QinetiQ speech recognition technology allows voice control of aircraft systems

18 Jun 2007

Successful flight trials for QinetiQ's Speaker Independent Direct Voice Input System

A QinetiQ technology that allows any pilot to control aircraft systems by voice command has successfully completed a new round of flight trails on a UK Army Air Corps Gazelle helicopter. QinetiQ's Direct Voice Input (DVI) system facilitates the direct-voice-input control of avionics equipment using standard aircrew helmet microphones and intercom and is speaker independent, meaning that the system does not need to be trained to recognise a specific user. It gives aircrew the ability to control aircraft systems using voice commands and access information without removing their hands from the flight controls or their eyes from the outside world.

The system has been developed to help alleviate the demands on pilots presented by an increasing amount of technology in modern aircraft cockpits. Too much of a pilot's time can be spent looking "head-in" rather than "head-out" during sorties due to the advent of multi-function displays with menu structures many tiers deep. QinetiQ's speaker independent system means more time with hands on flying controls which is particularly important for single pilot operations or where one pilot is flying and another is performing a tactical role.

Tony Wall, Managing Director of QinetiQ's Air Division said: "Voice recognition systems normally struggle with the high noise levels experienced in helicopters and need to be calibrated to recognise the speech patterns of individual users. These recent trials demonstrate that QinetiQ's DVI technology overcomes both of these shortfalls and enhances aircraft safety by maximizing a pilot’s 'head out' time."

QinetiQ's DVI has now amassed more than 30 hours of MOD-funded flight trials with command recognition rates in excess of 90 per cent for all users providing effective speech control of non-safety critical avionic functions. The trials have included both Chinook and Gazelle helicopters and involved aircrew from all three UK services.

DVI incorporates speech recognition technology developed by Aurix, a QinetiQ venture which is marketing phonetic-based voice recognition products to the contact centre, security and media markets. In partnership with Aurix, QinetiQ's Air Vehicle Integration group at Boscombe Down has developed the technology to ensure that the system recognises commands in challenging acoustic environments and is speaker independent. This means that the system does not need to be trained to recognise a specific user as with other speech recognition systems, so high command recognition rates are achieved whether or not the user has operated the system before.

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QinetiQ speech recognition technology allows voice control of aircraft systems