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How medical technology is helping pilots meet new challenges

December 4, 2015

High-adrenalin aerial feats are not the only thing going on here at the FAI World Air Games. The event has also attracted world-leading health and aviation experts, in Dubai to attend the International Symposium on Air Sport Medicine. 

More than 100 delegates from around the world were in attendance for the two day conference, which is part of the games.

Dr Melchor Antunano of the Civil Aerospace Medical Institute gave the inaugural lecture, describing how advances in nanotechnology, genomics, and neurotechnology will influence pilot performance in the future. Applying magnets and tiny electrical currents to the brain, known as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TCMS), has been shown to improve concentration and could be used to help top-level pilots make even more demanding flights.

As angry or upset pilots are more prone to accidents, emotion recognition software in the cockpit, which can read facial expressions, could also be used to detect their mood and prompt them to calm down before take off.

"The weak link is the human body, but medical science is moving forward at an accelerating pace," Dr Antunano said.

Other technology up for discussion included using biosensors to allow diabetics to obtain pilot licenses, building on systems already being tested by car manufacturers. 

Also present were Dr Thomas Drekonja, flight surgeon, and consultant for the Red Bull air races, talking about the detailed monitoring programme they use to measure the biometrics of pilots performing under high g-forces.

The Symposium continues tomorrow, when it will be addressed by Dr Klaus Ohlmann, a glider pilot who holds over 60 world records, and has flown his sailplane up and over Everest.

By Andy Pag

Photo: James Pagram/FAI Media Team

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