Future Cockpit Design

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Thales will lead a consortium to develop the future cockpit for fighter aircraft

European research project focuses on the design of cockpits for future military equipment

Defence and security specialists at Thales is currently leading a European project, which aims to meet the challenges of future air combat by identifying, developing and evaluating breakthrough technologies and new human-machine interfaces to be integrated into the cockpits of future fighter aircraft.

Financed by the European Commission through the European Defence Fund to the tune of 75 million euros, the EPIIC (Enhanced Pilot Interfaces & Interactions for fighter Cockpit) project brings together 27 major players from European industry and research.

The technologies that are set to be developed by the group of companies will support pilots by creating an immersive environment to support the mission that they are flying.

Thales is coordinating the project and is focusing its work on two key technologies: helmet-mounted sights and the Crew Monitoring System, which is able to constantly check on the crew’s physiological parameters.

At the heart of future air combat, the EPIIC project aims to rethink human-machine interaction by using the most advanced technologies to create an immersive environment where the machine supports the pilot. The fighter pilot will be able to supervise and operate a set of platforms, with or without crew, in a highly complex and evolving environment.

The need to accelerate the OODA loop – Observe, Orient, Decide, Act – and to act with complete discretion, will lead the pilots to become true strategists, capable of managing the resources at their disposal and of replanning the phases of their mission in flight to ensure its success. The three-year EPIIC project aims to study and develop technological solutions that will improve the strategist pilot’s situational awareness and facilitate rapid decision-making in the most complex situations, while monitoring his or her physiological state.

Thales is at the heart of defence issues in all fields and environments, designing technologies to provide armed forces with superior capabilities, both in terms of platforms and collaborative combat between them.

Helmet Technology

The future helmet sight will have to retain the advantages of previous generations – limited weight, brightness, precision, resistance to ejection – while offering a wider field of vision, superior immersion by day and night, and intuitive display of mission and flight information.
The helmet will also be able to house biological sensors measuring blood oxygenation, heart rate and brain activity, in order to analyse the pilot’s condition and detect problems such as hypoxia, fatigue, stress, etc.

Virtual Assistant

The consortium will also evaluate a virtual assistant solution for the mission commander, taking into account their physiological state, a valuable support in case of cognitive overload, fatigue, stress or tunnelling. New displays such as future free-form curved screens, canopy projection of pilot or mission information, and innovative human-system interactions will also be part of EPIIC’s research topics.

According to Yannick Assouad, Executive Vice President of Avionics at Thales, the company considers it an honour to lead the EPIIC project under the aegis of the European Defence Fund.

“In cooperation with other the major European players in industry and research, we all have the combined ambition to make use of the best of technologies that come available for the future European fighter aircraft cockpit, the strategic vanguard of collaborative combat,” he concludes.

Jonathan Newell
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