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Multisensory Cueing for Enhancing Orientation Information During Flight

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Albery WB. Multisensory cueing for enhancing orientation information during flight. Aviat Space Environ Med 2007; 78(5, Suppl.): B186–B190.



The U.S. Air Force still regards spatial disorientation (SD) and loss of situational awareness (SA) as major contributing factors in operational Class A aircraft mishaps ($1M in aircraft loss and/or pilot fatality). Air Force Safety Agency data show 71 Class A SD mishaps from 1991–2004 in both fixed and rotary-wing aircraft. These mishaps resulted in 62 fatalities and an aircraft cost of over $2.0B. These losses account for 21% of the USAF’s Class A mishaps during that 14-yr period. Even non-mishap SD events negatively impact aircrew performance and reduce mission effectiveness. A multisensory system has been developed called the Spatial Orientation Retention Device (SORD) to enhance the aircraft attitude information to the pilot. SORD incorporates multisensory aids including helmet mounted symbology and tactile and audio cues. SORD has been prototyped and demonstrated in the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH. The technology has now been transitioned to a Rotary Wing Brownout program. This paper discusses the development of SORD and a potential application, including an augmented cognition application. Unlike automatic ground collision avoidance systems, SORD does not take over the aircraft if a pre-set altitude is broached by the pilot; rather, SORD provides complementary attitude cues to the pilot via the tactile, audio, and visual systems that allow the pilot to continue flying through disorienting conditions.
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Keywords: 3-D audio; spatial disorientation; tactile

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2007

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