Automation Technology and Human Performance: Current Research and Trends

By Mark W. Scerbo | Go to book overview
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problems. The nature of tile ATC task allows individual controllers to apply differing strategies that result in similar solutions and efficiency of operation.

Automation may limit the freedom of choice for the individual and ATCOs may perceive a loss of control or a reduction in skills to perform their tasks. In efficiency terms, it may be possible to identify and assume that there is only one particular way to complete a task. Though convenient, this will require all ATCOs to be trained in one particular way. If there is no such optimum way, then the machine should not be designed as though there is.

Studies in other safety critical industries, such as nuclear power and the cockpit, have identified undesirable human factors trends within the design and operating philosophy of these system, as a result, the current human factors preference should be to retain the controller as the primary decision maker in future ATC systems, in order to maintain the controller's interest, motivation and skill levels.

There are genuine needs for automation to assist ATCOS, to improve performance and reduce workload, to increase efficiency, to remove non-essential tasks, and to enhance job satisfaction. There is also a need for ATCOs to be involved as an essential part of any future ATC system The man-machine interface needs to be examined closely so that the system fits the man, rather than the other way around. There is a requirement for ATCOs to be involved with evaluations of equipment design and purchase. It is essential that automation work for the benefit of the controller.


Automation must improve and enhance the data exchange for controllers. Automated systems must be fail-safe and provide accurate and incorruptible data. These systems must be built with a integrity factor to review and cross-check the information being received.

Automation must assist and support ATCOs in the execution of their duties, to improve performance and reduce workload to remove non-essential tasks, to increase efficiency to enhance not only the job satisfaction of the controller, but also the safety element of the controller's task.

The Human Factors aspects of automation must be fully considered when developing Automated systems and should include the maintenance of essential manual skills and controller awareness.

The controller must remain the key element of the ATC system and must retain the overall control function of the system. Safeguards must be established to ensure that the controller remains an active, rather than a passive, user of an automated system.

The legal aspects of a controller's responsibilities must be clearly identified when working with automated systems.

Additional Policies (1993)

A controller shall not be held liable for incidents that may occur due to the use of inaccurate data if he is unable to check the integrity of the information received.

A controller shall not be held liable for incidents in which a loss of separation occurs due to a resolution advisory issued by an automated system.


Hopkin V. D. ( 1982). Human Factors in ATC. Nato AGAR Dograph no. 275. Paris.

Hopkin V. D. ( 1989). MMI Problem in designing ATC system. Proceedings of the LE.E.E.

ICAO ( 1994). Human Factors Digest no. II - Human Factors in CNS/ATM-systems. IC40 Circular 249AN 1149. Montreal, Canada.

IFATCA ( 1991). Automation and the ATCO - Human Factors considerations. Working paper for 30thFATCA Annual Conference - Port of Spain, Trinidad


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Automation Technology and Human Performance: Current Research and Trends
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