Pulsar Informatics App Helps Evaluate Crew Fatigue
Among the exhibitors making their debuts at NBAA’s annual showcase is Pulsar Informatics (Booth No. C12047), which is demonstrating its new crew fatigue evaluation web application: the Aviation Fatigue Meter. According to the Philadelphia-based company, the app can be used for every kind of business aviation operation, no matter the scale or complexity, and it is described as an “easy way for people to see how any particular schedule is impacted by human fatigue factors.”
Pulsar has been in existence for a decade and during that span has developed fatigue assessment tools for agencies such as the Department of Transportation, Department of Defense and NASA. The company is looking to adapt those tools to the business aviation community. “We’ve developed technologies for the space program and we work to provide tools to assist astronauts, flight surgeons and mission controllers to assess [sleep] deficits associated with fatigue stressors that they experience in space, which are the same fatigue stressors that flight crews experience,” said Daniel Mollicone, Pulsar’s president and CEO.
Similar factors such as night work and extended duty hours as well as shifting of the body’s internal clock affect both types of activities. “The jobs are similar,” he added, “they work on very expensive equipment where mistakes can have a lethal and expensive consequence, so there are many analogies.”
From astronauts on the International Space Station to U.S. Navy sailors aboard nuclear submarines and even long-haul truckers, Pulsar’s computerized programs have been modified into a web app that is available for free at www.fatiguemeter.com.
NetJets’ Fatigue Risk Plan
While its products are in use in space, under the sea and on the nation’s highways, the development team is no stranger to business aviation. Lead engineer Michael Stubna was part of the team that developed a fatigue risk mitigation plan for NetJets. “We’ve developed these very precise and useful tools to assess and predict performance, based on work and flight schedules,” Mollicone told AIN. “The goal is to now translate this intellectual property and the software tools for these very specific applications for the business aviation community.”
According to the company, the web app, which is optimized for use on the iPad, takes the scientifically tested bio-mathematical model of human fatigue and makes it accessible in an interactive manner. While developing a flight plan schedule, you can move your finger to lengthen or shorten duty hours and sleep or rest periods. As you move the lines, you can see immediately how it will impact fatigue levels.
While situations where there is only one factor involved may be simple to calculate, when multiple fatigue factors are included, the picture becomes less clear and that’s where the app comes into play, projecting all the drivers of fatigue onto the performance impairment curve as the schedule is created.
“Sleep needs to be managed as a mission-critical resource the same way the pilot knows how much fuel is on the plane and how far they intend to fly on that fuel,” noted Mollicone, adding that research and products such as his company’s are opening doors into an area that had previously been based on intuition and crude rules of thumb. “The pilot needs quantitative gauges to inform how much biological capacity the operator has, and is it sufficient to get them to their destination safely and reliably,” he said.
The Aviation Fatigue Meter, which is being released at NBAA, is a free beta version. Pulsar Informatics, which was recently awarded International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations support services affiliate status by the International Business Aviation Council, is eagerly seeking feedback from users as to its utility.
One use that is envisioned for the app is in helping flight managers justify decisions with their passengers. “They may not fully appreciate the importance of adequate crew rest, and so one possible utility of this tool is a means to communicate to your customer that there are elevated risks associated with flying due to fatigue stressors,” said Mollicone. “They don’t like to have constraints added to their calendar, but they also don’t want to die and they don’t want to have a safety incident, so they may appreciate the need for additional constraints.”
The company is still considering how the product will eventually be marketed, whether as part of an existing flight planning package or as a stand-alone tool.