June 22, 2007 New technology that allows pilots to control aircraft systems by voice command has been successfully tested on a UK Army Air Corps Gazelle helicopter. Designed to alleviate the problem of pilots spending too much time looking inside the cockpit – a problem exacerbated by the advent of complex multi-function displays – QinetiQ's Direct Voice Input (DVI) system incorporates speech recognition technology to facilitate the direct voice control of avionics equipment using standard aircrew helmet microphones and intercom.
The system is speaker independent, meaning that it does not need to be trained to recognise a specific user. It gives aircrew the ability to control aircraft systems using voice commands and access information without removing their hands from the flight controls or being distracted from what’s happening outside the aircraft.
The system addresses the demands on pilots presented by an increasing amount of technology in modern aircraft cockpits. Too much of a pilot's time can be spent looking "head-in" rather than "head-out" during sorties due to the advent of multi-function displays with menu structures many tiers deep. QinetiQ's system means is particularly important for single pilot operations or where one pilot is flying and another is performing a tactical role.
QinetiQ's DVI has now amassed more than 30 hours of MOD-funded flight trials with command recognition rates in excess of 90 per cent for all users providing effective speech control of non-safety critical avionic functions. The trials have included both Chinook and Gazelle helicopters and involved aircrew from all three UK services.
Tony Wall, Managing Director of QinetiQ's Air Division said: "Voice recognition systems normally struggle with the high noise levels experienced in helicopters and need to be calibrated to recognise the speech patterns of individual users. These recent trials demonstrate that QinetiQ's DVI technology overcomes both of these shortfalls and enhances aircraft safety by maximizing a pilot’s 'head out' time."
DVI incorporates speech recognition technology developed by Aurix, a QinetiQ venture which is marketing phonetic-based voice recognition products to the contact centre, security and media markets. In partnership with Aurix, QinetiQ's Air Vehicle Integration group at Boscombe Down has developed the technology to ensure that the system recognizes commands in challenging acoustic environments and is speaker independent. This means that the system does not need to be trained to recognize a specific user as with other speech recognition systems, so high command recognition rates are achieved whether or not the user has operated the system before.