Augmented Reality Technology for Tower Air Traffic Controllers

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Last week Royal NLR carried out several experiments on their high-fidelity real-time air traffic control simulation and validation platform, NARSIM. These experiments are part of the Digital Technologies for Tower (SESAR 2020 PJ05-W2 DTT) project. One of its sub-projects is called SESAR Solution 97 and looks at innovative HMI interaction modes for the airport tower.

Royal NLR set up the first experiments of the project to look at the use of Attention Guidance strategies with an Augmented Reality device, the Microsoft HoloLens 2 (TM), inside an air traffic control tower environment for Schiphol Airport. That environment was simulated in NARSIM and consisted of a realistic but downscaled presentation of the airport with two tower controller working positions emulating current tower systems.
The downscaled Schiphol Tower set-up allowed researchers to focus their work on the application of Augmented Reality with the introduction of (virtual) aircraft labels as well as special symbology and auditory cues for capturing and guiding tower controller attention in the case of critical events. Some typical attention-critical events that might occur at an airport, such as go-around operations and runway incursions, were orchestrated by a team of NLR experts and presented to the tower controllers while they were operating traffic as usual.

Human performance and ATC operational experts observed and surveyed the simulations and will report on the results within the upcoming months. First results look promising: air traffic controllers reported that interpreting traffic situations is faster and easier with the dedicated symbology in Augmented Reality. After thorough analysis, the results will feed into a validation report for Solution 97.
Author: Jürgen Teutsch (Royal NLR)