Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are warning that pilots' ability to think may be harmed by the radiofrequency and electromagnetic fields emitted from the electronics in their aircraft. The problem could be so severe that the pilots could end up crashing their planes, reported Forbes.
Cockpits are flooded with strong electromagnetic fields
"Current cockpits are flooded with radio frequency (RF) noise from on-board emissions, communication links, and navigation electronics, including strong electromagnetic (EM) fields from audio headsets and helmet tracking technologies," stated a new DARPA research project.
It is reported that pilots often describe minor cognitive performance challenges during flight. According to the research, "spatial disorientation in U.S. Air Force pilots accounted for 72 Class A mishaps, 101 deaths, and 65 aircraft lost", between the dates of 1993 and 2013.
Pilots experience minor cognitive performance challenges
DARPA suspects that some of these incidents may have been caused by electromagnetic fields but does not have the evidence yet to back up these assumptions. It is hypothesized that the cockpit RF and EM fields could cause task saturation, misprioritization, complacency, and Spatial Disorientation.
"However, EM fields and radio waves in cockpits are not currently monitored, little effort has been made to shield pilots from these fields, and the potential impacts of these fields on cognition have not been assessed," DARPA further wrote.
DARPA will be investigating the issue
That's why DARPA is launching its Impact of Cockpit Electro-Magnetics on Aircrew Neurology (ICEMAN) project. The assignment is a two-year project that will seek to evaluate whether radio waves and magnetic fields are indeed harming pilots' ability to function.
The research will also tackle commercial air pilots as they could be equally affected by these radiations. "If this research and development effort reveals negative impacts of cockpit EM/RF environments on human cognitive function or physiological sensor performance, it is expected to generate interest from the commercial airline industry as well as other industries in which humans are exposed to similar EM/RF conditions," DARPA concluded.