Development and evaluation of an automated path planning aid
Watts, Robert Michael
MetadataShow full item record
In the event of an onboard emergency, air transport pilots are remarkably adept at safely landing their aircraft. However, the tasks of selecting an alternate landing site and developing a safe path to land are very difficult in the high workload, high stress environment of a cockpit during an emergency. The purpose of this research was to develop an automated path planning aid which would assist the pilot in the completion of these tasks. A prototype was developed to test this concept experimentally. The experiment was also intended to gather further information about how pilots think about and accomplish this task as well as the best ways to assist them. In order to better understand the priorities and processes pilots use when dealing with emergency planning, a survey of airline pilots was conducted. The results of this survey highlighted the fact that each emergency is unique and has its own set of factors which are critically important. One factor which is important in many emergencies is the need to land quickly. The survey responses indicated that one of the most important characteristics of a useful tool is that it should provide pertinent information in an easy to use manner, and should not divert too much attention from their other tasks. A number of design goals drove the development of the prototype aid. First, the aid was to work within current aircraft, without requiring substantial redesign on the cockpit. Second, the aid was to help improve pilots' performance without increasing their workload. Finally, the aid was designed to assist pilots in obtaining and processing critical information which influences the site selection and path development tasks. One variation of the aid included a filter dial which allowed pilots to quickly reduce the number of options considered, another variation of the aid did not include such a dial. These two variations of the aid were tested in order to assess the impact of the addition of the filter dial to the system. Though many of the results did not prove to be statistically significant, they suggest that the addition of a filter dial improved the quality of the selected landing site; however, it also increased the time required for the selection. The results were obtained in both familiar and unfamiliar emergencies. The dial was shown to improve the time to complete the task in the case of unfamiliar emergencies. The experiment also compared an optimal ranking system to a non-optimal system, for which results showed no significant difference between the two. This may imply that while pilots did not tend to over rely on the ranking system, under-reliance may need to be addressed by training and a better understanding of the factors which impact the rankings. The participants found that the aid facilitates quick and easy access to critical information. The aid was also useful for processing this information by filtering out options which were inappropriate for a given scenario through the use of the filter dial. The participants also made recommendations about possible improvements which could be made to the system such as better filter settings which are more similar to the way that pilots think about their options.