Catapulted into the wide blue yonder

Years of intensive training and state of the art computer hardware are often not enough to prepare `rookie’ pilots for the shock of being catapulted off the side of a ship.

Spatial disorientation is a big problem for the US department of defence. It is estimated that every year over $300 million worth of aircraft (and crew) are lost through pilots incorrectly perceiving the aircraft’s altitude, direction and speed.

After researching the variety of different responses to motion-induced stimuli, the Naval Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory (NAMRL) enlisted the help of Florida’s Institute of Human and Machine cognition to design a flight jacket which prevents pilots from becoming disorientated.

Called the Tactile Simulation Awareness System (TSAS), the jacket is designed to complement visual and audio displays by providing information about aircraft attitude through the sense of touch. Lined with pressure actuators, the jacket works on the principle that the human brain is able to process touch instantly and without confusion. So, if the plane pitches to the right; the jacket will exert a force on the right-side of the pilot’s torso.

It is thought also that TSAS will improve the pilot’s situational awareness, enhance their ability to track targets and improve their weapon systems management.