Florida Tech’s HF Assist Lab Soars at President’s Research Briefings

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Florida Tech is helping the next generation of aviation researchers reach new heights through the HF Assist Lab. The HF Assist Lab does research in human factors, ranging from aviation to social media.

The HF Assist Lab was represented at the President‘s Research Briefings, an ongoing series of meetings involving Florida Tech President Dwayne McCay, other top-level administrators and university faculty who offer presentations on their research. The lab was comprised of aviation sciences Ph.D. students Tianhua Li (in coordination with faculty member Brooke Wheeler), John Mahlman and Warren Pittorie. The lab also has Masters students Barry Abdullah Bouran, Bhoomin Chauhan, Erin Egoroff, Leonia Hunt and Akash Sudharsan. Graduate Program Chair and aviation human factors professor Debbie Carstens is the faculty researcher.

Here is a look at the projects presented:

    • Completed by Egoroff, Chauhan and Bouran, with Carstens as a faculty adviser during the Human Performance 1 course, the team analyzed the increased potential of runway incursions with the increase in complexity and size of modern airports. The goal was to develop a monitoring system that utilizes a LiDAR scanner – a detection system that works on the principle of radar but uses light from a laser – at the halfway point of the runway, allowing it to cover the entire range of the runway. Pressure plates on all hold-short lines, areas where planes are waiting to enter the runway, were to be added to aid air traffic control in the detection of potential runway incursions.
    • Pittorie’s thesis project, for which Carstens served as thesis chair and Meredith Carroll and Andrew Cudmore on his committee, was on the effects of verbal versus graphical weather information on a pilot’s decision-making during preflight checks. Conducting background research on preflight weather regulations, human performance on verbal and visual information analysis, and pilot decision making, the team found significant effects of the briefing format on both decision making and confidence, but only when received during a multi-leg flight. Pilots were expected to have higher confidence and more likely to “go” after a graphical/textual briefing and must consider the order of briefing formats on the type of weather that will be encountered in each leg of the flight.
    • The Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Integration into National Airspace System (NAS) and Airports Risk Mitigation using Content Analysis Methodology thesis was presented by Chauhan. Carstens is his current thesis chair and Stephen Cusick and Heidi Edwards also serve on his committee. Research discovered an increase in civilian and commercial use of UAS and an increase in UAS sightings near an airport and in close proximity to manned aircrafts.
    • Mahlman presented his dissertation that is chaired by Carstens, with Michael Gallo, Alex Vamosi and John Deaton also on his committee. The research involves runway incursions and specifically a multimethod approach to understanding the challenges in mitigating vehicle- and pedestrian-deviation runway incursions. The two-phase project will analyze data from airport executives at airports where these incursions have occurred. The research has already found that technology, training and human factors are thematic causes of runway incursions at airports and provided information on how to increase airport safety and security.
    • The FAA grant-supported Airport Safety Database and Analysis research project featured Carstens as the primary investigator and 30 team members from Iowa State, The Ohio State University and Florida Tech, including Mahlman and Egoroff. Carstens and the team analyzed accidents and incidents that occurred at or near airports by reading incident report narrative while referencing the airport diagram and Google Earth imagery, selecting the occurrences, indicating whether the event occurred at a hot spot and filling in any information that was not automatically populated. A single database to better identify trends and contributing factors in accidents was created and high-risk areas where future safety initiatives should focus was analyzed.
    • The ORAU-funded Aviation Integrated Risk Assessment and Accident Analysis for Leading Indicators featured Carstens and ORAU’s Martin Barrie as primary investigators, and team members include Bouran, Chauhan, Egoroff, Hunt, Mahlman, Sudharsan and Howard. The team analyzed human error associated with accidents by looking at factors such as training in communication, competency and safety, and standard operating procedures for safety, maintenance and flight crews. Research showed the largest drivers of accidents were decision errors, skill-based errors and the physical environment.
    • Another ORAU-funded project looked at the psychological effects of social media restrictions on employees in secure environments, with Carstens and ORAU’s Jeff Miller as primary investigators, as well as Mahlman and Schaffer as team members. The team looked at how social media behavior changed over the course of the employee’s first year and the impact this behavioral change had on their relationships with family, friends and co-workers.
    • New research on the effect of one-sided conversations on the attention of flight passengers will begin in the spring by Li, Wheeler and Carstens to examine the difference in passengers’ attention to flight announcements through one-sided and two-sided conversations, as well as no conversations.

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