Effects of Stereoscopic 3D Digital Radar Displays on Air Traffic Controller Performance

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Russi, Jason G.
Multi-Vehicle Systems and Air Traffic Control; Systems Engineering and Multidisciplinary Design Optimization
thesis / dissertation description
Air traffic controllers are responsible for directing air traffic based upon decisions made from traffic activity depicted on 2Dimensional (2D) radar displays. Controllers must identify aircraft and detect potential conflicts while simultaneously developing and executing plans of action to ensure safe separation is maintained. With a nearly 100% increase in traffic expected within the next decade (FAA, 2012a), controllers' abilities to rapidly interpret spacing and maintain awareness for longer durations with increased workload will become increasingly imperative to safety. The current display design spatially depicts an aircraft's position relative to the controller's airspace as well as speed, altitude, and direction in textual form which requires deciphering and arithmetic to determine vertical separation. Since vertical separation is as imperative to flight safety as lateral separation, affording the controller an intuitive design for determining spacing without mental model creation is critical to reducing controller workload, and increasing awareness and efficiency. To examine this potential, a stereoscopic radar workstation simulator was developed and field-tested with 35 USAF controllers. It presented a view similar to traditional radar displays, (i.e. top-down), however, it depicted altitude through the use of 3D stereoscopic disparity, permitting vertical separation to be visually represented.