Are pilots being harmed by radio frequency and electromagnetic fields from all the high-powered electronics in their aircraft?
This is the question asked in a Forbes Magazine article this month, which continues saying, “The problem could be making pilots so disoriented that they crash their planes, fears DARPA, the Pentagon’s pet research agency”.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has recently announced a research project to determine the “Impact of Electro-Magnetics on Aircrew Neurology,” or ICEMAN, to see whether EMFs inside the cockpit may be causing pilots to crash. DARPA is currently accepting proposals and have allocated a budget of up to $225,000 for the research.
According to DARPA, the objective of the ICEMAN program is to “Determine if the current air combat cockpit environment impacts cognitive performance and/or physiological sensor performance; quantify the effects; and demonstrate potential mitigation strategies.”
Project ICEMAN Objective
Determine if the current air combat cockpit environment impacts cognitive performance and/or physiological sensor performance; quantify the effects; and demonstrate potential mitigation strategies.
The DARPA Impact of Cockpit Electro-Magnetics on Aircrew Neurology (ICEMAN) STTR effort aims to:
1) measure and manipulate the ambient EM field and RF noise in a typical cockpit,
2) measure potential effects of these electromagnetic stimuli on brain activity, physiology, and behavioral responses, and physiological sensing systems, and
3) demonstrate potential strategies to mitigate negative effects on aircrew neurology and sensor function.
Project ICEMAN Description
Current cockpits are flooded with radio frequencies (RF fields) from on-board emissions, communication links, and navigation electronics, including strong electromagnetic (EM) fields from audio headsets and helmet tracking technologies.
Pilots often report minor cognitive performance challenges during flight, and from 1993 to 2013, spatial disorientation in US Air Force pilots accounted for 72 Class A mishaps, 101 deaths, and 65 aircraft lost.
It has been hypothesized that the cockpit RF and EM fields may influence cognitive performance including 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.
Recent DARPA-funded research has demonstrated that human brains sense magnetic fields, like those used by animals for navigation, and that this process is “jammed” (i.e., disrupted) by radio waves (RF), impacting brainwaves and behavior.
Furthermore, recent findings were the first to show that even weak RF fields and “earth strength” magnetic fields have measurable, reproducible effects on human brainwaves and unconscious behavior in a controlled environment.
Current tactical audio headsets project magnetic fields up to 10 times earth strength, the effects of which can now be measured experimentally in a similar controlled environment. However, a need exists to assess these effects within a typical cockpit environment.
Furthermore, as research efforts are increasingly seeking to assess aspects of human performance and cognitive state characteristics (e.g., cognitive workload, stress, and trust) within operational environments such as cockpits, a need exists to determine what effect, if any, the cockpit RF/EM environment may have on physiological sensor function and efficacy
Read more about the ICEMAN program on the official DARPA site.
Aircraft Photo Credit: DARPA.mils
Editor Note: Special thanks to Certified EMF Expert Consultant Sharon Barr for her initial investigation of this topic.