Solution Space Decision Support for Reducing Controller Workload in Route Merging Task

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Air traffic controller workload is considered to be a limiting factor for further air traffic growth. To reduce workload, increased automation levels and novel decision-support tools are being investigated. This Paper describes the adaptation and evaluation of a previously developed interface, called the Solution Space Diagram, in a route merging task. It portrays both constrained and unconstrained speed and heading combinations and enables the controller, by means of direct manipulation, to safely vector aircraft. The authors hypothesized that this interface enables controllers to use it in their own preferred way, supporting their skills and strategies, reducing their workload. A preliminary experiment was conducted in which 12 participants, grouped according to expertise level, controlled a sector and were faced with different levels of traffic in a route merging task. Results show that the interface aids in finding merging solutions faster; a significant reduction in the number of commands and in perceived workload was observed. The participants changed their strategy to perform less vectoring and issue route interceptions at an earlier stage, without affecting aircraft separation. These changes were also observed with the professional controllers, although they showed to be more conservative to the use of the diagram. This Paper justifies experimentation with a larger number of participants and in a setup of higher operational realism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-137
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Aircraft: devoted to aeronautical science and technology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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