Naila Ayala

Naila Ayala

PhD Candidate, Developmental Visuomotor Neuroscience Lab, University of Waterloo

Naila received her Master’s of Neuroscience degree at the University of Western Ontario in 2019. She then joined Dr. Niechwiej-Szwedo’s lab at the University of Waterloo in 2020 and is currently a PhD candidate of Neuroscience with a focus on eye-tracking and visuomotor control. Her research explores how gaze behaviour can provide an objective measure of information processing, decision-making and complex skill performance.

In collaboration with WISA, she is working to apply these questions to aviation education with the broader goal of enhancing our understanding of the complex human factors involved in piloting an aircraft and guiding the development of novel training paradigms and industry practices.

What the Future Holds for Eye-Tracking in the Cockpit

One of the appeals of eye-tracking as a tool to monitor and optimize pilot performance is based on the premise that it provides a window into the aircraft operator’s cognitive state.

Indeed, human processing of visual information remains one of the key elements of pilot performance, and more broadly, aviation safety and effectiveness. As such, there has been a huge push for the implementation of eye-tracking technologies in the cockpit as a means to help improve and potentially fast-track pilot training and selection processes. This is especially important in the wake of the ongoing pilot shortages that have been further augmented by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Although technological advancements in eye-tracking devices have provided the necessary tools to monitor pilot scanning patterns, the science demonstrating how to effectively implement these tools in a training environment are lacking. This presentation outlines the early progress made at the University of Waterloo (Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Aeronautics, WISA) with a focus on how eye-tracking is being used to inform the development of novel competency-based training and assessment tools. Specifically, it shares selected findings and discusses next steps on the following topics:

  • Using eye-tracking measures as objective assessment tools
  • Using eye-tracking to understand and identify early indicators of poor pilot monitoring and performance
  • What eye-tracking can tell us about the startle response in emergency scenarios
  • How eye-tracking and high-fidelity flight simulators can make pilot training more sustainable

Our goal is to provide applied context to better understand the value of eye-tracking in increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of pilot training, as well as making it more sustainable than current practices.