Vol. 11:1 (2003) ► pp.17–31
Displays in air traffic control
Commercial aviation is becoming more and more important these days. From year to year there is an accelerated increase in the density of air traffic. The resulting fast growth in the flow of data between controllers and the technical systems they use, as well as that between controller and pilot, calls for new means of communication and visualization of information and interaction with it. Revised concepts for air traffic control must be applied, to deal safely with the increasing volume of traffic in the future. The main focus must be on designing an appropriate interface to support the interaction between ground and cockpit, making the communication as efficient, convenient and secure as possible. This undoubtedly goes further than just making information accessible in a digital format.
Despite the importance and complexity of the subject, interdisciplinary projects to achieve this were launched only recently. However, as time goes on, more ergonomics specialists, psychologists and designers are working in this field dominated by engineers and programmers.
So far, only a few cooperative projects have been undertaken between information designers, interaction designers and air traffic control specialists to create new interface solutions. This is all the more surprising since the structuring and visualization of this immense flow of data, the mapping of dynamic processes and the search for new means of communication constitute a highly interesting field.
There is a strong belief that only such cooperation can lead to a coherent product, if interfaces are to be developed which can unfold the potential of the new Datalink-technology. The project described in this article was undertaken at the Design Department of the University of Applied Sciences Cologne, in cooperation with engineers from the Berlin University of Technology/ Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics/ Section Flight Guidance and Transportation and IT-specialists and air traffic controllers from Skyguide (Zürich and Geneva).
After a brief summary of the general situation in air traffic control and the work that controllers do, my aim in this article is to present a feasible interface solution for the arrival/departure sector, one of the most crucial areas of air traffic control.
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