Automation Technology and Human Performance: Current Research and Trends

By Mark W. Scerbo | Go to book overview

Automation and Free(er) Flight: Exploring the Unexpected

P. G.A.M. Jorna Netherlands Aerospace Laboratory, Amsterdam


INTRODUCTION

The consistent increase in air travel initiated many activities in the field of automation development. The purpose is to provide means for bypassing bottlenecks in aviation operations. The present route network(s) where aircraft follow each other sequentially, restrict the maximal amount of aircraft. Keeping an overview over traffic is demanding and controllers have to share the work between teams handling separate sectors of the network. This type of task sharing however, increases communications demands creating another limiting factor. Possible solutions are to reduce the overall task load for the controllers, or to open the skies and use more airspace. Technologies are available that would allow a restructuring of air traffic procedures, provided that humans can still work effectively. Two perspectives seem to prevail, a 'ground perspective' where the controller is assisted by software tools, and an airborne 'Free Flight' perspective, where pilots assume some level of responsibility for separation. Automation philosophies, by definition, raise discussion and are susceptible to the risk of taking assumptions with a high 'face validity' for true. Objective and systematic testing of new technologies is therefore mandatory. Examples will be provided of surprises encountered when testing technologies with humans in the loop, underscoring that assumptions continue to be misleading.

Figure 1. A diagram depicting the overall context, players and technologies in future aviation.

OPTIONS FOR THE AVIATION FUTURE

Airline Operating Centers (AOC) instruct and guide their crews for realizing maximal revenue's at minimal costs. Air Flow Management (AFM) units regulate/ restrict air traffic to manageable levels. Different goals are reconciled for the sake of safety. Presently, information availability is different for air and ground systems, but the digital data links create options for drastic changes. The complexities involved in possible future system configurations are depicted in Figure 1.

Data link can serve ATC communications in a non-voice format. Even more influential is the creation of an auto load connection with the Flight Management System (FMS), allowing direct loading of

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