Display and Automation Considerations for the Airborne Collision Avoidance System Xu

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Conference Proceeding

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In this paper we examine several display and automation considerations of a collision avoidance system that is currently under development: the Airborne Collision Avoidance System (ACAS) Xu. This study builds on previous work conducted as part of NASA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration into the National Airspace System (NAS) project. ACAS Xu represents the next-generation successor to the Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS II), wherein the Xu variant is intended for UAS applications. Whereas TCAS II exclusively issues RAs in the vertical dimension, a major distinction between ACAS Xu and previous collision avoidance (CA) systems is the introduction of horizontal and “blended” RAs (i.e., RAs with both horizontal and vertical components). This present work was conducted as an engineering analysis involving two parts. In Part 1, a two-by-two, within-subjects study was performed that manipulated how RAs were presented to a pilot situated at a UAS ground control station. Five participants experienced four experimental trials in which text and aural alerting characteristics were manipulated. In Part 2, another five participants experienced four trials in which the levels of automation were manipulated with regard to the CA and return-to-course (RTC) tasks. The results for Part 1 found no effect of display or alerting configuration on pilot performance. However, it was discovered that pilot response time to RAs greatly depended on the RA type. In particular, pilots were quicker to respond to vertical RAs (M = 4.52 seconds) than horizontal (M = 7.42 seconds) and blended (M = 9.68 seconds) RAs in which both dimensions were issued simultaneously. For Part 2 of the study, pilots found both auto-CA and auto-RTC functions equally useful. Most pilots were comfortable with the automation, however responses were mixed. Three of five participants indicated high levels of comfort with the auto-CA function, while two rated their comfort as low. Pilots’ comfort for the auto-RTC functionality was slightly higher: four out of five pilots gave high ratings, while one pilot gave a low rating. Overall, pilots ordinally ranked their preference for automated functions as auto-CA together with auto-RTC (when an aural alert announces a change between CA and RTC states), auto-CA, and auto-CA and RTC (without the aural state-change announcement). Recommendations for improving the display of automation are also discussed.


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