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Take Control

Periodic Reporting for period 4 - TaCo (Take Control)

Reporting period: 2017-12-20 to 2018-06-19

Airports are complex places, especially when it comes to managing the movements of aircraft and a myriad of service vehicles.
Automation is one of the key solution proposed and adopted by SESAR to tackle the challenges coming from the increase of capacity and complexity of the future ATM system, including airports.
The main contribution of TaCo project is a framework for design, development, verification and future implementation of automated tools for airports with the involvement of end-users since the beginning (end-users programming of airport surface movements management). TaCo framework gives the controller the possibility of instructing automation with the rules, procedures and working methods that actually support his/her everyday work. This is done by means of an interactive platform (user-programming editor) that enables the definition of rules, procedures and working methods related to the management of surface movements in complex airports. The proposed approach gives the opportunity to tower ATCOs to program and test automation (and their interaction with it) based on their operational needs and using a simple visual language. This approach, opposed to a “traditional” engineering cycle where operational needs must be translated into functional requirements and then coded, tested and validated, reduces the risks of “lost in translation” and increases the efficiency, suitability and usability of automation.
One of the main enablers for a fruitful collaboration between the end-user and the automation is the definition of operational strategies and related automation strategies (algorithms). The development of innovative algorithms for the optimization of routing paths and departure/arrival sequencing or for the minimization of fuel consumption are out of the scope of TaCo. On the other hand, the study of interactions needed to apply a certain strategy (or switch from one strategy to another under certain circumstances) in a hybrid human-automation system is one of the activities of the project.
The main objectives of TaCo are the following:
● defining algorithms and solutions to automate and optimize both the decision making and implementation tasks for the controller involved in the ground movement of airport vehicles and aircraft;
● identifying and providing the controller with suitable and usable tools to supervise (monitor, tune and re-program) the system;
● studying the interaction between the human actors and the automation. Main focus will be on the identification of sensitive state transaction from a (fully) automated management system to conditions where the human is brought into the loop to handle situations where his/her cognitive resources are essential.
TaCo kicked-off on June 2016 in Rome. The first activity has been the preparation and consolidation of a Project Management Plan(D1.1). The ethics deliverable have been also submitted.
The first technical activities of TaCo started with D2.1 - Problem definition and D2.2 - State of the art. During such activities a meeting involving the consortium has been held at Malta International Airport. It aimed at identifing and observing on the field the airport layout and procedural aspects, tower location, layout and organization, airport complexity factors, challenges brought to tower ATCos' by nominal and non-nominal operational conditions, preliminary needs to be adressed by automation brought by TaCo. Main outcomes have been the definition of some traffic and operational scenarios, the elicitation of preliminary user needs and some indications about beneficial automation strategies to be designed in the following of the project.
In Workpackage 3 of the project the operational needs of MATS have been used as a reference to develop a prototype of automatic tools able to support the ground controller in his tasks.
The resulting architecture and code served as input for WP 4: the prototype have been made available through the HMI of the visual language and of the global optimization strategies, so that end-users are able to tune them.
The main objective of WP4 was the design and development of a demonstrative Domain Specific Graphical Language (DSGL) and an early stage simulation application that uses the DSGL to enable tuning of the reactive part of the automation. A first sub-objective is to study the state of the art in End-User Programming of reactive programs related to Automation Algorithms; a second sub-objective is to design a DSGL oriented towards Airport Automation; a third sub-objective is to design and develop an HMI to enable end-users to control and tune in real-time the strategy and the behavior of the automation. The resulting behavior has been evaluated in WP5.
The main activity of WP5 has been the final evaluation of TaCO outcomes. It addressed the main components aiming at collecting qualitative results on their acceptance, suitability and potential issues regarding their introduction and usage.
The evaluation of TaCo’s framework involved both Malta International Airport tower controllers (end-users) and external stakeholders coming from the airport domain during two workshops.
Results show positive feedback from end-users as well as from external stakeholders. The introduction of automation strategies was considered beneficial and additional promising strategies were identified during the evaluation. Such strategies were not only perceived as a support for optimization, but more in general, as an assistant for coping with specific situations.

The main communication and dissemination actions carried out during the project are the following:
• towards the SESAR and H2020 programs, leading to a close collaboration with other European research projects, resulting in the elaboration of coordinated factsheets and in the joint application for the Common dissemination booster service;
• towards general public, with the TaCo project website and social networks;
• towards scientific community, through the publication and the presentation of research work elaborated to contribute to the TaCo project;
• towards the Air Traffic Management and Airports community, through the collaboration with Airport Council International Europe and the participation in two editions of World ATM Congress.
TaCo contributes to the definition of a new SESAR Operational Improvement (OI) with the following outcomes:
• A framework for design, deployment and verification of automated tools for airports with the involvement of end-users (tower ATCOs) since the beginning (end-users programming of airport surface movements management)
• An approach to enhance the visibility of the level of automation in the tower environment and mitigations measures of transitions among different levels of automation support (towards visibility, awareness, transparency);
• Design guidelines for designers of similar hybrid human-automation environments and for designers of automation in such environments:
o Continuum of usage and progressive disclosure
o Space-based and event-based constructs
o Make current state and future behaviour visible
o Seamless AND seamful hybrid control

The Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of the proposed Operational Improvement is low, being the study still at the stage of feasibility study. An early demonstrator has been produced and evaluated with the users (D4.1 D4.2 and D5.1) and the final assessment of the OI maturity, based on the criteria provided by SJU, is TRL 1.