Flying by Feeling: Communicating Flight Envelope Protection through Haptic Feedback

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Modern aircraft can be equipped with a flight envelope protection system: automation which modifies pilot control inputs to ensure that the aircraft remains within the allowable limits. Overruling the pilot inputs may lead to mode confusion, even when visual or auditory feedback is provided to alert pilots. We advocate using active control devices to make the flight envelope protection system tangible to the pilot. This paper presents the main findings of an evaluation of three haptic feedback designs for flight envelope protection. The first concept used both force feedback and vibro-tactile alerts, producing promising, yet inconclusive, results. The second concept used asymmetric vibrations to give directional alerting cues, which did not result in improved performance on initial use, but which did yield improved learning rate for the task. The third system employed force feedback to physically guide the pilot away from flight envelope limits, which yielded safety improvements from the first use, but created dependence: pilot performance degraded immediately after the force feedback was removed. From this, we advise to use asymmetric vibrations during training for flight envelope excursions, to leverage active control interfaces for providing force feedback during operation, and reevaluate a combination of both to combine their advantages for single-pilot operations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)655-665
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Human-Computer Interaction
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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