ODID: the disappearance of paper strips

From paper strips to high-definition screens, since the late 1980s the ODID* working group has revolutionised air traffic control systems and developed new man-machine interfaces. We take a look at a major technology, tested at the EUROCONTROL Experimental Centre (EEC).

Decision-support tools cannot be introduced into the working environment of air traffic controllers if we do not know the controllers’ intentions when they are resolving conflicts (aircraft which are too close to one another). In the past, these intentions have been recorded on paper strips, the purpose of which is to allow the progress of flights to be monitored. New technologies have, however, opened up the possibility of a new form of dialogue between controller and radar screen, and digital tools have gradually replaced strips.

Confident in this dynamic, the ODID working group, with the support of EUROCONTROL and its Experimental Centre in Brétigny, studied the use of new colour input devices on air traffic control operational displays. “In ODID projects III and IV, very-high-definition screens were introduced into control practices, paving the way for the use of colour, for windowing technology and for input pointer devices such as trackballs and mice,” explains Bob Graham, Head of Unit at the EEC.


World reference for man-machine dialogue

ODID III first of all offered a system in which electronic strips replaced paper ones, and subsequently a second system without these information strips. ODID IV disposed of strips entirely. Its system, based on an interactive dynamic radar, included a set of conflict detection aids, which allowed these situations to be identified and resolved in a strategic manner, namely short-term conflict alert, assisted coordination, flight path (leg) display, highlighting of potential conflicts, and text windows delivering flight planning information.

The ODID studies have had considerable repercussions. Following this project, the EEC conducted several information and awareness-raising sessions about these new tools for industry. Moreover, from Europe to Australia to China, all new air traffic control systems have incorporated the recommendations of the ODID reports in their developments. Bob Graham feels that “the working group has become a world reference for man-machine dialogue in the air traffic control world.”

* ODID: Operational Display and Input Development Group