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Currently, ATM working environments are enhanced by many warning systems in an effort to improve and enhance safety and efficiency. As warning and alerting systems become more advanced, controller reliance on such systems may result in airspace that is unmanageable without such systems. Traffic management and separation decisions that are made with a combination of warning systems and human controllers may become totally automated, resulting in a loss of efficiency when the systems are down.
Wearable equipment has been put forward as an evolution of air traffic control systems. Rockwell Collins, Elbit, and Raytheon have developed augmented-reality helmet technologies, with noise-cancelling headphones and live video. While the Rockwell Collins-Elbit system requires tethering to the plane, the Aviation Warrior model works independently of it, giving air traffic controllers and pilots alike greater field of view and awareness of environmental conditions. However, while potentially allowing greater involvement of humans in the ATM process, these technologies could add to the complexities of existing systems.

Potential hazard

  1. Proliferation of caution and warning systems and alerts may overwhelm the controllers in periods of heavy workload.
  2. Failure to prioritize alerts prior to implementation of such systems.
  3. Operational Errors (LOSS?): An occurrence attributable to an element of the air traffic control system in which:
  4. Less than the applicable separation minima results between two or more aircraft, or between an aircraft and terrain or obstacles; or
  5. An aircraft lands or departs on a runway closed to aircraft operations
  6. Descent below minimum descent altitude
  7. NextGen/SESAR hazard condition: Conformance Monitor generates excessive false / nuisance alerts. Associated human performance hazards:
  8. Controller ignores accurate conformance alert and fails to issue corrective instructions for a true alert.
  9. Controller becomes overly reliant on automation, fails to notice deviation when not alerted.
  10. Controller fails to confirm validity of conformance alert.

Corroborating sources and comments

Concept for Next Generation Air Traffic Control System

Heinz Erzberger and Russell A. Paielli

Sawyer, Michael, Ph.D., Berry, Katie, Ph.D., Blanding, Ryan, NextGen Human Hazard Assessment Report, TASC, Inc., Washington, DC, November 2010

A Review of Conflict Detection and Resolution Modeling Methods

James K. Kuchar and Lee C. Yang Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA 02139 USA

IEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems, Vol. 1, No. 4, December 2000, pp. 179-189.

White Paper on Multiple Independent Alerting Systems

James K. Kuchar, Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, July 13, 1998 (Overview of forthcoming changes in ATM, courtesy of SESAR. Integrating multiple vehicles [see AoC_011] and redefining systems to minimize delays were both raised. Published in 2017.) (Recent development by Rockwell Collins and Elbit; essentially, it’s a massive augmented-reality helmet with noise-cancelling headphones and live video. Requires tethering to the plane, but allows the pilot to see outside the aircraft.) (Raytheon’s Aviation Warrior helmet offers similar capabilities to the RCE model; however, it includes a wrist-based component containing maps and 3D audio to detect location of enemy fire.) (ATM upgrade gone wrong; new STARS system came installed with fewer capabilities than the old, including removal of key features.) (Czech paper, circa 2010, regarding kinetic Delaunay triangulation and its ability to predict when two aircraft might collide.)

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