View Full Version : Come with us Captain, you're too stressed to fly....

Ron & Edna Johns
24th Jul 2005, 22:29
Not content with security checks to ensure we don't carry nail files onto the flight deck, or with random breath testing to make sure we're under 0.0000001, there are actually people out there who would like to come up with a way of measuring stress and fatigue real time:

Safety sensors to monitor pilot stress
Jennifer Foreshew
The Australian
July 19, 2005

AUSTRALIAN researchers are developing a centralised safety monitoring system to reduce the likelihood of accidents and errors in the aviation and heavy transport sectors.

Sydney software developer Forge Group and the University of Technology, Sydney, will partner in the development of the system, which will use sensors to enable real-time monitoring of pilot and driver alertness, stress levels and decision-making.

The intelligent database system will be used to detect work conditions, including cabin temperatures, vibration and control interaction, across a fleet of aircraft or heavy vehicles.

The three-year project, called SmartData, will produce a prototype application for centralised monitoring of fluctuations in operator activity and performance as well as environment.

"This information will allow feedback on a dangerous situation and alert either the operator or the system controller to make it safer," UTS chief investigator Sara Lal said.

"The project involves finding algorithms and computations that will detect changes in driver performance as well as degradations in the environment," said Dr Lal, who is from the Department of Health Sciences in UTS's Faculty of Science.

SmartData has received almost $380,000 in government and industry funding under the Australian Research Council's Linkage Projects scheme.

Dr Lal, an internationally recognised expert on driver fatigue and transport safety, is also contributing to the development of vigilance monitoring for the railways.

"Fatigue-related accidents have been happening for a long time, but fatigue is difficult to pinpoint," she said.

"SmartData hopes to develop algorithms from the vast information already collected by authorities as well as that collected in the lab, and will be based on thousands of pilots and drivers."

Dr Lal said the system could monitor the physiology of a pilot or driver with wearable technology such as a wristband device.

Forge Group chief executive Peter Rossiter said SmartData would initially be aimed at international transport industries market.

It could also be used in other fatigue-prone sectors such as medicine and mining.

"The project is an extension of the platform work that we have been doing in distributed technologies, which has come out of our telecommunications research over the last decade," said Mr Rossiter, who is also Forge Research managing director.

The research was also expected to be relevant to future security systems, such as identifying people by brain activity.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against the concept as such but I really wonder about the implementation of such technology. So what happens? You go to sign on, connect your "watch" to a computer which then announces, "sorry Captain, you have exceeded the allowed stress level - so you're stood down!" What about when blokes are upline? Or even inflight - should a pilot be allowed to remain in the seat if he's known to be "over the limit"?

Thoughts anyone?

24th Jul 2005, 22:44
It could also be used in other fatigue-prone sectors such as medicine and mining.

Yep! Aviation isn't the only industry with tired workers making mistakes. How many mining accidents and incidents would have fatigue as a factor.

As for medicine. Talk to doctors and nurses who work in hospitals what shift lengths and how often they work. Recently in Qld. a hospital doctor on the Sunshine Coast was taken to court by the parents of a child who had a poor diagnosis made. The child subsequently died. The doctor when treating the child was into his 23rd hour of a 24 hour shift!!

Would we let pilots or ATCs operate the same way? Interestingly the father of the poor child was a senior administrator of Qld. Health. I wonder if he was some how responsible for that doctors long shiftwork requirements.

SmartData is in principle something to help reduce fatigue related accidents. But given our government's past track record in implementing such strategies, could the use of such devices be used in a way not originally intended?

The research was also expected to be relevant to future security systems, such as identifying people by brain activity.

25th Jul 2005, 00:45
Hope they extend it to engineers as well, Just as crew aren't the sharpest after 16 hours in the seat, neither are the guys fixing your aircraft after 20 hours on duty.

At least Pilots have CAO48 is it that actually limits your duty time - no such animal for the guys who pull the aircraft apart and put it back together.

25th Jul 2005, 01:28
There was a system in aviation that fixed both stress and fatigue with no flashy technology. It was called the "cushy government job" system.

Then there was unionism, but that no longer exists. Atleast not in Australian aviation.

This is a simple matter of 'band aid' managment. One band aid covers up what the last one missed.


Flight Detent
25th Jul 2005, 02:27
There was a system in aviation that worked very well for a very long time, with the end result being a very much lessened level of stress in the cockpit.

They are called Flight Engineers !!!

Cheers, FD :ok: