Human performance in adverse and demanding environments

The mission of the multi-disciplinary TNO team AHEAD is improving human performance, safety, health and wellbeing in environments that are adverse and high-demanding, which impose high physical, cognitive or emotional stress, such as operating on a moving platform (e.g. aircraft, ship, vehicle), in high workload situations with unexpected events.

Team AHEAD is a multi-disciplinary group from different departments within TNO, with experts in the area of human physiology, simulation and modelling, Augmented and Virtual Reality, psychophysics, monitoring and sensing, gaze tracking, didactics, engineering and good clinical practice.

We have been combining these disciplines for many years to help improve human performance in high-demanding and adverse environments. Team AHEAD provides advice, guidelines, products and interventions through applied research, having a nationally and internationally leading position. Our focus is on the aerospace, automotive, and maritime markets, both civil and military.

Research topics

The applied research projects of team AHEAD cover a variety of human factors aspects, such as spatial disorientation, motion sickness, fatigue, hypoxia, startle and surprise. These aspects are being imposed by stressors such as physical and visual motion, g-loads, shocks and vibrations, workload and air quality. Furthermore, our applied research covers topics on training and selection, such as training effectiveness, competencies, retention and skill decay, emergency training, and personnel attrition.

Example projects

Team AHEAD is involved in the following example projects, and many more.

Aircrew Performance in Adverse Conditions
This Defence programme focuses on the effects of adverse operational conditions (stressors) on the physical and cognitive performance of fifth-generation aircrew. The central question is to what extent human operators can perform their task, which involves processing of a large amount of information in conditions with physical motion, g-loads, heat and cold, hypoxia, degraded visual environments, spatial disorientation and startle. We investigate how these stressors can be reproduced in a simulator environment for both research and training, and we create a mathematical model to predict the effects of a (combination of) physical, physiological and cognitive load. This programme contributes to research within the innovation platform AEOLUS, a collaboration between the Royal Netherlands Air Force (CMA) and TNO for improving human performance under extreme conditions in military aerospace.

Modelling human motion and orientation perception
The TNO’s mathematical motion perception model consists of transfer functions representing the dynamics of the human vestibular and visual systems. With the model, the perceived motion and attitude, as well as motion sickness can be predicted.

Simulation of UPset Recovery in Aviation (SUPRA)
In this project an enhanced aerodynamic aircraft model has been developed, together with new motion cueing solutions including g-forces. These capabilities enable airline pilots to recognize and manage unusual attitudes and stall events in a moving-base flight simulator.

Helicopter Underwater Egress Training (HUET)
The HUET training effectiveness is investigated to improve HUET emergency training in terms of frequency, personalized training, e-learning, and practical support.

Measuring pilot's visual scanning and flight performance

Measuring pilots’ visual behavior
The pilots’ instrument scanning (crosschecking) and flight performance are investigated in relation to spatial disorientation, unexpected events, hypoxia, workload, etc.

Augmenting Military Performance through Resilience Enhancement (AMPERE)
Cognitive stress is induced with a virtual reality environment. The stress level is measured, classified and feedback is provided.

Shocks and vibrations aboard FRISC
In this project, human body accelerations are measured aboard Fast Raiding Interception and Special Forces Crafts. Based on the results, recommendations and norms are developed to minimize the risk of physical complaints and injuries.

Spatial Disorientation Investigation Tool (SDiT)
Based on the TNO motion-perception model, a tool is being developed to detect and recognize spatial disorientation illusions. The tool visualizes in-flight motion and attitude perception to support analysis of aircraft motions for the potential of inducing spatial disorientation in pilots.

Hypoxia in a moving-base flight simulator
This project is targeted to improve the operational realism of a hypoxia training environment. Applied research is performed on the effects of hypoxia in relation to flight tasks in a moving-base flight simulator.

Startle and surprise in aviation
In this project, simulator-based training interventions are being developed for airline pilots to cope with startle and surprise.

Motion sickness in self-driving cars
In this project, the ride control of self-driving cars is being optimized for comfort to minimize the built-up of motion sickness.

Improving the Helicopter Underwater Egress Training

Team AHEAD has access to a state-of-the-art laboratory, featuring a wide range of facilities, such as the DESDEMONA centrifuge-based simulator, the RNLAF Advanced Spatial Disorientation simulator, the TNO driving simulator, the LIMOSINE linear motion simulator, a 3D rotating chair, climate chamber, the RNLAF hypobaric chamber, human centrifuge and Helicopter Underwater Egress Trainer (HUET), learning technology and gaming laboratory and several HMD-based virtual environments.

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Human Performance

The Human Performance (HP) expertise group focuses on the optimization and improvement of human performance in challenging circumstances. Read more
Our work


EU Project: Simulation of UPset Recovery in Avaition Read more
Our work

Desdemona: The ultimate motion simulator

With its multi-purpose DESDEMONA simulator TNO definitely keeps pushing the limits of motion simulation. DESDEMONA is a motion simulator, disorientation trainer and advanced research lab, all in one.... Read more
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Motion sickness and performance

A moving platform - like a ship or an aircraft - exerts a profound influence on our sense of balance and orientation. The human body strongly reacts to movement, leading to e.g. spatial disorientation,... Read more
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Performance and health monitoring

Dutch military personnel will increasingly be involved in global missions in extreme conditions. This means we will need a tool for remote soldier performance and health monitoring. TNO and new sensor... Read more

Human Machine Teaming