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NASA and Rockwell Collins to explore Single-Pilot Operation

SPUDRockwell Collins has been selected by NASA as the lead research firm for its Single Pilot Operation programme. The research is exploring concepts and technology for crew capacity, ground support and automation on commercial airlines.

The contract, which is already in effect, will continue through Sept. 30, 2015, with potential follow-on awards for additional research.

“The aviation industry has been looking at the potential for single-pilot operations for quite some time to address concerns about future pilot shortages, but there are a number of technical, certification, and policy considerations that must be addressed along the way,” said John Borghese, vice president, Advanced Technology Centre for Rockwell Collins.  “Social acceptability must also be considered.”

Whether the concept will eventually be implemented depends on a number of factors including political viability and social acceptability as well as technical feasibility. While the researchers aren’t endorsing the idea or devising specific plans for single-pilot operation of large commercial jets, they are analysing changes in technology and operations that could make the concept feasible in the future – even if that means as far off as 2030. The research will explore the idea that co-pilots could remain on the ground, remotely assisting solo aviators on the flight deck during the busiest parts of flights,” added Borghese.

Rockwell Collins and NASA experts are closely working together on the Single Pilot Operation programme, researching crew resource management and physiological monitoring technologies. Rockwell Collins is also conducting cognitive science research with its academic partners on the programme, California State University, Long Beach, and the University of Iowa.

Additionally, Rockwell Collins’ previous research gained during pilot evaluation of crew station workload and advanced decision aids, and the development of Live, Virtual Constructive training with its partners are also being used in this programme.

Borghese added, “NASA research is instrumental in achieving progress toward the end goal of reducing pilot workload in the flight deck.”