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.