Vehicle: Airplane: Cockpit
Hamsterball Cockpits   (+3)  [vote for, against]
Maintain optimum position under all conditions

A major problem with high performance jet fighter aircraft is that they have human pilots. The performance envelop of the plane is limited by what the pilot can tolerate in G forces.

I propose a new cockpit design based on a hamster ball. This cockpit would be affixed to an aircraft on a set of computer controlled gimbles. As the air craft maneuvers the ball would be positioned in the position that allows for maximum pilot survivability during advanced maneuvers.

It has been shown that humans can survive up to 50 Gs in a reverse facing position. Compared to only 6 or 7 Gs in an upright position.

This cockpit would maintain the optimal position for the maneuver in question. The pilots viewpoint would be handled by a virtual reality display system built into the pilots helmet and slaved to a remote camera in the nose of the plane(already in use in helicopters gun ships) allowing visibility regardless of the cockpit orientation.

As dogfights com down to who can turn the tightest this would only need to afford a 1 or 2 G increase in a turn to make a big difference.
-- jhomrighaus, Dec 27 2006

What if the pilot was not in the plane at all, but in a second aircraft, with the controls slaved? Then the fighter could pull all sorts of stunts, without any G forces affecting the pilot.

(I know remote controlled fighters already exist, but I think they all involve the pilot being very remote indeed, not tagging along in a separate, more sedate craft.)
-- DrCurry, Dec 27 2006

I suspect this would create a serious situatuional awareness issue. Pilots depend heavily on the feel of a plane when banking, climbing or diving. The g-force from each strongly indicates how much motion is happening. A pilot that goes into a steep dive, and feels like they are climbing (even with visual cues saying otherwise) runs a very high risk of diving to low. Not a huge problem at 10,000 ft, but a significant issue at 1000.
-- MechE, Dec 28 2006

no more so than any of the remote pilot options that exist. I think with proper training a pilot could readily adapt to such a system. I think a key would be that the system must behave in a very consistent way so the pilot can learn the feel of the aircraft in all situations.
-- jhomrighaus, Dec 28 2006

almost all high-g maneuvers are upwards (in the aircraft's coordinate system). Thats because the main force causing all those g's is lift, provided by wings that are fixed relative to the rest of the aircraft.

so you can simplify it by letting the pilot lie on his back.

anyway, they'll probably not develop any new manned fighters anymore now that UCAV's are so close to being realized.
-- arvin, Dec 29 2006

//wouldn't this need to be spherical//

I dont think so, a cylinder seems like it would work just as well, the majority of the g's taken by pilots are perpendicular to the plane, not parallel to it. Rotate in a cylinder about the tail-noze axis of the plane, and you're covered. Since it relies on VR to see, it neednt be visible from the outside so the plane could be more aerodynamic.

-- bleh, Jun 12 2007

random, halfbakery