Design improvements revealed by studying human factors

The Swedish Civil Aviation Administration studied how air traffic controllers used their systems and scanned environments. The insights gained through eye tracking identified what drew their attention towards or away from the task and transformed into ideas to redesign the system in order to improve efficiency and safety in operations.

"Eye tracking is particularly interesting because we can find out exactly how the controller works, and how the controller uses his or her capabilities to find information, draw conclusions and to execute actions."

Billy Josefsson, Senior Advisor ATM, Safety, and Human Performance for The Swedish Civil Aviation Administration

The background

Airport Control Case Image

Eye tracking captures differences in how operators gather information and solve tasks. This methodology is particularly useful in complex environments, including simulators, with high requirements on process, quality, or safety compliance. The data from an eye tracker can reveal different decision-making-methods to better understand human factors and operator cognitive workload.

The research team wanted to integrate automation with human capabilities. They used eye tracking to understand how different operators solve tasks to identify problems in interfaces or instructions that could be improved.

The method

In this video, Billy Josefsson (Senior Advisor ATM, Safety, and Human Performance for The Swedish Civil Aviation Administration) explains the importance of eye tracking as a skills assessment and quality assurance tool in an air traffic control room.

Wearable eye trackers were used to record where the controllers were looking as they performed their normal tasks in the control room. Afterwards the research team replayed the recordings for the controllers and followed up with questions to fully understand details in the work that caused confusion or hesitation.

The conclusion

The outcome of the eye tracking study helped the team identify details in the work process and interaction between the system and the operator that needed adjustment. For instance, they identified a mode error in the system that confused the operators, which needed to be redesigned to improve efficiency and safety in operations.