BAE Systems making the sci-fi cockpit of the future a reality

BAE Systems' Tempest concept model of the 6th generation aircraft. The jet could have cockpit technology currently being researched at BAE Systems
BAE Systems' Tempest concept model of the 6th generation aircraft. The jet could have cockpit technology currently being researched at BAE Systems

The latest hi-tech project being developed by BAE Systems at Warton looks like something straight out of a sci-fi film or computer game.

But that is not surprising since the Future Cockpit Development Facility uses technology straight out of top of the range 3D computer gaming as well as cutting edge ideas such as eye and hand tracking.

The augmented reality display shows such things as the range a missile battery on the ground has  the dome shaped nets  so that pilots can avoid that airspace.'It is projected before the pilot's eyes over the real world view.

The augmented reality display shows such things as the range a missile battery on the ground has the dome shaped nets so that pilots can avoid that airspace.'It is projected before the pilot's eyes over the real world view.

As the demands grow on pilots in next generation jets and in the modern battlefield, so too must the technology in the cockpit develop, to help them cope with the myriad threats and information.

The prototype cockpit features a special chair with two hands on stick-controls, a huge full colour visual display showing the virtual battlefield and a headset similar to those a top of the range gamer might use.

But the BAE Systems Human Factors engineers have also added eye-tracking technology which follows the pilot's pupils.

It allows the pilot to simply look at items in this “augmented reality”, in the air, such as other aircraft, dials and readings in their own jet or features on the ground and “right click to get more information or interact, with either a press of a button.

The digital Striker II helmet

The digital Striker II helmet

With hand tracking too, they can even interact with the images in front of them with just a hand gesture, like in sci-fi movies such as Minority Report.

And eye-tracking real pilots also helps design engineers know which functions are most often used so they can be placed in priority positions for easy use by pilots in the future.

There area also plans to use voice recognition software to to help lighten the load on the men in the cockpit.

Much of the tech will be used in the Striker II digital display helmets, as they evolve, which project the images before the eyes over the real world view.

BAE Systems is using virtual and augmented reality right now to help its engineers and apprentices

BAE Systems is using virtual and augmented reality right now to help its engineers and apprentices

Ed Ridge, Human Factors Engineer at Warton said: “A lot of these ideas come from the gaming industry which many of our young apprentices joining now will recognise.

"The gaming industry has had a massive impact. The pilots in 2035 and beyond will be used to this way of working.

“We are developing ideas for aircraft that will not be in service until 2035 and which could be around into the 2060s and beyond. It is very hard to predict what will be needed that far ahead and obviously a lot of work is needed to get it up to standard.”