NASA SBIR 2003 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER:03-A5.01-9461 (For NASA Use Only - Chron: 033544)
SUBTOPIC TITLE:Human-Automation Interaction in Aerospace Systems
PROPOSAL TITLE:Robust Decision Support Technology

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Metron Aviation, Inc.
131 Elden Street, Suite 200
Herndon ,VA 20170 - 4758
(703) 456 - 0123

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Dr. Stephen   Atkins
131 Elden Street, Suite 200
Herndon ,VA  20170 -4758
(978) 692 - 9484
U.S. Citizen or Legal Resident: Yes

A fundamental challenge in the development of automation to aid a human user, and a primary metric for the success of the design, is acceptance by the user community. This is particularly true of air traffic control (ATC) automation. The proposed work hypothesizes that a lack of robustness to uncertainty leads to automation designs that are not human-centered and, therefore, are unacceptable or unusable to the users. Automation must frequently provide advisories, make control decisions, or alert in the presence of uncertainty about the state of the world. Contemporary automation typically bases outputs on deterministic estimates, discarding available knowledge about uncertainty because techniques for using this knowledge in the automation?s algorithms or displaying uncertainty information to the user are not available.
The proposed work studies two approaches to handling uncertainty. First, we will investigate automation designs that incorporate knowledge of uncertainty in the automation?s calculations and decisions. Second, we will investigate presenting confidence/uncertainty information to the user. Finally, we will evaluate how these approaches to incorporating knowledge about uncertainty improve the usability and acceptability of decision support tools. We will study this problem in the context of ATC automation.

The results of this SBIR could be applied in a variety of NASA projects. The results could be directly applied to NASA?s work on the Surface Management System. Moreover, NASA is researching numerous other air traffic management decision support tools, such as the Active Final Approach Spacing Tool, Multi-Center Traffic Management Advisor, and Direct-To. Each of these automation systems must address the problems of user acceptance and robustness to uncertainty and, therefore, could benefit from the robust decision support technology developed through this work.

The commercial potential for the proposed work lies in improving or enabling automation systems used by the FAA and air carriers. Metron Aviation has built or is building a variety of automation systems for both the FAA and air carriers, such as the Flight Schedule Monitor (FSM) used by the FAA and NAS users to manage ground delay programs. FSM delays departures based on predictions of airport arrival capacity and arrival demand, both of which include substantial uncertainty. Metron Aviation would apply the lessons learned during this work to improve FSM as well as other existing and new products.