Less automation better for air traffic controllers

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Washington, Oct 18 (ANI): Less automation is better for air traffic controllers, a new study has suggested.

"Fully automated systems are not always desirable because they tend to leave the controller out of the decision-making loop," said Arathi Sethumadhavan, a former Texas Tech University psychology student.

"The controllers tend to become overly reliant on the automation, so that when it fails, it's hard for the operator to take back control. The key is to find the right level and type of automation that benefits the controller and still keeps the controller in the decision-making loop," said Sethumadhavan, who recently earned a doctorate degree from the Department of Psychology.

For the study, Sethumadhavan trained 72 subjects to use a simple air traffic control simulator with four levels of automation.

She found that controllers with more automation built into their systems were less able to detect collisions in their airspace when the systems failed than those who had less automation.

The study has been published in the 2009 Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. She will present her findings during the society's annual meeting Oct. 19-23. (ANI)

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