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A brain-controlled flight test at the Technical University of Munich.
A brain-controlled flight test at the Technical University of Munich.
Christoph Behrens

MUNICH — As the pilot sits in the cockpit with his hands in his lap, the airplane's control stick moves all by itself. The plane lands perfectly. Automatic pilot? No, the pilot controls the flight simulator — using only the power of thought.

From electrodes on the test pilot's head, "We read brain signals that form a complex pattern," says Tim Fricke, who leads the experiments conducted with the Technical University of Munich's flight simulator.

Test subjects focus on their left or right hand, and their brain’s electrical activity changes depending on which side is their focus. The activity is picked up by the electroencephalography (EEG) electrodes and produces a characteristic pattern of brain waves. An algorithm then "translates" these thoughts into piloting instructions for the light plane, with the computer making the relevant calculations.

Despite the fledgling technology, the brain-computer-plane interface works surprisingly well, at least with a simulator. So far, seven test subjects have tried telekinetic flight, and even those with no training as pilots were able to stay on course using the power of thought.

The EU is supporting this "Brainflight" project to the tune of 600,000 euros. Leading the project is the Portuguese company Tekever, which also develops drones and military technology. Berlin's Technical University developed the algorithm. The engineers' next goal is to identify the best brain-computer-piloting approach. Concrete usage of the system in the air industry is not yet under consideration, although the system should at least be tested in unmanned drones, according to the project description.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Missiles And Euphoria: The Folly Of War On Full Display In Kharkiv

As Ukraine's counter-offensive gathers steam, the city of Kharkiv is targeted by Putin's forces. Here's a view from up close, during heavy shelling that has sparked power and water outrages, even as the liberation of territory sets off scenes of joy and elation.

Russian shelling destroyed a residential building in Kharkiv in early September 2022.

Ivanna Skyba-Yakubova

KHARKIV — For several years, a woman has been sitting on the corner of my street selling flowers almost every day. On Sep. 9, our neighborhood was shelled for the first time – and have no doubt that an hour and a half after the missile hit our street, she was sitting right there in her usual place. People were cleaning up broken glass and cutting tree branches 50 meters from her. Some came to buy flowers.

In some way, this is all you need to know about life right now in Kharkiv.

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We are hostages of geography: the time it takes for the missile to reach Kharkiv from Belgorod, Russia, as air defense officers tell us, is 43 seconds. None of our existing defense systems are able to prevent their arrival in our neighborhood.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

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