The U.S. Air Force solicited innovative approaches to increase situational awareness and improve flight safety for both civilian and military operations as a contribution to NexGen initiatives affecting the National Air Space (NAS).
Our goal was to help reduce airport runway incursions—a major safety issue at airports throughout the country. We explored the benefits of applying optical see-through and video see-through modes of AR to provide air traffic control tower (ATCT) controllers with easily interpretable means of integrating information from multiple data sources. The ultimate objective was to give controllers an effective, reliable tool with which to maintain situational awareness and make rapid, accurate decisions in the high-stakes, high stress environment of air traffic control. We employed AR technologies to electronically overlay the real environment with information from existing sources so that it appeared to exist in the same three-dimensional space as the real-world objects it identifies and highlights. We observed and interviewed ATCT controllers working at civilian airports and suggested AR technologies that could help controllers do their jobs faster and more efficiently. We created a working prototype application to give ATCT controllers a better view of the airport movement area (left), regardless of the prevailing visibility.
Airport movement area in this image is enhanced with information furnished by an Augmented Reality video interface.
Airport movement area enhanced with streaming supplemental information provided by an Augmented Reality video interface during limited visibility conditions.
As part of this project, we created a working world-in-miniature prototype enabling controllers to view a tabletop model of an airport movement area with icons representing cooperative targets moving in, on and over the airport in real time. We also conducted heuristic and cognitive tests to assess changes in controllers’ perceived situational awareness and collaboration when an AR system is employed in the tower.