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Ground System for NexGen Communications: multiple iterations of a user interface design for a communications system between air traffic controlle… Read More
Ground System for NexGen Communications: multiple iterations of a user interface design for a communications system between air traffic controllers and pilots Read Less
Published:
G-SyNC User Interface Design
UC Berkeley Student Research Group, Spring 2011
Berkeley Innovation, an undergraduate human-centered design club at UC Berkeley that I am involved in (now Vice President), was approached to help design an interface for a civil engineering senior project. Together with two other computer science students and four civil engineering students, we designed the user interface for this proposed communications system, G-SyNC.

The project was supervised by advisor Dr. Jasenka Rakas, deputy director of the UC Berkeley National Center of Excellence for Aviation Operations Research (NEXTOR). We designed multiple iterations of the user interface of G-SyNC, Ground System for NexGen Communications, a touchscreen datalink communications system for pilots and air traffic controllers. This involved researching existing and future air traffic control (ATC) communications technologies, as well as standard ATC voice commands. Throughout the course of this project, we also interviewed researchers, pilots, and air traffic controllers to obtain academic and industry feedback.
 Sketches of possible UI designs for air traffic controller (ATC) and pilot screens
Sketches of various UI details, including representation of planes on screen, color-coding, and screen views from multiple perspectives
Sketches of various ATC technology interaction details, including touch and drag for routing, clearances, and follow directions.
Proposed ATC technology: 
Proposed ATC touchscreen map:- Route with a plane taking off has red borders- Plane routes highlighted pink- To create a route, simply tap and drag a plane, then tap to stop
 Proposed pilot screen: - NOT touchscreen, because we decided after several user interviews that touchscreens would be unsafe in the cockpit- GPS-like, where a pilot can view his or her route and planes within a specific distance (inside circle)- Instructions from ATC displayed on the right for easy readback (when a pilot repeats instructions from the ATC for confirmation)
Which ATC/pilot interactions will involve G-SyNC technology? After several interviews with ATCs and pilots, we decided that G-SyNC technology will only be used for simple operations, while anything beyond simple route directions and taxi clearances would be reserved for radio instructions. This way, we can reduce the cognitive load on ATCs and pilots through technology, while retaining safety for all involved.