Automation Technology and Human Performance: Current Research and Trends

By Mark W. Scerbo | Go to book overview

The Role of the Controller in Future Air Traffic Control: Techniques for Evaluating Human / Machine System Performance
Brian Hilburn National Aerospace Laboratory NLR Amsterdam, The Netherlands
INTRODUCTION
The demand for air travel has never been greater. Within Europe, for example, civilian air traffic is expected to grow by nearly 50% over the next seven years. With the busiest airports already saturated, and the introduction of extremely large civilian airliners still some way in the future, accommodating such massive growth promises to be a daunting task. Increasingly, it is being realised that the drive to increase air traffic capacity will ultimately have to address a fundamental redesign of the Air Traffic Control (ATC) system.One can reasonably argue that ATC represents one of the most complicated human-machine systems in the world, and which can be seen to consist of the following four interrelated elements: interfaces; automation tools; procedures; and operational concepts. At the highest level of description (the operational concept) the system is defined in term of the goals and general rules of the system. At its lowest level (the interface) the display between human and computer is specified. Historically, conventional wisdom has held that advances in ATC system development have to be made incrementally-- "evolution not revolution" has been the credo of ATC designers--to displays, tools and procedures supporting the same basic operational concept (i.e., positive air traffic control via radio telephony) that has existed since the advent of the contemporary ATC system some 40 years ago.Figure 1 shows the hierarchical structure of these four system elements, along with examples of each. Each example corresponds to a research program currently being carried out at the NLR.
Figure 1. The hierarchy of ATC elements.
These examples can be briefly described as follows:
Free Flight-- a revolutionary operational concept in which aircraft would assume greater authority for route selection and separation assurance
CTAS (Center TRACON Automation System)--a set of three automated decision aiding tools

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