Workload reduction through steering wheel control for rotorcraft

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Schuchardt, B.I.
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This paper reports on the development and investigation of a novel steering wheel control concept for highly augmented rotorcraft with fly-by-wire control. The main idea is to use a steering wheel as primary inceptor instead of the conventional centre stick. The existing yaw pedals are reprogrammed to function similar to accelerator and brake pedal in a car. The height can be controlled either via a conventional collective lever or via switches behind the wheel. An additional 8-way switch in the centre of the wheel is used for horizontal precision manoeuvres in the low speed regime. A fixed-base simulator study was performed in order to compare conventional and steering wheel control with respect to pilot workload. Three different user groups participated in the study, namely helicopter pilots, car drivers and test candidates with no experience in either driving or flying. The study showed that, especially for the car drivers, the perceived workload could be reduced when flying a helicopter with steering wheel.