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Future Rotorcraft Human Machine Interface

School of Engineering

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Prof M White , Prof I Owen No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

The Flight Science and Technology research group at the University of Liverpool has established itself as a leading academic institute in flight simulation research. This project offers the successful candidate with an exciting opportunity to work with the MoD and industry to influence the design of future rotorcraft cockpit information systems.

Modern avionics and sensor systems offer pilots and crew with a wealth of information related to the mission, operation and handling of their aircraft, and threat identification. In this increasingly information rich data environment there is a significant risk that, without an appropriate review of HMI design needs and requirements, crew might be subjected to cognitive overload resulting in reduced operational effectiveness, poor decision making and potentially leading to loss of airborne assets.

There is a drive to utilise the advantages of autonomous systems to enhance mission effectiveness through manned/unmanned teaming e.g. the US’ A-Team Programme. To maximise the benefit afforded by these autonomous platforms in future operations, new methodologies are required to ensure their rapid integration and exploitation. In the US document “Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap (FY2013-2038)” it was acknowledged that in order to be able to address emerging and future security requirements, a vision for the next 25 years is needed, outlining “actions and technologies for DoD, industry, universities, and others to pursue to achieve the sustained, affordable, rapid integration and application of unmanned systems.”

A human-centric approach to the design, transmission and interpretation of information in the cockpit is needed to reduce crew workload in complex environments, ensuring the transparency of autonomous/teaming operations to maximise operational capability. The proposed research aims to produce simulation tools to facilitate this process. The research will develop a methodology to investigate subjective and objective measures of crew workload/cognitive burden in complex operations and develop HMI guidelines for transmitting essential information to pilots/crew in high workload situations.

The use of modelling and flight simulation in addressing the research challenges will be a key part of the work. Advances in VR and AR technology offer new tools for conducting research and have the potential to change the way training is delivered. Several simulation components will need to be brought together to develop a technology ‘sandpit’ to investigate the identified research topics. This will provide a simulation framework that can be used to investigate information needs. This in turn will inform the development of new HMI guidelines for piloted/unmanned teaming operations and determine which modalities are best suited for conveying complex and remote information to aircrew. Existing and emerging simulation technologies will be examined in this work to produce a capability matrix for use in this project and beyond.

A significant challenge in the project will be the detection and mitigation of crew cognitive overload and reduced situational awareness. This will require the development of simulation fidelity and training metrics and methodologies that are training and operationally focussed. Initial simulation trials will be carried out, using the simulation tools developed in the previous phase of the research, to examine the effect of immersion and fidelity on operational decision-making processes. Additional research is required to identify robust behavioural and physiological markers, e.g. eye blink rate, gaze patterning, pulse rate, that can be used to examine crew workload. Following this, the candidate HMI concepts will be tested in the simulation environment to assess their operational robustness, i.e. the ability to allow the aircrew to maintain situational awareness of their vehicle as well as the teaming assets. The proposed research offers the opportunity to make a step change in the way emerging and future operational requirements are assessed and satisfied. It has the potential of reducing the costs and risks associated with integrating new platforms with existing assets and will enable a more rapid of new technologies.

For any enquiries please contact Professor White on [Email Address Removed]

To apply for this opportunity, please visit:

Funding Notes

This project is a fully funded Studentship for 4 years in total and will provide UK/EU tuition fees and maintenance at the UKRI Doctoral Stipend rate (£15,285 per annum, 2020/21 rate). Funding is provided through EPSRC via an Industrial CASE Award with dstl.
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