Reducing Cognitive Burden in the Cockpit: Charles River Analytics Develops Platform to Measure In-Flight Pilot Physiology

Image from GemFIRE Project from Charles River Analytics

Charles River Analytics Inc., developer of intelligent systems solutions, has received funding from the US Navy to design our Physiologically Assessed Ratings of Aircraft Operation and Handling (PHARAOH) platform. PHARAOH uses a sensor suite to measure pilot physiology during live, virtual, and constructed training environments without diverting the pilot’s attention. We teamed with current and qualified pilot subject matter experts from Rickard Consulting Group to unobtrusively integrate and test PHARAOH in modern rotary and fixed-wing platform cockpit settings.

Two US Navy V-22 aircraft operate from the flight deck of the USS Iwo Jima during developmental testing. PHARAOH uses our sensor suite to measure pilot physiology without diverting the pilot’s attention. (Photo credit:

Flight Test Teams rely on handling quality ratings (HQRs) to evaluate new aircraft maneuverability and performance. Currently, a pilot must verbally communicate their perceptions of aircraft handling to an engineer for HQR evaluation. When delivered after the flight test, subjective event recall places cognitive burden on the pilot and can yield unreliable data for the engineer.

“PHAROAH helps engineers assess aircraft for mission readiness with objective data,” said Dr. Aaron Winder, Scientist at Charles River Analytics and Technical Lead on the PHARAOH effort. “We’re using sensors to monitor pilots’ muscle movements and blink rate, as well as the wealth of information we derive from our fNIRS sensor, to reduce the cognitive burden in the cockpit.”

Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) sensors use near-infrared light to measure changes in blood oxygenation, which are related to ongoing brain activity. Charles River and Plux, a biomedical engineering company, jointly announced the launch of a new, miniaturized fNIRS sensor in 2018. The PHARAOH sensor suite includes our wearable fNIRS sensors.

PHARAOH integrates physiological measurements seamlessly into current flight and simulator environments. Engineers will have continuous, quantitative, and objective information on pilots in live, virtual, constructive (LVC) flight scenarios. The result is robust HQR assessments and insight into the experience of pilots through streaming physiological and contextual flight data.

PHARAOH extends Sherlock™, our open and extensible software and hardware platform that lets users rapidly reason about human physiological, neurological, and behavioral states. We will integrate PHARAOH with GeMFIRE, our game-based virtual flight environment that can be tailored to a wide variety of emerging training gaps on multi-air platforms.

We integrated PHARAOH with GeMFIRE, our robust virtual simulation environment. This environment can be configured with realistic displays and controls for multiple platforms.

Contact us to learn more about PHARAOH and our other Cognitive Neuroscience capabilities.

Join Us at I/ITSEC 2019!

Learn more about PHARAOH at the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC 2019)—the world’s largest modeling, simulation, and training event—from Dec. 2-6 in Orlando, FL.

At Charles River Analytics, our deep understanding of adaptive intelligent training and AR/VR solutions results from cutting-edge AI, robotics, and human-machine interface R&D. We create custom solutions for your organization’s toughest challenges—we turn research into results.

Stop by Booth 1239 to demo our adaptive intelligent training and AR/VR solutions or contact us to set up a meeting.

Charles River Analytics conducts leading-edge AI, robotics, and human-machine interface R&D, and leverages that research to create custom solutions for your organization. We have a stellar track record developing successful solutions for Government and commercial clients across a diverse collection of markets—defense, intelligence, medical technology, training, transportation, space, and cyber security. Our customer-centric focus guides us towards problems that matter, while our passion for science and engineering drives us to find impactful, actionable solutions.

This material is based upon work supported by the US Navy under Contract No. N68335-19-C-0860. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the US Navy. NAVAIR Public Release 2019-939. Distribution Statement A – Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited.

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