Textiles technology to detect pilot stress levels at Nottingham Trent Uni

14th July 2017

Smart textiles will be used to monitor stress levels in aeroplane pilots as part of a major European research project involving Nottingham Trent University.
The university’s Advanced Textiles Research Group – led by Professor Tilak Dias of the School of Art & Design –will explore how smart textiles embedded in cockpit seats and pilot clothing can measure anxiety.
Indicators of stress including a variable heart rate, perspiration and body temperature will be monitored with a range of sensors which are embedded into the yarns which are used to make clothing and textiles.
As the heart rate is monitored via an electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor system, it will also be possible to monitor fatigue and tell when a pilot is losing alertness.
Professor Dias said: “By using smart textiles we’re able to provide new prognostic and diagnostic techniques for pilot monitoring in a completely non-intrusive way.
“This will enable the collection of data which will indicate the psychological experiences a pilot goes through while navigating a plane, potentially through unknown situations.”
The project – named Active Simulator Cockpit Enhancement (ASCENT) - is part wider research scheme to enhance cockpit simulators which is funded with £1.24m from the European Commission. It is led by SerTec Engineering, Spain, with Paragon SA, Greece, and Nottingham Trent University, UK, as co-investigators.
Nottingham Trent University is responsible for the smart textiles development. Professor Dias will undertake the research with senior lecturer and researcher William Hurley.
Temperature measurement will be achieved with thermistors and resistance temperature detector (RTD) chips being embedded into yarns. A moisture sensing yarn will be developed as part of the research.
Mr Hurley added: “The data collected via the smart textiles technology will be invaluable for the training and development of pilots and help pave the way for new technologies to be integrated into the cockpit quicker.
“By monitoring a pilot’s mental state while testing any new technologies in a simulator, a better understanding can be developed of how these technologies can be integrated into a cockpit.”
Areas to be investigated by the other institutions include eye-tracking technology, a lighting system to emulate the parallel ambient light of the sun, the design of a more user-intuitive cockpit, and more.
David de la Casa, from SerTec, added: “ASCENT is a very ambitious project in which new cutting-edge technologies will be developed.
“Monitoring the pilots and be able to see the levels of stress, both psychological and physiological, that can be induced through different events that can occur during a flight can be valuable information to improve training and reduce the workload of pilots during a real flight.
“The development of this new technologies integrated into ASCENT will be possible thanks to the funding from the European Commission within Clean Sky Program.”
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