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STRESS Report Summary

Project ID: 699381
Funded under: H2020-EU.

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - STRESS (Human Performance neurometricS Toolbox foR highly automatEd Systems deSign)

Reporting period: 2017-06-15 to 2017-12-14

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The European ATM system is expected to face challenging situations, with the growth of air traffic, the increase of its complexity, the introduction of innovative concepts and increased automation. The roles and tasks of air traffic controllers (ATCOs) will change in the future and it is vital to enhance the comprehension of human responses to their role changing, that is, from active control to monitoring of complex situations and managing unexpected system disruptions.
The main goal of the project is to generate knowledge able to support the design of the technologies which will be used by controllers to manage the future air traffic scenario. Specifically the project will provide guidelines to be followed to project future systems that are compatible with human capabilities and limitations, ensuring that the right balance between humans and automations is obtained.

The project is divided into four phases:
• Future scenarios: understand how ATM will develop in the coming years and how controllers’ role will change
• Human Performance Indexes: develop and validate a set of tools able to objective measure controllers’ stress, workload and attention through the analysis of brain waves, heart rate, eyes movement and skin conductivity
• Experiments: simulate future highly automated systems and use the indexes to assess their impact on human performance
• Design guidelines: based on experiments results, develop guidance for the development of systems correctly balancing automation and humans’ roles, able to support the transition among different automation levels and supporting humans in handling automation errors and failures.

Each one of them contributes to the project with unique expertise: a strong understanding of Human Factors (Deep Blue), a solid experience in the use of neurophysiologic measurements (Sapienza University), a deep knowledge of air traffic management domain (ENAC and Anadolu University) and a overall view on what is the strategic agenda for the development of this domain in the upcoming years (EUROCONTROL).

The project started on June 2016 and it will finish on June 2018. More information available at Project contacts: Stefano Bonelli and Martina Ragosta

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

During the first six months, the consortium successfully completed the first phase of the project, generating the future scenarios that will be the reference for the future work.

STRESS started from the analysis of the current expectations of ATM stakeholders towards automation. European research agenda is working to introduce higher levels of automation in air traffic control. In the future, a new generation of highly automated supporting technologies will be developed. They are expected to autonomously (or partially autonomously) manage tasks that are currently carried out by human operators and/or to provide inputs to human decisions that the operators will hardly be in a position to question.

This new scenario will inherently change the supporting role of the technology, its interactions with the operators and the capability of the operators to judge the quality of the information provided. This, in turn, will imply the need to consider the new systemic risks and mitigations that can be associated with technological and/or organisational failures. It will also imply the need for a radical revision of the competences required to perform the tasks – as well as of how tasks, roles and responsibilities are allocated among the operators (both in the front-end and in the back-end) and between operators and machines.

To address all this implication the project selected as a theoretical framework for automation definition and classification the research carried out by different authors such as Sheridan, Parasuraman and Bainbridge.

Based on this expected future scenario, STRESS choose some Human Factors aspects that will be particularly relevant in the future. The project will so focus on:
• Stress
• Attention
• Mental Workload
• Type of cognitive control on tasks

These have been recognized to be the most impacted Human Factors issues .
For this reason, they will be investigated through neurophysiological measurement tools.
In particular, the project designed 4 indexes able to assess these factors using electroencephalography (EEG), eye-tracker and skin-conductance-response measurement tools.
To check that these indexes are really able to measure these factors in an operational environment (traffic control center), they will be tested in an ad-hoc validation experiment.

The STRESS validation study was held at the Anadolu University premises from the 6th till the 9th of June 2017.

The objective of the study was to validate neurophysiological indexes developed by the project to monitor in real-time the Air Traffic Controllers’ mental state during air traffic control tasks. In particular, two aspects were investigated: i) stress level; ii) type and level of attentional focus. These were selected as two of the most impacted human factors in the framework of the paradigm shift to higher automation levels expected for the future.

Sixteen ATC students were involved in the validation activity. They were asked to manage a realistic operational scenario developed to induce different levels of attention and stress. The users’ neurophysiological signals were recorded continuously. Besides neurophysiological data, behavioural and performance data (i.e. how controllers handled the traffic) as well as subjective data (i.e. the experimental subjects’ perception of stress and attention) were also collected (

Data are currently under analysis.

The project also started the work on the scenarios that will have to simulate the conditions of future highly automated systems. The context used will be the one of the Free Route Airspace. Tools will be developed able to support in a semi or totally automated way controllers’ tasks, including decision making (e.g. how to solve conflicts) and the implementation of decisions (e.g. giving orders to aircraft). The neurophysiological indexes will be used to evaluate the impact of these automations on controllers’ performance. The radar environment in

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 main topics that will be improved thanks to STRESS:
1. Considered Human Factors description in terms of specific cognitive processes and mental states.
2. Neurophysiological characterization of stress, attention, cognitive control and workload phenomena.
3. Combination of the indexes to test the possibility to simultaneously measure such mental states along the execution of tasks.
4. Testing of Automation and its impact\relation to Human Performance

Within the first 12 months of the project, points 1, 2 and 3 have been addressed.
In particular, the mental state of stress, attention, cognitive control and workload have been characterized by means of specific cognitive processes.
Neurometrics have then been defined by combining the considered neurophysiological signals with the aim to measure and track such mental state changes along the execution of laboratory tasks.
The signals have been chosen in a way that different human factors can be measured at the same time.

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