Aptima Awarded U.S. Air Force Contract for Evaluating Pilot Training for Electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) Aircraft

They’re not airplanes. They’re not helicopters. What skills will pilots need to fly eVTOLs?

Electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft will soon transform the skies above. But who will fly these new and novel vehicles, what skills will they need, and how will they be trained to operate platforms that feature new levels of automation?

To help answer those questions, Aptima, Inc., has been awarded a contract by the US Air Force to assist the Air Education and Training Command’s Detachment 62 (Det 62) to determine the pilot proficiencies and training needed for eVTOL operators. Det 62 supports the AFWERX Agility Prime program and is charged with developing the curriculum for eVTOL pilots and driving certification standards for an emerging market that is expected to transform civil air mobility and select military missions.

Using simulators of various eVTOL prototypes, Aptima will assess and identify the pilot competencies needed for proficient flight, including how pilots learn and perform on eVTOL platforms that have varying levels of automation. “The learnability study will help us not only understand the baseline pilot skills and competencies needed for proficient eVTOL flight, but also the impact of automation on pilot performance,” said Samantha Emerson, Training, Learning & Readiness Scientist at Aptima, and project manager for the contract. “Both experienced and novice pilots will bring unique sets of skills and capacities based on their experiences and abilities. We’ll assess how these differences affect performance in aircraft with various levels of automation”.

EVTOL prototypes range from having moderate levels of automation, that still fly like typical aircraft, to higher orders of automation, thus raising questions about the skills and training required to fly them.

In more heavily automated platforms, where pilots mostly control flight settings rather than the aircraft itself, preliminary research suggests experienced pilots tend to have more difficulty adjusting to automation than novice pilots. This is why we will look to see if experienced pilots tend to “overcontrol” the aircraft.

“Even though a more experienced pilot may possess greater ability in controlling aircraft, not all those skills may be useful or even desired in platforms with more automation and augmentation. It may require an ‘unlearning’ and re-training of behaviors to prevent interference or conflict with automated operations,” Emerson added.

Aptima, a leader in human-machine teaming and training, will help evaluate how automation affects pilots in different eVTOLs, which existing skills will be transferable, and what new skills will require training.

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