Developing a computational model of the pilot's best possible expectation of aircraft state given vestibular and visual cues

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Onur, Can
Pritchett, Amy R.
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Loss of Control (LOC) accidents are a major threat for aviation, and contribute the highest risk for fatalities in all aviation accidents. The major contributor to LOC accidents is pilot spatial disorientation (SD), which accounts for roughly 32% of all LOC accidents. A pilot experiences SD during flight when the pilot's expectation of the aircraft's state deviates from reality. This deviation results from a number of underlying mechanisms, such as distraction, failure to monitor flight instruments, and vestibular illusions. Previous researchers have developed computational models to understand those mechanisms. However, these models are limited in scope as they do not model the pilot's knowledge of the aircraft dynamics. This research proposes a novel model to predict the best-possible-pilot-expectation of the aircraft state given vestibular and visual cues. The proposed model uses a Model-Based Observer (MBO) as the infrastructure needed to establish an “expert pilot”. Expert pilots are known to form an internal model of the operated system through training and experience, which allows the expert to generate better internal expectations of the system states. Pilots' internal expectations are enhanced by the presence of information fed through the pilots̕ sensory systems. Thus, the proposed model integrates pilot's knowledge of the system dynamics (i.e. an aircraft model) with a continuous vestibular sensory model and a discrete visual-sampling sensory model. The computational model serves to investigate the underlying mechanisms of SD during flight and provide a quantitative analysis tool to support flight deck and countermeasure designs.
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