​​​​​​​SAFELAND is an EU-funded project with the main aim to create a valuable solution for supporting flight and landing of aircraft operated by a single pilot experiencing partial or total incapacitation.

​​​​​​​During its 30-month duration, SAFELAND will focus on the ground side and in particular, on the role Air Traffic Management (ATM) could have in managing the transition from a single pilot operated flight to a status with reduced or absent contribution of the onboard pilot. The project will investigate the interaction of the air traffic controller with onboard automation and/or a ground-based pilot managing the flight through a remote cockpit position. 

The concept will be evaluated at main phases of its development with different evaluation techniques including a real-time simulation integrating a cockpit simulator, a controller working position, a ground cockpit simulator and a simulated Airline Operation Control Centre. The evaluation will investigate different aspects including human factor, safety, security and cybersecurity, legal, economic and regulatory.

SAFELAND results will be communicated and disseminated ensuring scientific links and exchange of information, data and results with research initiatives in different framework programmes and in particular with the single pilot studies of CleanSky. 

State-of the-Art

Pilots may become incapacitated during flight. Although a rare occurrence, pilot incapacitation, especially in a single-pilot aircraft, can present a significant risk. Incapacitation can happen for various reasons, i.e. from gastrointestinal illnesses to more severe incidents. The International Aviation Community has been investigating the concept of Single Pilot Operations (SPO) for over a decade in Europe and the US. Besides the financial benefits, due to the decrease of the costly crew members, one main driver is related to a potential shortage of commercial pilots in the near future.

One of the main problems emerging through the projects investigating SPO is how to deal with a potential risk of pilot incapacitation. There are two dominant concept design approaches on SPO, and these different approaches have an impact on how the problem of incapacitation could be addressed. The first is Replacement Through Automation, based on a high level of automation and AI.

At present, this remains a long-term option, still needing significant research investments. The second approach is the Second Pilot Displacement to the ground, which integrates advanced automation with ground support offered by a remote pilot. The Clean Sky programme is currently working on solutions for SPO. However, for the moment the focus is on aspects related to the airside perspective. Less attention has been given to the role of ground support operators for SPO, while this role requires well-defined concepts and procedures to operate in case of pilot incapacitation.

​​​​​​​SAFELAND in a nutshell

SAFELAND will investigate different approaches to handle pilot incapacitation such as:

  • ​​​​​Replacement Through Automation
  • Second Pilot Displacement

The project will consider both approaches with the aim of enhancing safety in case of single pilot incapacitation, through an improved ground support centered concept, offering crucial contribution for the management of the flight until its safe landing. 

The SAFELAND Concept: Single pilot in case of incapacitation (dashed lines are links possible in case of residual on board collaboration)
Example of the possible SAFELAND concept structure