Distributing Non-cooperative Object Information in Next Generation Radar Surveillance Systems
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Radar surveillance systems, in both airspace and maritime domains, are facing increasing challenges in dealing with objects that cannot be detected by traditional transponder-based radar surveillance technologies. These objects, including birds, weather, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), hot balloons, are labeled as non-cooperative objects. In order to prevent ambiguity and confusion for human operators using the surveillance data non-cooperative objects are commonly treated as unwanted clutter and removed from the displayed data. However, the omitted information of non-cooperative object can be critical to aircraft safety. With new developments in technology and radar capabilities, it is possible to detect these non-cooperative objects and consider how to distribute relevant information about them to human operators throughout a system. The research goal of this thesis is to identify the human factors challenges in future radar surveillance systems where non-cooperative object information is distributed to both air traffic controllers and pilots. In order to achieve the goal, the thesis first constructed a model of surveillance information distribution in current ATC operations and a model of surveillance information distribution in the expected future operational environment. The expected future surveillance information distribution model was then carefully examined to identify potential human factors challenges in the non-cooperative object information distribution process. Two of the identified challenges (non-equal time delay and information level of details) were studied in depth through conducting human-in-the-loop experiments and online surveys. The results of an asynchronous information (non-equal time delay) static simulation environment experiment showed that while a delay in the non-cooperative object information would lead to observable but not statistically significant longer communication time, it does have a significant effect on number of clarification statements – with an increase of time delay, more clarifications were made. A survey of controller and pilot perceptions of maximum acceptable delay showed no significant differences in the average maximum acceptable delay reported by controller (20.5 seconds) and pilot (13.64 seconds) participants. Future research should consider adopting dynamic simulation environment, subject matter experts and shorter delay intervals to identify an acceptable delay threshold. The survey results also demonstrated that there are more controllers and pilots who have had encounters with UAS in their daily tasks than what was originally expected. The survey also helped identify operational information requirements and availabilities for individual UAS and challenges in sharing non-cooperative object information between controllers and pilots. These findings are quite valuable as they provide guidance on future radar surveillance systems design in supporting the effective distribution of non-cooperative object information. Future work should complete the analysis of the survey and create more dynamic environment for studying information asynchrony.