Eye-tracking used to improve helicopter safety

Eye-tracking techniques are being used by a UK firm to analyse how helicopter pilots use their instrument panels during flight.

The aim is to maintain safety levels by improving the training and tools provided to offshore crews.

Gretchen Haskins - Eye-tracking used to improve helicopter safety

Gretchen Haskins

HeliOffshore has commissioned Jarvis Bagshaw to carry out the research, which has seen 26 pilots participate in the first phase of observational study.

“We are using techniques to understand more about how pilots monitor cockpit instruments during flight,” said Gretchen Haskins, chief executive officer of the global offshore helicopter association, HeliOffshore.

The research records pilot activity in a simulated flight situation where visibility is such that the crew need to rely on aircraft instruments, rather than outside visual cues.

The pilots enter a simulator and put on eye-tracking glasses. These are connected to a system that combines a camera with an infrared light source that illuminates the eye with bursts of non-harmful infrared light.

“Some light disappears into the pupil and some of it bounces off the iris, cornea, eyelid or surrounding skin. These areas reflect different levels of infrared light, which is picked up by the camera and then analyzed to reveal which instruments are monitored during which periods of flight,” said Francois Lassale, HeliOffshore’s operations director.

The results will be used to improve training and standard operating procedures, and give feedback to the manufacturers about the design of automation and cockpits.

The study is the result of collaboration between a number of the association’s members.

Airbus Helicopters UK has offered time in its Aberdeen-based H225 simulator and pilots from Bond Offshore, Bristow and CHC Helicopter are participating in the study.

Dr. Steve Jarvis, from Jarvis Bagshaw said vulnerabilities in flight path and automation monitoring can occur when other tasks compete for pilots’ attention. “This research is identifying why and when those are likely to happen to inform future initiatives,” said Dr. Jarvis.

The results will be presented at HeliOffshore’s Annual Conference in Prague in May.

See also: Eye Tribe eyes Eye Control

See also: Seeing the future with eye-tracking control


One comment

  1. It’s nice to see that there are still advancements being made to such an incredible machine. I’m excited to see the future of helicopter piloting.

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