US Air Force awards contract for Aptima to evaluate pilot training on eVTOL Aircraft

Apti­ma has been award­ed a con­tract by the US Air Force to deter­mine pilot pro­fi­cien­cies and train­ing needs for eVTOL oper­a­tors using sim­u­la­tors of var­i­ous eVTOL pro­to­types to assess and iden­ti­fy the pilot com­pe­ten­cies need­ed for pro­fi­cient flight, includ­ing how pilots learn and per­form on eVTOL plat­forms with vary­ing lev­els of automa­tion.

Apti­ma train­ing sci­en­tist Saman­tha Emer­son said: “The learn­abil­i­ty study will help us not only under­stand the base­line pilot skills and com­pe­ten­cies need­ed for pro­fi­cient eVTOL flight, but also the impact of automa­tion on pilot per­for­mance.

“Both expe­ri­enced and novice pilots bring unique skills and capa­bil­i­ties based on their expe­ri­ence, so we assess how these dif­fer­ences affect per­for­mance in air­craft with vary­ing lev­els of automa­tion.”

In more auto­mat­ed plat­forms, where pilots most­ly con­trol flight set­tings rather than the air­craft itself, pre­lim­i­nary research sug­gests expe­ri­enced pilots tend to have more dif­fi­cul­ty adjust­ing to automa­tion than novice pilots.

Emer­son con­tin­ued: “This is why we will look to see if expe­ri­enced pilots tend to ‘over­con­trol’ of the air­craft, and even though a more expe­ri­enced pilot may pos­sess greater abil­i­ty in con­trol­ling air­craft, not all those skills may be use­ful or even desired.

“In plat­forms with more automa­tion and aug­men­ta­tion, it may require ‘unlearn­ing’ and re-train­ing of behav­iours to pre­vent inter­fer­ence or con­flict with auto­mat­ed oper­a­tions.”

Apti­ma, a leader in human-machine team­ing and train­ing, will help eval­u­ate how automa­tion affects pilots in dif­fer­ent eVTOLs, which exist­ing skills will be trans­fer­able, and what new skills will require train­ing.

To assess pilot learn­ing and per­for­mance, Apti­ma will use tech­nolo­gies and tech­niques devel­oped with the Air Force Research Lab­o­ra­to­ry over the past 15 years to mea­sure, analyse, under­stand, and opti­mise Air­man per­for­mance.

The Per­for­mance Eval­u­a­tion Train­ing Sys­tem (PETS) har­vests data from sim­u­la­tors to pro­vide objec­tive, sys­tem-based mea­sures, and Aptima’s Spotlite hand­held tool is used by sub­ject mat­ter experts to pro­vide observ­er-based mea­sures of per­for­mance.

In March, the US Air Force award­ed Elec­tra a Small Busi­ness Tech­nol­o­gy Trans­fer con­tract in part­ner­ship with the Mass­a­chu­setts Insti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy (MIT), to advance the devel­op­ment of flight con­trol sys­tems for Electra’s hybrid eSTOL air­craft.

Also in March, two US Air Force pilots flew BETA Tech­nolo­gies’ ALIA eVTOL air­craft in what was claimed to be the first-ever manned demon­stra­tion flight with an Agili­ty Prime part­ner.

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Jason Pritchard

Jason Pritchard is the Editor of eVTOL Insights. He holds a BA from Leicester's De Montfort University and has worked in Journalism and Public Relations for more than a decade. Outside of work, Jason enjoys playing and watching football and golf. He also has a keen interest in Ancient Egypt.

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