Ecological design of augmentation improves helicopter ship landing maneuvers: An approach in augmented virtuality

  • Morice Antoine H. P.
  • Rakotomamonjy Thomas
  • Serres Julien
  • Ruffier Franck

  • Information-movement coupling
  • Augmented Virtuality
  • Helicopter
  • Ship Landing
  • Tau-dot strategy
  • Deck-landing
  • Vision


Helicopter landing on a ship is a visually regulated "rendezvous" task during which pilots must use fine control to land a powerful rotorcraft on the deck of a moving ship tossed by the sea while minimizing the energy at impact. Although augmented reality assistance can be hypothesized to improve pilots' performance and the safety of landing maneuvers by guiding action toward optimal behavior in complex and stressful situations, the question of the optimal information to be displayed to feed the pilots' natural information-movement coupling remains to be investigated. Novice participants were instructed to land a simplified helicopter on a ship in a virtual reality simulator while minimizing energy at impact and landing duration. The wave amplitude and related ship heave were manipulated. We compared the benefits of two types of visual augmentation whose design was based on either solving cockpit-induced visual occlusion problems or strengthening the online regulation of the deceleration by keeping the current tau-dot variable around an ideal value of-0.5 to conduct smooth and efficient landing. Our results showed that the second augmentation, ecologically grounded, offers benefits at several levels of analysis. It decreases the landing duration, improves the control of the helicopter displacement, and sharpens the sensitivity to changes in tau-dot. This underlines the importance for designers of augmented reality systems to collaborate with psychologists to identify the relevant perceptual-motor strategy that must be encouraged before designing an augmentation that will enhance it.