EXCLUSIVE: Human research into what pilots can handle at Wright Patt AFB

WRIGHT PATTERSON AFB (FOX19) - From thousands of miles away, pilots here in the U.S. fly drones on missions overseas every day. Air Force researchers at Wright Patterson Air Force Base are now studying whether they can get drone operators to fly five or six at a time, they tell FOX19 exclusively.

"We're exploring how to understand the responses of the human (body) so that we can better predict if the human is starting to get overloaded, starting to get stressed, starting to get fatigued," said Mark Draper, Ph.D., the principal psychologist on the research team. "And if we can learn how to capture that knowledge, the machine can benefit from that by offloading tasks from the human."

In other words, rather than worrying about the terrain or whether it might hit another aircraft, the computer software the Air Force has developed is able to put the drone on a kind of "auto pilot," allowing the person operating it in the U.S. to concentrate more on the video feed the drone is sending back from Iraq, Afghanistan, or other countries. If you get the auto pilot program good enough, the person at the controls here in the U.S. might be able to fly multiple drones at a time.

Tonight, in a FOX19 EXCLUSIVE, we'll take you behind-the-scenes at Wright Patt and show you how researchers there measure whether a pilot's brain is getting overloaded. Plus, we'll find out just how far drone technology will go. Will drones ever be able to fire at the enemy on their own? The head of the research program answers that and other fascinating questions on The FOX19 Ten O'Clock News.

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