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Computational Intelligence and Neuroscience
Volume 2016 (2016), Article ID 8343842, 17 pages
Research Article

Characterization of Visual Scanning Patterns in Air Traffic Control

1School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Oklahoma, 110 W. Boyd Street, Devon Energy Hall 150, Norman, OK 73019-1102, USA
2School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, University of Oklahoma, 202 West Boyd Street, No. 116, Norman, OK 73019, USA

Received 27 November 2015; Accepted 14 January 2016

Academic Editor: Francesco Camastra

Copyright © 2016 Sarah N. McClung and Ziho Kang. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Characterization of air traffic controllers’ (ATCs’) visual scanning strategies is a challenging issue due to the dynamic movement of multiple aircraft and increasing complexity of scanpaths (order of eye fixations and saccades) over time. Additionally, terminologies and methods are lacking to accurately characterize the eye tracking data into simplified visual scanning strategies linguistically expressed by ATCs. As an intermediate step to automate the characterization classification process, we (1) defined and developed new concepts to systematically filter complex visual scanpaths into simpler and more manageable forms and (2) developed procedures to map visual scanpaths with linguistic inputs to reduce the human judgement bias during interrater agreement. The developed concepts and procedures were applied to investigating the visual scanpaths of expert ATCs using scenarios with different aircraft congestion levels. Furthermore, oculomotor trends were analyzed to identify the influence of aircraft congestion on scan time and number of comparisons among aircraft. The findings show that (1) the scanpaths filtered at the highest intensity led to more consistent mapping with the ATCs’ linguistic inputs, (2) the pattern classification occurrences differed between scenarios, and (3) increasing aircraft congestion caused increased scan times and aircraft pairwise comparisons. The results provide a foundation for better characterizing complex scanpaths in a dynamic task and automating the analysis process.