a particular function is continuously performed by the human operator, with no machine control. At the other extreme of total automation, all aspects of the function (including its monitoring) are delegated to a machine, so that only the end-product and not its operation is made available to the human operator. In between these two extremes lie different degrees of participation in the function by the human and by automation.

In this report we propose two additional scales, one representing levels of automation that can be applied to the dimension of information acquisition and integration (referred to as information automation) and another that is related to the dimension of action implementation. The level of information automation is determined by the presence or absence of computer functions enabling filtering, information distribution, information transformation, confidence estimates, integrity checks, and flexible information based on requests from users. Systems that possess all of these features have high levels of information automation. The dimension of action implementation is treated in this context as a dichotomous scale providing either manual or automatic implementation.

  • The panel recommends that automation efforts focus on reliable, high level automation applications for information acquisition, integration, and presentation and for aiding controller decision making in order to support all system functions. Especially important in the near future is the development of decision aids for conflict resolution and maintaining separation. These aids should be directed primarily toward ensuring proper spacing between aircraft in preparation for the final stages of approach to landing and toward en route flight path efficiency improvement.

  • The panel recommends implementation of high levels of automation of decision and action selection for system tasks involving relatively little uncertainty and risk. However, for system tasks associated with greater uncertainty and risk, automation of decision and action selection should not proceed beyond the level of suggesting a preferred decision/action alternative. Any consideration for automation at or above this level must be designed to prevent: loss of vigilance, loss of situation awareness, degradation of operational skills, and degradation of teamwork and communication. Such designs should also ensure the capabilities to overcome or counteract complacency, recover from failure, and provide a means of conflict resolution if loss of separation occurs.


A central issue is the potential influence of automation on the ability to efficiently and effectively recover from emergency situations. Automation may increase capacity, but it will also increase traffic density and may increase airspace

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