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SAFE LANDing through enhanced ground support

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SAFELAND (SAFE LANDing through enhanced ground support)

Reporting period: 2021-07-01 to 2022-12-31

A major challenge for the implementation of Single Pilot Operations (SPO) in commercial aviation is to maintain safety levels as in current operations and guarantee a safe return to land in case of pilot incapacitation. To tackle this issue, SAFELAND developed a concept of operations relying on Ground Station positions being manned by remote pilots who are able to monitor the SP aircraft and take over control in case of incapacitation.
The SAFELAND high-level objective has been decomposed in more specific, measurable objectives that have been 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 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).

The final SAFELAND CONOPS was validated through two human in the loop simulation campaigns. The first simulation, at a lower level of fidelity, allowed to preliminary evaluate the acceptability of the procedures and the dynamics between actors, and served to refine the concept (e.g. role, tasks, procedures) and better design the next campaign. Following, a more realistic real time simulation was conducted at DLR facilities involving pilots (in the role of remote pilots) and air traffic controllers. The concept was assessed exploring its potential impact in terms of operational feasibility, human performance, and safety. To complement its assessment, an analysis of the legal, regulatory, and economical implication of the final concept was carried out, together with a safety and cyber-security assessment. The results were further evaluated with the support of an external Advisory Board.

The evaluation activities performed within the project suggests that the SAFELAND concept could be a robust proposal to address single pilot incapacitation. Specifically, the operating procedures implied by the concept and the dynamic of interactions between the different actors were positively evaluated by the participants involved in the simulation campaigns. Also, no major showstoppers have been identified from the legal and regulatory point of view. Moreover, the SAFELAND project made explicit the key technological, infrastructural, and procedural enablers that shall contribute to maintain SPO safety levels as in current dual pilot operations.
Estimates lead to a high demand of new pilots when taking traditional two-manned cockpits as a baseline. With the implementation of new technologies, SPO can be seen as the next disruptive aviation innovation to encounter pilot shortages in the future. The SAFELAND project is an important step in the route to achieve this disruptive innovation, bringing alive a CONOPS and the operational requirements needed to address the risk of single pilot incapacitation in SPO.

What’s next?
The SAFELAND project addressed a specific safety issue related to an operational concept that is still under development (SPO for commercial aviation). Therefore, as a first step, effort should be allocated to the generation of a reference SPO CONOPS, to provide a coherent framework for future work on single-pilot incapacitation. In parallel, research will be dedicated to progress the development and deployment of the technological enablers needed to ensure safe SPO (e.g. a pilot health monitoring system, autoland capabilities, back-up systems). From a regulatory point of view, some amendments to soft rules (Acceptable Means of Compliance and Guidance Material to European Regulation) by revision of several RuleMaking Tasks (RMTs) may fill the current gap. Finally, the social and ethical implications of SPO should be explored, with a focus on trust and acceptability from end-users and the public.
Incapacitation en-route
Incapacitation in TMA