Development process for a remote co-pilot to support single-pilot operation in a next-generation air transportation system

Open Access
Conference Proceedings
Authors: Christian NiermannLars EbrechtJari KülsMarc Sebastian FindeisenThomas Hofmann

Abstract: This paper is one of two complementary papers which describes the development process of a remote co-pilot from the engineer’s point of view. The development process from the designer's point of view is described by Findeisen et al. in the work “User centered design process for a high-risk future aerospace system”.The Next Generation Intelligent Cockpit (NICo) project at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) is conducting a holistic research regarding the opportunities and risks that arise when only one person is left in the cockpit of an airliner. These so-called Single Pilot Operations (SPO) are subject of controversial discussions among researchers, manufacturers, pilots and other stakeholders. NICo's mission is to evaluate SPO in a scientific neutral way and to identify novel technologies for the next generation of aircraft. As part of the project, the research focuses the development of a remote co-pilot. Among other developments, assisting pilots in the air from the ground is an expected key technology. With more comprehensive information, faster data links to other stakeholders, and modern design flexibility in hardware and software, the neutral research free from any bias considers the technical side and the development of human-centered automation.This paper gives an overview of the development process of the conceptual consideration, about the change of the task division in the cockpit up to the design of the user interface for the future remote co-pilot. Due to an ongoing integration of technologies in everyday life and a subsequent migration in all other areas of life, mankind is experiencing a change towards more and more automation. This trend can also be observed in aviation. Manufacturers equip aircraft with increasing levels of automation designed to make flying safer and more efficient. As part of these changes, the question is being raised as to whether the concept of single pilot operation, i.e. the reduction of two pilots in the cockpit to one person, represent the logical next step. In the NICo project, a holistic approach was taken. First, the current state of technology was systematically surveyed. The scope was on "regulation and laws", "operational context", "avionics and technology", "data link technologies" and "human aspects". With this basis, an intensive analysis of the cockpit workplace with all its main and secondary tasks was conducted. The concept of SPO for one aircraft and SPO for multiple aircraft with support of a remote co-pilot will be introduced in this paper.The research results and the resulting concept SPO clearly show that for a possible shift to a single pilot in the cockpit fundamental changes in the division of tasks, as it is common in today's cockpits, have to be discussed. In the classic two-man cockpit, there is a pilot flying and a pilot monitoring. The task assignment of these two roles is clearly defined and has been adapted over time to the conditions in modern aviation. In the SPO concept, the division of tasks cannot be transferred 1:1. Our investigations show that a remote co-pilot cannot take over all the tasks of pilot monitoring. The spatial separation of the pilot in the air and the pilot on the ground prevents instant-direct, in part nonverbal communication. Since a live bidirectional video image between the aircraft and the ground control station is not to be expected even with future radio technologies, other ways of communication and data representation must be found for a common understanding of the situation. The division of tasks explored in the project, which according to current knowledge also form a major challenge for the technology, are reported in this paper and form a fundamental basis for future SPO research work.All these changes make it vital that the design of a remote co-pilot workstation must also be fundamentally redeveloped. In the future, the RCP is expected to play an important part in single pilot operations in the next generation of air transportation. The concept developed in NICo foresees the RCP supporting multiple aircraft simultaneously. This fact and the research results of the work mentioned at the beginning of this paper clearly show that the implementation of a classical cockpit 1:1 on the ground is a dead end for future developments. The next generation must be radically rethought. Together with the Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences and the students of the Industrial Design program, the modern display of flight-relevant information in the ground control station was fundamentally developed. A "minimum viable product approach" was chosen for the further iterations. In several workshops, these were optimized together with aviation experts for the application goal and then implemented in software. This process and initial results are described in detail in the paper. Identified challenges both in the product and in the implementation with pilots are discussed.

Keywords: Single Pilot Operation, Remote Co, Pilot, High, Risk HMI, Remote Aerospace Systems, Development Process, NICo, Next Generation Intelligent Cockpit

DOI: 10.54941/ahfe1003914

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