Color Usability on Air Traffic Control Displays

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None; published by Human Factors and Ergonomics Society
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Authors: Ulf Ahlstrom, PhD.
Larry Arend

Ahlstrom, U. & Arend, L. (2005). Color usability on air traffic control displays. In Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 49th Annual Meeting (pp. 93-97). Santa Monica, CA: Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.


Modernization of Air Traffic Control (ATC) display systems includes increased use of color to code information. While colors can enhance display designs, human factors issues like legibility and salience manipulation are still problematic. Here, we address some of the potential usability issues with integrating traffic and advanced weather information on controller displays. We argue that color palettes that are not specifically designed for layered data and a large number of objects can create legibility and salience problems. We discuss the use of luminance contrast to manipulate salience and present some empirical data showing that air traffic controllers display large individual differences in their preferred brightness settings. We argue that user adjustments of luminance contrast for salience manipulation must be severely constrained in future ATC displays. We present a prototype color palette that uses color-coding to prioritize display information while maintaining good legibility.

Updated: May 04, 2012 11:21 AM