit.
So what happens in the middle of a mind-controlled flight when the pilot suddenly remembers he left his front door unlocked?