Munich - Pilots might some day fly their aircraft merely by thinking the commands to the wings and the engines, a new study with seven testers in the German city of Munich suggests.
The seven, with varying levels of practical cockpit experience, including one with none at all, took part in flight simulator tests at the Institute for Flight System Dynamics at Munich University of Technology (TUM).
Electro encephalography electrodes attached to a cap converted their brain waves into command signals with an algorithm developed by scientists from the Berlin University of Technology (TU Berlin).
The subjects touched neither pedals nor levers.
The accuracy with which some of them stayed on course using only their thoughts was sufficient to meet the requirements of a pilot's licence examination, according to TUM.
Several of the subjects even managed landing approaches under poor visibility.
"It's not as if their thoughts are read directly," explained aerospace engineer Tim Fricke, who heads the European Union-funded project, which is codenamed Brainflight.
"Rather, the pilot imagines hand movements (on the joystick) in the experiment. When he doesn't do anything, the airplane ideally continues to fly straight.
"The flight path isn't altered if the pilot thinks of eating, for example, because hunger activates neurons in the brain that have nothing to do with steering, Fricke pointed out.