Staffed NextGen Tower Human-in-the-Loop 2

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Authors: Ferne Friedman-Berg, PhD.
Nicole Racine

Friedman-Berg, F., & Racine, N. (2013). Staffed NextGen Tower Human-in-the-Loop 2 (SNT HITL 2): Camera Integration Evaluation (DOT/FAA/TC-13/41). Atlantic City International Airport, NJ: Federal Aviation Administration William J. Hughes Technical Center.


Objective: The purpose of this study is to investigate the effect of a Staffed NextGen Tower (SNT) environment on air traffic control (ATC) operations. The primary objective was to determine whether cameras are beneficial for SNT operations.

Background: The SNT concept shifts from relying primarily on the out-the-window view to a model that relies more on using surveillance and cameras. There are different ways to implement the SNT concept. Two alternatives are Supplemental use (in addition to out the window display) and Contingency use (when the out the window view is unavailable).

Method: Eight controllers ran traffic in this study with two main conditions, Supplemental and Contingency, with four off-nominal events (aircraft crosses unoccupied runway, aircraft crosses occupied runway, wheels up on approach, aborted takeoff aircraft on runway).

Results: The controllers were able to perform their jobs effectively in both Supplemental and Contingency conditions using cameras and surveillance displays. Controllers in conditions with the camera consistently detected the "wheels up on approach" off-nominal condition. Controllers in conditions without the camera did not detect the "wheels up on approach" off-nominal condition at all. The other three off-nominal conditions were detected primarily using the Traffic Information Display System (TIDS) and alerts. The controllers rated the camera as essential in both Supplemental and Contingency conditions, although less for Supplemental than Contingency. Controllers agreed that the SNT concept would be beneficial for the National Airspace System (NAS) and for control tower operations.

Conclusion: Results of this study show that controllers can perform their jobs effectively in both Supplemental and Contingency SNT environments and show that cameras provide a benefit to operations. Applications: These findings will directly influence decisions on the SNT concept implementation. Although cameras were found to be beneficial, we will still need to refine the details of camera coverage, display configuration, and control functionality. We believe that small improvements based on controller feedback from this study should lead to enhanced situational awareness for controllers and improved ATC performance.