Future air traffic management concepts envisage shared decision-making responsibilities between controllers and pilots, necessitating that controllers be supported by automated decision aids. Even as automation tools are being introduced, however, their impact on the air traffic controller is not well understood. The present experiments examined the effects of an aircraft-to-aircraft conflict decision aid on performance and mental workload of experienced, full-performance level controllers in a simulated Free Flight environment. Performance was examined with both reliable (Experiment 1) and inaccurate automation (Experiment 2). The aid improved controller performance and reduced mental workload when it functioned reliably. However, detection of a particular conflict was better under manual conditions than under automated conditions when the automation was imperfect. Potential or actual applications of the results include the design of automation and procedures for future air traffic control systems.
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