Quantification and prediction of pilot workload in the helicopter/ship dynamic interface

Roy Bradley, C. A. Macdonald, Tom Buggy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The evaluation, early in the design cycle, of the limits for operating aircraft from ships in a wide range of sea states and atmospheric conditions has become an important issue for two main reasons. First, the simultaneous entry into service of new helicopter types and new naval platforms has generated an enormous task in the development of appropriate Ship Helicopter Operating Limits for in-service operations. Second, it has become clear that such operational factors need to be addressed at the design stage - which of necessity involves developing a predictive capacity in all of the areas which influence operational capability. These considerations need to take place in the context of technological advances which seek to assist the pilot in operations from ships. Improved radar for ship approaches and enhanced cueing, located around hangars and landing spots, are both areas which are being continually developed in association with upgraded aircraft systems for guidance, control, and stability augmentation. Ultimately, however, the situation comes down to the pilot's assessment of the workload involved in any task and the handling qualities of the vehicle being controlled. For this reason there has been a growing interest in two related areas: (i) the development of metrics to provide a consistent indicator of pilot workload and (ii) the enhancement of existing pilot models to generate authentic control activity in the aircraft/ship dynamic interface. This article describes recent techniques for extracting workload metrics from control activity and indicates the extent to which acceptably accurate workload predictions can be made. Some advances in pilot modelling are also described and examples are given to demonstrate the capability and limitations of currently available methods. Finally, the present state of integration of the two aspects into a robust tool for ship and aircraft system design is discussed. The focus of this article is, of necessity, on helicopter operations because that is where most of the current work has been centred.

Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part G: Journal of Aerospace Engineering
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2005


  • pilot workload
  • naval platforms. dynamic interface
  • helicopter types


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