In a move that can only be described by Punjab-esque, your Annie (1982) hero's ability to make aircraft fly with his mind is one step closer to reality now that researchers, led by Dr. Bin He of the University of Minnesota, have created an EEG-based interface that allows users to navigate a virtual helicopter with their mind. The interface is a completely noninvasive brain-computer hookup that allows the user to tell the helicopter where to go by willing it to do so.
You can access the original write-up of the project on PLoS One, a repository for "accelerating the publication of peer-reviewed science." Open access, everyone! The write-up is a documentation of some tests performed to show the accuracy of the system. User attached the apparatus to their cranium and were asked to navigate a helicopter through three dimensional space. According to the results, users were able to reach targets with the helicopter 85% of the time. So probably we won't be controlling REAL helicopters with this system any time soon, but maybe someday!
Dr. He had the following to say about the project thus far:
"this work demonstrates for the first time that one can accomplish real-time, continuous 3-dimensional control of a flying object in a virtual world from noninvasive EEG-based brain-computer interface. Such ability used to be limited in cases where invasive recordings are used, thus the work opens avenues to noninvasive bio-navigation, or neuroprosthetics." - Dr. He
What you're about to see below is a video of what the user sees on the screen as they control the helicopter with their mind. The user has simply to place the testing device's hat on, have their sesorimotor rythem brain waves monitored, and these waves are characterized and calibrated into controls which move the helicopter. Have a look here and give the U of M a high five. That's hometown pride for me, folks, maroon and gold forever!