The present work aimed to discover controllers weather information needs and assess if 3D weather visualization could provide added benefits to controllers. The results of the survey can be summarized as follows. There are several differences in the weather information needs between en route and approach controllers, which logically reflect the different focus of activities carried out by each group of controllers. For example, approach controllers need very specific knowledge such as Wind, RVR, Visibility, etc. that is not normally required to en route controllers (at least, in the light of the results that we obtained). This fact has to be considered for the design of ATC weather interfaces, for example, by conceiving dedicated and customized weather representations that are suitable for the tasks that controllers actually perform. By this, we do not mean that information should be hidden from controllers; more simply, we claim that interfaces should avoid displaying unnecessary data and, eventually, providing extra information only upon request. Moreover, according to the results of this study, both en route and approach controllers seem to value and use critical weather information such as CB, Thunderstorm, Turbulence and Icing. As we stated in the previous sections, hazardous weather information has direct impact on the safety and efficiency of air traffic. Devising visual techniques for allowing controllers to perform “ahead assessments” about weather hazards, could support controllers in identifying in advance strategic solutions for responding to the restrictions imposed by weather on upper space sectors, terminal areas and aerodromes. Controllers declared having a quite low degree of satisfaction about the displays currently used for hazardous weather information. In particular, both en route and approach controllers gave low scores to very critical weather data such as Wind Shear, Turbulence, CB and Icing. Suitable representations as well as projections of adverse weather events seem missing. We suppose that the solely textual representation largely contributes to this result and, perhaps, graphical information could better suit controllers´ needs, independently from the interface style (either 2D or 3D). But, controllers’ comments gave promising insights on the use of 3D as a more intuitive representation of hazardous weather. However, at this stage of the study, we can only accept controllers’ comments as they are, hence, these ideas remain hypotheses that need further investigation. Short-term plans for continuing this research entail the implementation of a small mock-up of CB formation embedded into a sector with a realistic traffic flow. The choice of CB is justified by the fact that controllers expressed a high interest for having 3D representations of cumulonimbus and further stressed this interest in an explicit manner, adding comments in the questionnaire and during informal talks. We intend to perform additional demonstration sessions showing this new implementation and carrying out in-depth interviews with controllers, in order to understand what the supposed benefits of 3D weather images would be. Perhaps there are some specific visual properties of 3D weather representations that could indeed enhance controllers’ tasks. Understanding what these visual properties are, would give us sufficient information for defining the functional requirements of a more refined 3D prototype.

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Published on 01/01/2010

Volume 2010, 2010
DOI: 10.5772/9844
Licence: Other

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