Skip to main content

SAFE LANDing through enhanced ground support

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SAFELAND (SAFE LANDing through enhanced ground support)

Reporting period: 2020-07-01 to 2021-06-30

For over a decade, the concept of Single Pilot Operations (SPO) has been receiving growing attention from the international aviation community. Besides the financial benefits for airlines in operating single pilot aircraft due to the decrease of the costly crew members, one main driver for the implementation of SPO is related to a potential shortage of commercial pilots in the near future. Properly implemented thanks to advances in aviation, Air Traffic Management (ATM), and automation, SPO are foreseen as one of the most promising solution to the accomplishment of the high-level SESAR’s goal of reducing the cost per flight by 50%, while maintaining the same level of safety of two pilot commercial operations.
One of the key issues for the implementation of SPO is managing in-flight pilot incapacitation, defined as “any physiological or psychological state or situation that adversely affects (pilot) performance”. Several studies have considered the problem of incapacitation and investigated it with simulations, modeling, or theoretical analysis of the different possible solutions. However, for the moment the focus has mostly been on aspects related to the air side perspective, for example the identification of the incapacitation conditions, or the landing site selection and related automatic trajectory generation. Less attention has been given to the role of ground support operators for SPO and evaluated it experimentally, while this role requires well defined concepts and procedures to operate in case of pilot incapacitation.

The SAFELAND Project intends to address such gap by enhancing safety in case of single pilot incapacitation, through an improved ATM centered concept, offering ground support for the management of the flight until it lands safely. This high-level objective has been decomposed in more specific, measurable objectives that will be achieved within the duration of the project. These objectives are:

O1. To define a SAFELAND operational concept for the management of a single pilot incapacitation, focused on ATM perspective.
O2. To analyse possible different implementations of the concept, including legal economic and regulatory aspects.
O3. To evaluate the SAFELAND concept and procedures with stakeholders and with a variety of exercises including simulations.
O4. To identify the functionalities of possible new supporting systems.
O5. To analyse the compatibility with other projects.
During the first twelve months of the project, the SAFELAND concept of operation proposing a conceptual framework to manage in-flight incapacitation in SPO has been developed and described. The concept addresses the handover from a single piloted flight operation to a remotely piloted flight operation, by taking air traffic management aspects into account. It describes the interaction of a ground-based pilot operating through a remote cockpit position with onboard automation and air traffic controllers, detailing the envisaged operational processes and procedures, required technical characteristics, tasks distribution, and function allocation between the involved actors.
During the development of the SAFELAND concept, several implementation options have been taken into consideration. Such implementations differed, for example, in the allocation of the piloting functions, in the level of automation, in the roles and responsibilities foreseen for the different actors involved. Advantages and disadvantages of each option have been evaluated to find those better satisfying security and safety requirements and showing technical and operational feasibility. Such analysis has been carried out both internally to the Consortium, and with the support of the SAFELAND Advisory Board (AB), composed by stakeholders from different aviation domains. Moreover, a dedicated analysis was conducted to examine the legal, regulatory, and economic implications of the different implementation options identifying points of strength and possible showstoppers. The results of this analysis, together with feedback and recommendations from the AB served for the refinement of the final SAFELAND concept. The concept will be subsequently evaluated through a variety of exercises, including Real Time Simulation (RTS).

The concept assumes that, in future SPO, the degree of automation in the cockpit will be higher than in current aircraft. In addition, a ground station would need to be introduced to support the single pilots mostly in non-nominal situations and monitoring their health. Following the concept proposed by Schmid & Korn (2017), the SAFELAND concept calls for three different ground stations: departure, cruise, and arrival ground station. During departure and arrival, a Ground Station Operator (GSO) would assist one single pilot at a time, whereas in cruise the GSO would support several single pilots simultaneously. A handover between ground stations will have to take place each time a single piloted aircraft enters the cruise phase after departure, and when entering the arrival phase. The tasks that could be transferred to the GSO as needed include flight planning, navigation, and communication.
In case of pilot incapacitation, the concept envisions the following processes:
• Incapacitation in TMA: the monitoring Arrival GSO takes control of the aircraft becoming the Pilot in Command (PIC) until landing (see Figure 1 also describing main procedures from pilot incapacitation detection to landing).
• Incapacitation en-route: the Cruise GSO hands over the incapacitated aircraft to a dedicated GSO (Stand-by GSO) that takes control of the aircraft becoming the PIC until landing (see Figure 2 also describing main procedures from pilot incapacitation detection to landing).
In SAFELAND we intend to have an exploratory exercise based on mock-up RTS involving pilots, remote pilots and controllers, to investigate the characteristics of the concept and human factor aspects. The analysis will include a preliminary safety and cyber-security assessment, and it will be follow by a second workshop with the AB.
During the process that led to the definition of the SAFELAND concept, high-level functionalities and architecture of some new additional systems have been proposed supporting the ground personnel in the management of the incapacitated flight (e.g. advanced automation capabilities). The functionalities of the new additional systems will also be refined with the support of RTS results and AB's feedback.

The potential impacts of the SAFELAND results are:

• Safety enhancement - SAFELAND will increase the safety of SPO by defining the role of ATM in dealing with single pilot incapacitation.
• SPO enabler - The SAFELAND contribution to the management of in-flight single pilot incapacitation will have a significant impact on the development of SPO representing an enabler for a wider diffusion of the concept.
• New ATM services - The support for an incapacitated single pilot is a new service that ATM can offer. SAFELAND will offer the opportunity to rethink a part of the controller functions offering new perspectives out of the current horizon.
• Opportunities for RPAS industry – The SAFELAND concept will consider and exploit RPAS solutions, representing an additional commercial opportunity for the industries of the area.
• Optimal use of resources - The SAFELAND concept will identify the most efficient use of resources on board and on the ground to compensate for incapacitation.
Incapacitation en-route
Incapacitation in TMA