FIGHTER pilots of the future may be able to control their jets with the blink of an eye - thanks to technologies being developed in Lancashire.

Researchers at BAE Systems in Samlesbury and Warton are working on 'wearable' cockpits, which would enable crew members to issue controls using their line of sight and a simple gesture.

In the heat of battle, seconds can be crucial, so even dispensing with button presses could streamline a pilot's ability to scan, access and act on a fast-evolving scenario.

The latest generation of 'intuitive' flying aids, developed in partnership with the Ministry of Defence, RAF and other industry partners, has already been showcased at the Farnborough International Air Show.

Jean Page, a lead technologist for BAE, said: "In terms of future concepts, we are looking at what we are calling a ‘wearable cockpit’.

"Here, you remove many of the physical elements of the cockpit, and replace it with a virtual display, projected through the helmet. Essentially, it’s a software-only cockpit that’s upgradeable, adaptable and reconfigurable.”

"In such a world, we need to think about what controls are critical to the pilot and then make them easier to manage.

"Eye-tracking gives you the option of looking at something to highlight it and then making a gesture to 'press' a button, rather than having a series of physical buttons on the aircraft."

Part of the human factors engineering team, their work is carried out in close consultation with pilots themselves.

For instance, getting a handle on where a pilot is looking during a particular phase of a mission is essential, so if anything does go wrong, the person in control can react efficiently and effectively.

Jean added: "The really clever bit will be that based on where the pilot is looking, we can infer the pilot'[s goal and use intelligent systems to support task performance and reduce the pilot's workload.

"We want to do it in a way that doesn't always ask for permission, because that would get very annoying very quickly but equally, it is essential that it is always evident to the pilot what task the intelligent system is performing."