Hey Fighter Pilot, You’re Way Too Tired to Fly
New sensor would use human breath to warn of aviator fatigue
The last thing a $400-million F-22 jet fighter needs is an exhausted pilot at the controls. That’s why the Air Force wants to develop a breathalyzer that can identify pilots too tired to fly.
The “Breath-Based Biomarkers of Fatigue” project aims to develop a sensor that can smell a pilot’s breath for biological markers indicating exhaustion. The Air Force hopes the research will eventually lead to a prototype “that is ideally wearable and in a format amenable to incorporation in an aircrew oxygen mask for direct monitoring of biomarkers in exhaled breath.”
The concept sounds similar to the breathalyzers that police use to identify drunk drivers—and also parallels how some physicians can diagnose disease by the scent of a patient’s breath or urine. Indeed, medical researchers are developing machines to diagnose patients by smell.
In this case, the Air Force hypothesizes that fatigue and sleep-deprivation from intensive flight operations will manifest themselves through detectable markers in a pilot’s breath.
“Monitoring volatile markers in exhaled breath is particularly attractive in aircrews as the procedure can be performed in a noninvasive manner with little or no exposure to biohazardous body fluids or interference with performance of duties,” the Air Force proposal notes.
But will tired yet eager pilots find ways to disguise their breath, like teenagers coming home from a keg party? Breath mints, anyone?
You can follow Michael Peck on Twitter at @Mipeck1 or on Facebook. Sign up for a daily War is Boring email update here. Subscribe to WIB’s RSS feed here and follow the main page here.