The cockpit of the future

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The cockpit of the future

Airliner design is constantly improving. Thanks to autopilot, the role of the pilot is also changing. But what about the cockpit? Foray into the world of cognitive ergonomics.

The transaction confirms CAE's position as a leader in pilot training.

The flight deck is overloaded. Buttons. Joysticks. Dials. In the cockpit there are a lot of them. May be too much. That's why touch screens are making their appearance.

“The screen is mounted on the dashboard, at arm's length from the pilot. When it interacts with the screen, it raises issues because of the vibration of the device. »

—  Philippe Doyon-Poulin, Industrial Engineering, Polytechnique Montréal

Thanks to automation, many flight tasks are performed by the autopilot. Here, you could say that the job is no longer so much to pilot as to manage the mission.

Most of the tasks with which the pilot is confronted are cognitive tasks, therefore decision-making, evaluation of options, anticipation, judgment, specifies Philippe Doyon-Poulin. And clearly, the tools must be adapted to facilitate these cognitive tasks.

We therefore use cognitive ergonomics. It's psychology and engineering combined. We are looking to improve the ergonomics of the cockpit to make operations safer and easier.

In turn, 30 students sit in a simulator. The latter produces vibrations, the same that a pilot is normally confronted with. Students are put through a series of scenarios. We test the efficiency and ease with which they can place orders that are sometimes easy, sometimes complex and at a steady pace.

These parameters are studied on different control tools: a handle (joystick), a rotary knob, a touch screen and a numeric keypad. This way, we can compare them and identify the best performers.

The participant wears special glasses. When he makes an order, these glasses make it possible to study his level of attention. We also observe the reaction speed and the error rate.

“We are very interested in the presentation of information, the interaction and the device to help the decision-making of our pilots. What interests us is how long the participant took to observe a data entry device versus concentrating on the flying task. »

— Philippe Doyon-Poulin

This is only the first step towards setting up a cockpit of the future. The automation won't stop… And how far will it go?

“All manufacturers are looking at how to increase automation to be able to reduce the number of pilots down to a single pilot, with the intention of being able to fly unmanned. »

— Philippe Doyon-Poulin

It remains to be seen whether the passenger will be ready for such an adventure!

< p class="e-p">The report by Danny Lemieux and Christine Campestre is broadcast on the show Découverte on Sundays at 6:30 p.m. on ICI Radio-Canada Télé.

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