LESS IS MORE: New workstations could clear the clutter for air traffic controllers
Anyone who has watched TV while scrolling around on their smartphone knows how easy it is to miss or forget something
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September 3, 2019 - by raytheon.com
Multitasking is mentally exhausting.
Anyone who has watched TV while scrolling around on their smartphone knows how easy it is to miss or forget something.
Academic research backs that up; a Bryan University study said multitasking can lower IQ by as much as 15 points – about the same effect as trying to function the day after an all-nighter.
Few professions demand as much multitasking as air-traffic controllers, who monitor multiple data streams and work as many as eight pieces of technology at the same time. To lessen their burden, Raytheon has built a prototype workstation that combines the clutter of monitors, trackballs and keyboards into a much cleaner configuration using tablet and touchpad technology.
The system is called the Multi-platform Automation Re-Hosting Solution – or just MARS for short. So far, the reception among air traffic controllers has been good, said Jackie Dent, who leads the project for Raytheon.
"Typically, adjusting to new technology can be daunting to air traffic controllers due to retraining and recertification requirements," Dent said. "So when we debuted a MARS proof of concept at several major shows last year, we were surprised and happy when not only did the controllers like MARS, many of them spent 10 minutes or more filling out what they thought about it and how we could make improvements."
With MARS, controllers use one or two 43-inch touchscreen monitors to see an integrated picture of flight, surveillance, weather and airport data from multiple air traffic applications. Those screens can show air traffic applications such as Raytheon's Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System, or STARS, voice recording and switching systems, airport surface detection system alerts, weather display systems and electronic flight strip systems, or logs of the instructions controllers give to pilots.
The system can scale to the needs of different air traffic control facilities, which can vary greatly.
"Each airport has unique airspace configurations and runway layouts; they could be crossing or parallel or they could have a single approach and depart path because of mountain ranges," said Meghan Smart, Raytheon MARS strategist. "At airports, it's not one-size-fits-all, and since MARS is display agnostic, site adaptable and has a common architecture, it's capable of using whatever systems are already in place."
MARS could also improve the flow and feel of the air traffic control facilities themselves – especially those where monitors are mounted on walls and controllers must walk back and forth to look at them. A single MARS system could replace those monitors and individual input devices.
"You never have to take your eyes of the screens," Dent said. "And we've also made MARS so it can be adaptable to every position. Today, you need different equipment depending on your role. If you have five systems at a workstation, then you'd have five displays, five keyboards, five trackballs. MARS reduces that to two displays, one track pad and one tablet that's a virtual keyboard."...
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