Voice controlled aircraft in the works


voice-control-aircraft.jpgVoice control has already appeared on the GPS navigation system front, but now such technology has been successfully tested on a UK Army Air Corps Gazelle helicopter, enabling pilots to control aircraft systems by simply barking out comments. It leads me to think though, what happens in an emergency when there are a few crew members or give conflicting commands to the voice recognition system – or will the system automatically switch to a manual override under such trying circumstances? More about this new voice controlled aircraft system after the jump.

It was realized that pilots spent way too much of their time staring inside the cockpit, and this problem was not helped in any way whatsoever by the complex, multi-function displays that are found in many an aircraft. QinetiQ’s Direct Voice Input (DVI) system uses speech recognition technology in order to facilitate and direct avionics equipment via direct voice control using ordinary aircrew helmet microphones and intercom. Since this system is speaker independent, there is no need to train it beforehand in order to recognize the pilot flying that aircraft, offering unprecedented flexibility to the aircrew without the need to remove their hands from flight controls or being distracted by matters happening outside simply be barking out commands.

QinetiQ’s system can be said to be a much more useful tool for single pilot operations since he or she will be able to handle more with less. According to Tony Wall, Managing Director of QinetiQ’s Air Division , he said, “Voice recognition systems normally struggle with the high noise levels experienced in helicopters and need to be calibrated to recognise the speech patterns of individual users. These recent trials demonstrate that QinetiQ’s DVI technology overcomes both of these shortfalls and enhances aircraft safety by maximizing a pilot’s ‘head out’ time.”

Source: Gizmag

5 reviews or comments

EEJ Says: June 22, 2007 at 7:48 am

Sounds like a good idea in theory, but I have a problem with this statement:

“It was realized that pilots spent way too much of their time staring inside the cockpit, and this problem was not helped in any way whatsoever by the complex, multi-function displays that are found in many an aircraft”

It’s my understanding that all those displays are telling the pilot information, not the other way around, so why would having voice recognition help this problem? Voice recognition is so the pilot can give the plane commands, not so the plane can tell the pilot things….

Edwin Says: June 22, 2007 at 7:55 am

EEJ, those screens sure tell the pilot a whole lot of info, but that means the pilot needs to respond to those information – imagine having both hands performing some controls, and you need to run yet another command, but since you ain’t no Davy Jones with a tentacled beard, at the very least you can execute those commands instantly via voice control. That’s how I see it anyway :) Hope this helps!

Ruslan Says: June 27, 2007 at 7:19 am

In a lot of cockpits, much of the information is buried in nested menus that require the pilot to select numerous buttons to get to the information he needs. Voice allows you to just ask for this information “say fuel state”.

Much of the heads down activity is not to read information it is to enter commands such as radio frequencies selection, weapons targeting, transponder settings. In a fixed wing jet, most of the important information required by a pilot in a military aircraft is available on the heads up display so looking into the cockpit for primary information is not required.

Additionally, flying a helicopter requires you have one hand on the collective and one on the joystick, reaching out to select buttons means taking your hands of the flight controls. Doing this at low level and in bad visibility can be dangerous.

Finally, this is not new technology, it is in the Rafale, the Eurofighter, it is going into the Joint Strike Fighter and it will be on a civil aircraft within 3 years.

Cliff Noble Says: July 1, 2007 at 12:06 pm

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is requiring that all commercial airline pilots (who are from participating ICAO member states) certify in the spoken language they will be communicating in during flight by March 2008. Of course, this is for the benefit of the pilot and the air-trafic controller–especially on approach where they are communicating with each other. The FAA will be managing the tests out of Oklahoma City, based on what I picked up from the International Division of the FAA at the International Aviation Training Sympossium (IATS) conference in Oklahoma city in 2006.

With that in mind, I wonder if the there will be a voice selection feature in the future for civilian aircraft multifunction displays that will offer a voice dependent selection (for the various dialects of English and even for other languages). And I wonder what the cost of this voice-dependent feature will be (could be beneficial for security as well)

Any insights on this?

Ruslan Says: July 2, 2007 at 11:28 am

This is easily achievable. It is even possible to switch acoustic models during flight or even have each pilot in a 2 seat aircraft have their own acoustic model loaded. Additionally, it is possible to have multi language capability in the application. Both of these features are available with today’s technology.

As for the cost, it is primarily driven by FAA DO178B certification. The number of functions and the size of the code drive this cost. A ball park figure would be about US$300K to $500K to develop the software and have it certified but typically this cost is swallowed by the voice system provider and recovered by adding an incremental cost to the license fee for each aircraft.

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