Earlier this month, Honeywell announced it is leading the DARWIN project under the European Union SESAR 3 Joint Undertaking. The goal of DARWIN (a painfully stretched acronym for “Digital Assistants for Reducing Workload and Increasing … collaboration”) is “to leverage artificial intelligence [AI] and advance single-pilot operations in Europe.” The research is designed to develop a human-AI system that will define “clear roles and responsibilities, with human pilots remaining the ultimate decision-makers.”
Honeywell acknowledges that the challenges facing DARWIN include keeping the cockpit workload low enough that one human pilot can cope with even the most demanding scenarios, as well as the AI element of the crew needing to serve as a second set of “eyes” to cross-check the human pilot’s actions. Finally, the DARWIN system will have to be sufficiently proficient to “detect and mitigate” possible incapacitation on the part of the sole human pilot on board.
Jolana Dvorska, Honeywell Aerospace senior research and development manager and architect for SESAR (Single European Sky A[ir traffic management] Research), said, “A need for higher autonomy requires digital transformation. For both, we need to build trust in AI-based solutions. DARWIN will develop a scalable human-AI collaboration concept that can gradually introduce new functions and pilot assistants, in line with the EASA AI Roadmap.” Andrew Barker, Honeywell’s VP of integrated avionics, added, “This project lays a solid foundation for the future of AI and AI-human collaboration in Honeywell avionics. We must focus our efforts in these areas to ensure proper baselines are established for the future of minimum crew operations.”