Local R & I project provides AI solutions to help pilots in case of automation failure

The results of SmartAP, a project led by the the Institute of Aerospace Technologies at the University of Malta and was carried out in collaboration with QuAero Ltd


The results of SmartAP, a project led by the the Institute of Aerospace Technologies at the University of Malta and was carried out in collaboration with QuAero Ltd., a local aviation consultancy company were disseminated during a public engagement event held on Wednesday, the 10th of May at the EsploraPlanetarium Hall, Kalkara.

Smart Artificial Pilot developed solutions based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help pilots understand better what is happening in order to be in a better position to recover the airplane if the automation fails. The project specifically addressed two main areas of concern during flight: loss of control (due to aerodynamic stalls) and loss of situation awareness. The project received circa €200,000 under the Fusion the national R & I funding programme, administered by the Malta Council for Science and Technology (MCST).

Current large transport airplanes – such as those manufactured by Airbus and Boeing – are equipped with advanced automation that flies and manages the airplane throughout a flight. As a result, the role of pilots is increasingly becoming that of overseeing this automation and of taking over if the automation fails. The project idea came about in response to the increase in the complexity of automation and the over-reliance of pilots on it resulting in a disconnect between pilots and the airplane, which has contributed to a number of fatal accidents.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Youth, Research and Innovation Keith Azzopardi Tanti said that this is another step that brings people closer to technology. He stated "Technology is a tool that we must go with and try to adapt it to give us help in the weakest things that we have or that hinder us, as in fact is this Smart Artificial Pilot that will offer the necessary assistance to all pilots so that through Artificial Intelligence they have more peace of mind in stressful situations." The Parliamentary Secretary ended his speech by thanking all those who were involved in this project and expressed the wish that more researchers follow in their footsteps.

MCST Chairman, Dr. Tonio Portughese said that: “the Malta Council for Science and Technology, will continue playing the important role it has been playing to date, exploring incentives and measures in the areas of Research and Innovation.”  He added that MCST will continue to serve as the catalyst, through its funding programmes and through active involvement, to bring together our educational institutions with players from the private sector in synergy for the achievement of their mutually desired goals.

Dr Ing. Jason Gauci, co-investigator of SmartAP said: “SmartAP has demonstrated some of the benefits that Artificial Intelligence can bring to the cockpit, and has shown that AI can assist pilots in various scenarios. As AI becomes more sophisticated we can expect it to play a bigger role, not only in the cockpit but in the entire aviation ecosystem.”

FUSION is a national funding programme that drives and supports local Research and Innovation (R&I), as well as providing the necessary support for researchers and technologists to turn their innovative ideas into a market-ready reality. FUSION is supported through Malta Government funds and is managed by the Malta Council for Science and Technology (MCST) as the Managing Authority.

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