Human lives depend on their decisions, and psychological stress levels are high. An average radio contact takes 3.5 to 11.3 seconds, during which the air traffic controller checks in with the pilot, examines the radar screens and gives out new instructions. The current technical support systems typically lack the ability to understand and process these brief radio exchanges. Together with the German Aerospace Center (DLR), computer scientists from Saarland University have now developed a new system that listens in to these conversations and engages with the controllers. The scientists are presenting their prototype at the Cebit computer fair in Hannover, Germany (Hall 6, Stand E28).
Air traffic controllers are responsible for keeping aircraft at a safe distance to one other in the air and on runways and airstrips. Their most important tool is the radar, which uses radio waves to pinpoint the positions of the airplanes and measure their relative distances. The so-called system aid that air traffic controllers use for planning proposes an optimal order for the airplanes in that particular airspace. These automated suggestions are based on radar data.
The controller then radioes in with the individual pilots to communicate the correct order. So far, the system aid has been excluded from these short and often terse dialogues between controller and pilot. This lowers the quality of the system aid's automated suggestions, which is particularly dangerous in critical situations.
“The more stressful the situation is, the less you can rely on the system aid,” Youssef Oualil points out. Oualil is a researcher in the Department of Language Science and Technology at Saarland University. Together with his colleague Marc Schulder, the professor of Spoken Language Systems at Saarland University, Dietrich Klakow, as well as Hartmut Helmke from the German Aerospace Center DLR, Oualil developed a software system named “AcListant”, which listens in to air controllers' radio conversations and makes more informed suggestions for their current situation.
The researchers relied entirely on automatic speech recognition, so that controllers do not have to enter any new commands themselves by keyboard or mouse. As the speech recognition system is supposed to filter nonsensical or unsuitable commands out immediately, the computer scientists incorporated additional information from the system aid, so that the controllers' display will only include commands that actually match the current situation. The software system only filters such basic information that is actually relevant to controllers.
“This means that verbal padding like Hello or Good morning will be edited out, but identification numbers, altitudes and commands stay in,” Marc Schulder explains. The system also performs a kind of reality check in which it incorporates current information from the radar. Data from the radar is used to generate probable word sequences, and then only such pieces of information that are most similar to the generated phrases are subsequently forwarded to the system aid. The flight controller is then shown these filtered items as suggested instructions for the pilot.
The researchers have already tested their prototype in various simulations for major airports at the DLR Research Airport in Braunschweig. “With AcListant, we have not just reduced the number of incorrect commands that are processed by a factor of four, compared to less sophisticated systems. The flight controllers are also able to communicate a lot better with pilots who talk very fast or with an accent,” says Dietrich Klakow. The German Aerospace Center is now trying to promote the commercialization of the system.
AcListant is not the only research project that Klakow and his colleagues are working on. One focus of their work is teaching computers to understand ambiguous statements, and learning to recognize the dominant sentiment – in future even in ambiguous expressions like “damn good” or “pretty bad”. Users will be able to ask their computer intuitive questions, and receive answers like from a human respondent. The Saarbrücken scientists also developed a special software for the computer game “Sonar Silence”, which automatically understands in-game questions of players of different nationalities, and responds with the according information in the appropriate language. The core elements of this technology can be used both in medicine, for instance for the early diagnosis and detection of depressive episodes, and in online retail, for instance for automatic responses to customer requests.
Professor of Spoken Language Systems
Phone: +49 681 302-58122
Competence Center Computer Science Saarland
Saarland Informatics Campus E1.7
Phone: +49 681 302-70741
Friederike Meyer zu Tittingdorf | Universität des Saarlandes
Medica 2019: Arteriosclerosis - new technologies help to find proper catheters and location of vasoconstriction
11.11.2019 | Technische Universität Kaiserslautern
Laser versus weeds: LZH shows Farming 4.0 at the Agritechnica
08.11.2019 | Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V.
Styrofoam or copper - both materials have very different properties with regard to their ability to conduct heat. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz and the University of Bayreuth have now jointly developed and characterized a novel, extremely thin and transparent material that has different thermal conduction properties depending on the direction. While it can conduct heat extremely well in one direction, it shows good thermal insulation in the other direction.
Thermal insulation and thermal conduction play a crucial role in our everyday lives - from computer processors, where it is important to dissipate heat as...
In order to advance the transfer of research developments from the field of quantum sensor technology into industrial applications, an application laboratory is being established at Fraunhofer IAF. This will enable interested companies and especially regional SMEs and start-ups to evaluate the innovation potential of quantum sensors for their specific requirements. Both the state of Baden-Württemberg and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft are supporting the four-year project with one million euros each.
The application laboratory is being set up as part of the Fraunhofer lighthouse project »QMag«, short for quantum magnetometry. In this project, researchers...
Microtubules, filamentous structures within the cell, are required for many important processes, including cell division and intracellular transport. A...
Researchers from the University Hospital Zurich, ETH Zurich, Wyss Zurich and the University of Zurich have developed a machine that repairs injured human livers and keep them alive outside the body for one week. This breakthrough may increase the number of available organs for transplantation saving many lives of patients with severe liver diseases or cancer.
Until now, livers could be stored safely outside the body for only a few hours. With the novel perfusion technology, livers - and even injured livers - can now...
A balloon-borne scientific instrument designed to study the origin of cosmic rays is taking its second turn high above the continent of Antarctica three and a half weeks after its launch.
SuperTIGER (Super Trans-Iron Galactic Element Recorder) is designed to measure the rare, heavy elements in cosmic rays that hold clues about their origins...
16.01.2020 | Event News
15.01.2020 | Event News
07.01.2020 | Event News
17.01.2020 | Life Sciences
17.01.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering
17.01.2020 | Life Sciences