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Role of the Human in the Evolution of Air Traffic Management Systems

European Union
Complete with results
Project Acronym
STRIA Roadmaps
Network and traffic management systems (NTM)
Transport mode
Airborne icon
Transport policies
Societal/Economic issues


Background & Policy context

Looking at the human role in future Air Traffic Management (ATM) systems, there is a risk of implementing unsuitable automation concepts and systems that fail to support air traffic controllers. A detailed understanding of the best possible allocation of functions between the human controller and the automated system is essential to ensure the success of new ATM concepts. If air traffic controllers refuse to use appropriate automated components, it could result in an inefficient use of resources or even impair the safe and reliable performance of the whole ATM system.


RHEA aimed to provide automation strategies to systematically guide the decision process for automating functions in an ATM system that can accommodate growth in air traffic, while at the same time maintaining (or even enhancing) safety and efficiency levels and giving the air traffic controllers a satisfying job. Specific objectives have been to identify and evaluate functions that currently play a role in ATM and to add new ones, likely to become of interest in the future. The aim here was to build a common classification scheme of automation concepts. The concluding project objective was to produce functional requirements of the possible roles for human operators in future ATM systems, and associated automated assistance tools on different intervention levels.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
European Commission; Directorate-General for Energy and Transport (DG TREN; formerly DG VII)
Type of funding
Public (EU)


RHEA has produced:

  • a review of 20 ATM studies, relevant to the project context, accompanied by a literature survey to identify information sources about automation in ATM, which had lead to a list of 14 key references;
  • an overview of conclusions from literature surveys, such as the operational success of Human Machine Interface (HMI) enhancements and machine aided evaluation, the current testing of cooperative tools and dynamic allocation, and the finding that complete automation happens to fail before complete simulation does;
  • a classified list of evaluation methods and techniques, targeting the work allocation between humans and machines, with outlined criteria such as safety, workload, usability, performance, situational awareness, knowledge use and complexity;
  • a presentation of 17 ATM scenarios and test situations considering cognitive activities like communication, monitoring, planning, decision-making and negotiation;
  • an evaluation of 7 selected automation concepts that address the man/machine interface in Air Traffic Control (ATC):
    • controller as supervisor;
    • machine proposal strategy;
    • machine-aided evaluation;
    • dynamic allocation with human delegation;
    • dynamic allocation with machine delegation;
    • dynamic aircraft delegation and cognitive (assistance) tools, which have been found most promising for several ATC environments;
    • requirements for automation of ATM, reflecting automation related issues and basic controller functions.

Policy implications

The project's results have provided a framework on ATM automation allowing for predictions about the achievable success when implementing particular automation concepts. Further validation of the RHEA framework on the evaluation of automation concepts is necessary.


A real time simulation of the four most promising automation concepts cognitive tools, dynamic allocation with human delegation, machine-aided evaluation, and machine proposal is recommended. Fast time simulations could be carried out as well, in order to gain accurate information about the most promising ATM automation concepts.


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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