Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


MINIMA Report Summary

Project ID: 699282
Funded under: H2020-EU.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MINIMA (MItigating Negative Impacts of Monitoring high levels of Automation)

Reporting period: 2016-05-01 to 2016-10-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Over the past few years the global air traffic growth has exhibited a fairly stable positive trend, even through economic stagnation, financial crisis and increased security concerns. According to a prevailing opinion, this trend is unlikely to change in the future, although a number of contextual factors, such as political climate, economy, environmental issues, safety issues and security issues may affect its actual rate. Within this picture, traffic flow patterns will become more complex, making conflicts and situations harder to identify for a human operator.

As envisaged by both SESAR JU and HALA! Research Network, higher levels of automation will help Air Traffic Controllers to deal with increasingly complex airspace scenarios, enabling them to manage complexity in a safe and efficient way. Research has shown that supportive automation can be beneficial and lead to reduced workload, increased management capacity and performance reliability. However, the absence of automation errors can often not be guaranteed. Consequently, a human operator has to monitor the automation and to intervene in the unlikely event of system failure or the misinterpretation of the situation by the system.

It has been shown that the monitoring role of human operators results in negative effects, such as lack of attention, loss of SA (Situation Awareness) and skill degradation. It is expected that a monitoring task reduces controller’s ability to detect problems (e.g., conflicting aircrafts), to determine the current state of the system, to understand events, and to react to situations. Therefore, new forms of automation, including Adaptive Automation (AA), should be taken into account to moderate the operator workload while preserving his SA. As a result, a better match between the task demands and the controller cognitive resources will be achieved. In any case, one must avoid keeping the controller ‘out-of-the-loop’.
MINIMA will pursue this goal by developing a vigilance and attention controller. Specially, MINIMA will:

• Identify the frequency of occurrence and the severity of the Out-of-the-loop (OOL) performance problems in a highly automated terminal manoeuvring area (TMA) selected as example task environment. Based on a review of the OOL performance problems identified in the literature, MINIMA will analyse which of these problems affect the performance of operators of the highly automated TMA.

• Analyse the task environment, define possible new task distributions and new procedures, as well as develop new attention guidance tools. New task distributions which decrease the level of automation and hand back tasks from the automation to the human operator may decrease the performance of the system, but may be necessary to avoid OOL problems. Also new tasks will be defined in order to decrease the operators’ vigilance. Attention guidance tools will be arranged as well, in order to highlight specific air traffic situations whenever this is deemed essential.

• Develop a real time “Vigilance and Attention Observer” to monitor the state of the human operator. This will be based on cutting edge technologies, such as electroencephalography, kinematic sensors, and eye trackers. Ad hoc indexes, combining multi-source information, will evaluate the controller psychophysical state, comparing it to a reference state. The application of a Brain-Computer-Interface to measure the operators’ state is an essential aspect of MINIMA.

• Develop an adaptive automation based on the output of the Vigilance and Attention Observer. The activation tasks and the attention guidance tools will be dynamically assigned and activated when the controller state deviates from the reference state. The controller state will be measured with the vigilance and attention observer. As reducing the level of automation can reduce the system performance, the adaptive automation will switch between highly automated mode and modes with lower automation exactly as much as this is required to avoid the OOL phenomenon.

In summary, MINIMA will develop an automated system capable of providing substantial and verifiable capacity and efficiency benefits while fully addressing safety concerns by developing adaptive automation to prevent the risks associated with assigning a monitoring role to the human operator, such as dissatisfaction, lack of attention, loss of SA and de-skilling. Based on the developed automation, MINIMA will provide guidance for the future design of fail-safe complex human-machine environments in the presence of high levels of automation.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

Until now, a State of the Art Review was completed and the MINIMA Concept was developed.

The State of the Art Report describes first the analysis of the out-of-the-loop phenomenon that can be expected when automation in air traffic control is increased. Second, it further covers existing solutions in other domains to mitigate the OOL problem. Third, psychophysiological measures are analyzed and their suitability to determine air traffic controllers’ vigilance and attention are evaluated. The results of this task were presented on the SESAR Innovation Days (as a poster) and will be disseminated on the Human Computer Interaction (HCI) International as presentation and paper.

After the State of the Art Review was completed, the development of the concept for the Vigilance and Attention Observer in a highly automated TMA started. This task used the results from the State of the Art Review as an input. The developed concept describes first the task environment that will be used in MINIMA, e.g. the route structure and procedures. Second, it defines the concept and the selected methods for measuring the vigilance and attention. Third, it gives details about how the task can be adapted based on the results of the measures. Finally, the concept also describes details about the technical implementation and the interface between the various components. The first Milestone of the project was reached by completing the development of the concept beginning of January 2017.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The results of MINIMA so far are the completed state of the art report and the developed concept. By analyzing the OOL phenomenon, the project contributed to advancing the knowledge about human performance monitoring functions and to improving the understanding of this phenomenon, its characterization at both physiological and psychological level, and the condition of its emergence. Additionally, the state of the art report provides an extensive overview of methods that can be applied to measure vigilance and attention of human operators.

These results will enable the MINIMA project to carefully develop the Vigilance and Attention Controller and the experiments. Besides of its application in MINIMA, these results can also be helpful for other researchers pursuing similar goals. While the characterization of the OOL phenomenon can help ergonomists to design automation interfaces mitigating the related negative effects, the adaptation mechanisms described in the concept can inspire researchers to develop similar ideas for adaptive task environments.

In MINIMA, the results will be used to develop adaptive automation to help the human operator, especially Air Traffic Controller, to remain in the loop of control when OOL episodes occur. Such progress could have important implications to increase safety and diminish fatigue of humans when interacting with highly automated system.
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