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Examining the effects of conformal terrain features in advanced head‐up displays on flight performance and pilot situation awareness


Human Factors and Ergonomics in Manufacturing & Service Industries

Published online on


Synthetic vision systems (SVS) render terrain features for pilots through cockpit displays using a GPS database and three‐dimensional graphical models. Enhanced vision systems (EVS) present infrared imagery of terrain using a forward‐looking sensor in the nose of an aircraft. The ultimate goal of SVS and EVS technologies is to support pilots in achieving safety under low‐visibility and night conditions comparable to clear, day conditions. This study assessed pilot performance and situation awareness (SA) effects of SVS and EVS imagery in an advanced head‐up display (HUD) during a simulated landing approach under instrument meteorological conditions. Videos of the landing with various HUD configurations were presented to eight pilots with a superimposed tracking task. The independent variables included four HUD feature configurations (baseline [no terrain imagery], SVS, EVS, and a combination of SVS and EVS), two visibility conditions, and four legs of the flight. Results indicated that SVS increased overall SA but degraded flight path control performance because of visual confusion with other display features. EVS increased flight path control accuracy but decreased system (aircraft) awareness because of visual distractions. The combination of SVS and EVS generated offsetting effects. Display configurations did not affect pilot spatial awareness. Flight performance was not different among phases of the approach, but levels and types of pilot SA did vary from leg to leg. These results are applicable to development of adaptive HUD features to support pilot performance. They support the use of multidimensional measures of SA for insight on pilot information processing with advanced aviation displays. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.