Control of electronic devices through brain signals is a recent area, studied mainly to help incapacitated humans, such as patients with “locked-in” syndrome or other types of conditions which blocks the patient’s ability to control electronic devices using conventional control equipment. Several studies have revealed that the activity of neurons is sufficiently capable of providing enough data in order to circumvent this inability by enabling the control of an electronic device using solely signals provided by the brain of a person. Project BRAINFLIGHT proposes the application of this kind of control in the world of aircraft, to enable people to control aircraft using only neural signals emitted from their brain. This kind of approach constitutes a novel concept for the control of these platforms, and was until recently only conceived as science fiction.
The goal of project BRAINFLIGHT is to create a novel approach to aircraft control, and to assess the performance of this concept. This project is mainly focused on investigating what are the best approaches and parameters that allow fast learning to control an aircraft using brain signals, while allowing pilots to multitask. Project BRAINFLIGHT will test an innovative approach for brain control of flight, which takes advantage of the amazing ability that the brain has of learning to use novel tools using operant conditioning. In this approach, brain activity controls the actuator (plane) via an almost arbitrary transformation while the user receives feedback of the airplane behaviour; with time the user learns to master the control of the actuator by learning the transformation. The project will test how the use of this approach, as well as different feedback mechanisms for the pilot (visual and/or tactile), will affect learning and performance compared to conventional control. The project will also test the ability of pilots to multi-task using brain control by performing experiments where integration and interference between multimodal signals are investigated. In addition, if the control described above does not allow control of many degrees of freedom or allow for multitasking, we will test an alternative approach in which pilots will use their neural activity to select particular tactile sensory stimuli in order to control the aircraft.
Finally, after the best approach and parameters are selected, the functionality of this brain control scheme will be tested in a high fidelity simulator as well as in a real life UAV, which will provide the basis for the applicability of this project to future transport systems.