ABSTRACT the separation by resolving conflicts automatically and


As part of an ongoing research effort into
functional allocation in a NextGen environment, a controller-in-the-loop study
on ground-based automated separation assurance was conducted at NASA Ames’
Airspace Operations Laboratory in February 2010. Participants included six FAA
front line managers, who are currently certified professional controllers and
four recently retired controllers. Traffic scenarios were 15 and 30 minutes
long where controllers interacted with advanced technologies for ground-based
separation assurance, weather avoidance, and arrival metering. The automation
managed the separation by resolving conflicts automatically and involved
controllers only by exception, e.g., when the automated resolution would have
been outside preset limits.

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Results from data analyses show that workload was
low despite high levels of traffic, Operational Errors did occur but were
closely tied to local complexity, and safety acceptability ratings varied with
traffic levels. Positive feedback was elicited for the overall concept with
discussion on the proper allocation of functions and trust in automation.


The Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO)
has identified the action area “Air/Ground Functional Allocation” as a high
priority 1. Its concern is to address the “lack of clarity in the allocation
of new functions to the aircraft and flight crew (includes human/automation as
well as avionics/ground automation allocations).” This paper presents results
from a human in the loop (HITL) study in the Airspace Operations Laboratory at
NASA Ames Research Center that examined the functional allocation between air
traffic controllers and automation within the concept of ground-based automated
separation assurance. In a separate publication 2 this ground-based approach
to separation management is compared with the approach of airborne separation
management investigated at NASA Langley Research Center.

In this paper, we first discuss the primary problem
of safely doubling or tripling airspace capacity in the next two decades. Next,
we describe the approach of allocating many separation assurance functions to
the ground-based automation. This approach was initially investigated in a
sequence of part-task studies before the most recent experiment simulated the
operations in a more comprehensive air traffic control environment. After
presenting critical elements of this method a set of initial findings related
to acceptability, safety and workload will be discussed.