Helicopter Control with Inertial and Visual Cues

Helicopters are unstable dynamical systems. To stabilize a helicopter in space (e.g., hovering above a helicopter pad), pilots need to continuously monitor and compensate for disturbances. Different sensory cues are combined to solve this difficult problem. Inertial cues (rotatory and translatory movements in space) could contribute to the stabilization as well as visual cues, such as optical flow and position and orientation of the horizon in the visual field.
Using closed-loop psychophysical experiments, we explore the influence of the different sensory cues on stabilization performance. For this we simulate the dynamics of a small helicopter in real-time on the motion simulator in the Motion Lab, by movements of the platform and movements within a visual scene presented on a projection screen. Participants use a realistic helicopter cyclic stick to control forwards-backwards and sideways drift. Height above ground and heading are automatically stabilized. The task for the participant is to stabilize the helicopter on a target spot.
A first experiment examined the influence of body motion cueing (rotations and / or translations) on stabilization performance. In a second experiment, we continue to investigate the influence of visual cues (horizon and optic flow) and body rotation cues on helicopter stabilization. Our results show that both visual cues and whole-body rotation cues can help the participants to stabilize the simulated helicopter.


Berger DR Person, Terzibas C Person, Beykirch K Person and Bülthoff HH Person (August-2007) The role of visual cues and whole-body rotations in helicopter hovering control AIAA Modeling and Simulation Technologies Conference and Exhibit 2007, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Reston, VA, USA, 962-974.
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Last updated: Tuesday, 07.05.2013