Exploring potential benefits and challenges of touch screens on the flight deck

Avsar, Hüseyin (2017) Exploring potential benefits and challenges of touch screens on the flight deck. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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As the avionics industry is seeking to introduce touch screens into most flight decks, it is vital to understand the interactional challenges and benefits of doing so. The potential benefits and challenges of touch screen technology on flight decks was investigated by means of a variety of qualitative and quantitative research methods (mixed methods approach). A number of research questions are addressed, which have been iteratively developed from the literature, interviews with avionics experts and pilots. This work presents one field study, two lab studies, one observational study, one simulation study and one comparative user study, all investigating various factors/variables that could affect touch screen usability on the flight deck.

The first field study investigated interactive displays on the flight deck with search and rescue (SAR) crew members in an operational setting in helicopters. This was the first in-flight experiment where touch screens were evaluated under real conditions. The results showed the impact of target size, device placement and in-flight vibration on targeting accuracy and performance. Presented statistical analyses and observations are essential to understand how to design effective touch screen interfaces for the flight deck.

One of the lab studies evaluated (more in depth) the potential impact of display position of touch screens within a simulated cockpit. This was the first experiment that investigated the impact of various display positions on performance following Fitts’ Law experiment. Results revealed that display location has a significant impact on touch screen usability. Qualitative findings from semi-structured interviews and post-experiment questionnaires supported the understanding of interactional issues on a flight deck environment which extended initial design guidelines.

Pilots brought attention to the impact of increased G-force (+Gz) as an additional environmental factor that might affect touch screen usability on agile aircrafts. Therefore, a Fitts’ law experiment was conducted to understand the effect of +Gz on touch screen usability. +Gz conditions were simulated with a weight-adjustable wristband, which was the first approach to simulate increased G-force in lab environment. Empirical results and subjective ratings showed a large impact of +Gz on performance and fatigue indices.

An observational study focused on Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) (mobile device) usage on the specific domain of Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopters. The novelty in this study was the focus group in which the aim was to find features, content and functionality that a SAR pilot may wish to see in an EFB. From operational observations and interviews with pilot’s operational requirements were defined. A Digital Human Modelling Software was used to define physical constraints of an EFB and develop interface design guidelines. A scenario and virtual prototype was created and presented to pilots.

A new way of interaction to manipulate radio frequencies of avionics systems was developed based on findings achieved in this work and other relevant studies. A usability experiment simulating departures and approaches to airports was used to evaluate the interface and compare it with the current system (Flight Management System). In addition, interviews with pilots were conducted to find out their personal impressions and to reveal problem areas of the interface. Analyses of task completion time and error rates showed that the touch interface is significantly faster and less prone to user input errors than the conventional input method (via physical or virtual keypad). Potential problem areas were identified and an improved interface is suggested.

Overall, the main contribution of this research is a framework showing the relation between various aspects that could impact the usability of touch screens on the flight deck. Furthermore, design guidelines were developed that should support the usability of interactive displays on the flight deck. This work concludes with a preliminary questionnaire that can help avionic designers to evaluate whether a touch screen is an appropriate user interface for their system.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Rodden, Tom
Fischer, Joel
Keywords: aeronautics, flight deck, cockpit, touch screens, hci, flight controls
Subjects: Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA 75 Electronic computers. Computer science
T Technology > TL Motor vehicles. Aeronautics. Astronautics
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Science > School of Computer Science
Item ID: 47595
Depositing User: Avsar, Huseyin
Date Deposited: 14 Dec 2017 04:40
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2017 03:03
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/47595

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