Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


Specific challenge: Automation could hold the key to significant performance improvements across many aspects of ATM, which today relies on high levels of human intervention. Uptake of automation has been slow partly because the benefits of human cognitive abilities, especially in safety-critical situations, have provided strong arguments against change. The current spur of innovation in robotics and autonomy[1], within advanced industrial and service sectors, may extend more traditional notions of automation to potentially open up new fields of research. Since there is expected to be a significant increase in the numbers and types of aerial vehicles in operation, including remotely piloted vehicles, the scope for a new generation of autonomous automation solutions is significant.

The challenge is therefore to develop automation solutions that have the capability to provide substantial and verifiable performance benefits whilst fully addressing safety and security concerns. Research should fully take into account expected future technical and institutional developments together with forecast. In addition, the SESAR-sponsored HALA! Network has been considering key issues of higher-levels of automation for ATM and its output should be considered as useful reference material.

Scope: Proposals for research in this area should take an ambitious view of automation. Projects may look to build upon the existing legacy, or they could take a clean-sheet approach to design an ATM system that requires human intervention in a supervisory or control mode rather than in a direct operating mode. The latter ‘unconstrained’ line of attack should allow a bolder vision and open the door for new conceptual possibilities. Under this topic there is substantial scope for learning from other transportation modes and other industries, particularly where robotics and autonomy are concerned.

Research may address any part of the ATM system from strategic planning through airport operations (including small and medium airports) to tactical air traffic control and collision avoidance. Research is also needed to support the integration of new and diverse aircraft types, including remotely piloted vehicles. The integration of RPAS or highly autonomous aerial vehicles provides a number of automation challenges requiring new supervision and control paradigms which could extend to such developments as multiple simultaneous control and swarm dynamics.

Other related aspects that can also be considered within the scope of this topic include notably:

    non-physical autonomous systems such as software designed to monitor the safety, integrity and performance of complex socio-technical systems, and

    new approaches to optimisation applied to different aspects of ATM operations. .

Increased dependence on automation makes it important to consider automation failure scenarios, system resilience and the challenge of maintaining a skilled and competent workforce. There will be a need to address some of the human performance issues for ATC similar to those that are known to affect flight-crew performance in the glass cockpit. These include the need to prevent the risks associated to moving the human operator into a monitoring role: stress, lack of attention, loss of situational awareness and de-skilling. Research may look into potential strategies to mitigate these risks, like the use of adaptable or adaptive automation schemes in order to both prevent controller de-skilling and maintain minimum workload levels that will ensure controllers’ attention stays engaged at all times.

An improved understanding of complex failure modes due to automation degradation, and its consequences on ATM performance, in SESAR’s system of systems could lead to new methodologies and architectural guidance for future design of fail-safe complex environments in the presence of high automation.

Expected impact: This research will be expected to demonstrate and quantify the potential for higher levels of automation to provide benefits in safety, capacity, efficiency and security of ATM operations. Potential for improved cost-effectiveness or contributions to decision-support techniques notably during emergency situations may also be important outcomes.

Type of action: Research and Innovation Action (RIA).

[1] Autonomy is defined as the capability of an agent to perform its operations efficiently, safely and securely for the common good without the need for significant intervention from other agents.

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