Monitoring fatigue and stress while performing ATCO tasks

14 June 2017

EUROCONTROL brings its extensive experience in applying Human Performance analysis, and assessing stress and fatigue management, to Horizon 2020’s STRESS project validation study on stress and attention in Air Traffic Management (ATM).

STRESS (human performance neurometricS Toolbox foR highly automatEd Systems deSign) is a Horizon 2020 project in the framework of the SESAR Research and Innovation Action, addressing human performance in future ATM scenarios.

The project, which started in June 2016 and will finish in June 2018, sees EUROCONTROL’s Safety Unit working alongside project partners namely Deep Blue, an Italian research and consultancy specialised in human factors, safety, validation and scientific dissemination, and project coordinator; Sapienza University of Rome, providing expertise in the measurement and analysis of neurophysiological signals and definition of indexes of human mental states and cognitive performance; the Ecole Nationale de l’Aviation Civile (ENAC), the French National School for Civil Aviation, providing first quality access to ATM experts and a long-standing expertise in innovative interaction technology; and Anadolu University, whose Faculty of Aeronautics and Astronautics state-of-the-art simulation environments and a deep knowledge of ATM needs.

6-9 June saw a validation study on stress and attention in Air Traffic Control (ATC) performed at Anadolu University. The objective of the study was to validate neurophysiological indexes developed by the project that monitor in real-time Air Traffic Controllers’ mental states while performing classic air traffic control tasks. In particular, the study investigated two of the most impacted human factors in the framework of the paradigm shift to higher automation levels expected for the future: the stress level; and the type and level of attentional focus.

16 ATC students were involved in the validation activity, and were asked to manage a realistic operational scenario developed to induce different levels of attention and stress. The users’ neurophysiological signals were recorded continuously, and the data collected then compared with behavioural and performance data looking at how controllers handled the traffic; and subjective data (experimental subjects and external experts’ feedback) to verify that the indices are capable of assessing attention and stress.

The data gathered will now be analysed over the coming months to validate the project hypothesis. In the next phase, STRESS will use the validated indices to assess the air traffic controllers’ performance in high automation scenarios. The outcome will be the main input for the preparation of guidelines for future ATC systems design, with a focus on automation.

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