Using Your Thoughts To Fly an Airplane?

Researchers show brain-controlled flight is possible.

Mind Flight Simulator TUM

Mind Flight Simulator TUM

** Photo: TU München**

With aviation technology advancing all the time, we're always asking the question: what will they think of next? Well, how about using only your brain to control an aircraft?

Scientists at Technische Universität München and the TU Berlin have put the futuristic idea to the test and successfully demonstrated that brain-controlled flight is feasible — and can be done with surprising accuracy. And, they say, it doesn't take superpowers to do so.

The way it works is through brain waves that are measured using electroencephalography (EEG) electrodes connected to a cap. With a myriad of cables attached to the white cap the pilot wears, it does look like something straight from a science fiction movie. However, researchers from Team PhyPA (Physiological Parameters for Adaptation) of the Technische Universität Berlin have come up with an algorithm that allows the program to convert electrical brain impulses into control commands. Researchers even say the accuracy demonstrated could, in part, fulfill the requirements of a pilot's license.

Seven subjects with different levels of flight experience — including one who didn't have any at all — were put through flight simulator tests. Simply by thinking their commands, they were able to stay on course and some even land in low visibility. According to Tim Fricke, an aerospace engineer who heads the project at TUM, one of the subjects was able to follow eight out of ten target headings with a deviation of only 10 degrees.

"A long-term vision of the project is to make flying accessible to more people," said Fricke. "With brain control, flying, in itself, could become easier. This would reduce the workload of pilots and thereby increase safety. In addition, pilots would have more freedom of movement to manage other manual tasks in the cockpit."

The possibility of such technology gives 'Look, ma, no hands' a whole new meaning.

See the no-hands, thoughts-only flight demonstrated in the video below.

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