TECH
04/03/2015 05:58 GMT | Updated 04/03/2015 05:59 GMT

Paralysed Woman Flies F-35 Simulator With Her Mind

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA may spend much of its existence in the shadows, but when it does finally shed light on what it's doing, the results are often extraordinary.

A 55-year old quadriplegic woman has successfully controlled a state-of-the-art F-35 flight simulator using nothing but brain power.

DARPA's Director, Arati Prabhakar has been explaining the incredible experiment at the first annual Future of War conference.

jan scheuermann

Two years ago, quadriplegic Jan Scheuermann agreed to become the centre of a groundbreaking series of neuroscience experiments involving robotic control and motor function at DARPA.

Starting in 2012 the research team fitted two probes onto the surface of her brain. They originally started with robotic arms. From there things progressed to controlling both left and right arms when it was discovered that although only using the left cortex, Scheuermann was still able to control both at the same time.

That in itself was impressive but then Scheuermann decided to take things a step further, she wanted to fly a plane. The team agreed and connected her to the flying simulator that USAF pilots use to train with before actually taking real thing out for a spin.

Not only could she fly the plane but the research team discovered something remarkable. Scheuermann wasn't thinking about controlling a joystick in the same way we would, she was thinking about controlling the whole plane with her mind. It worked.

While Prabhakar admits there are some potentially worrying ethical boundaries that this poses (the remote control of potentially lethal weapons with your mind), the fact is DARPA has to investigate the good and the bad.

"We can only imagine amazing good things and amazing potentially bad things that are on the other side of that door."

"We don't want to only go play in the safe places, that would be a violation of our mission."