The primary means by which air traffic tower controllers obtain information is through direct out-thewindow
viewing, although a considerable amount of time is spent looking at electronic displays and other
information sources inside the tower cab. The Air Force Research Laboratory sponsored the development
of a prototype Augmented Reality Binocular System (ARBS) that enhances tower controller performance,
situation awareness, and safety. The ARBS is composed of a virtual binocular (VB) that displays real-time
imagery from high resolution telephoto cameras and sensors mounted on pan/tilt units (PTUs). The selected
PTU tracks to the movement of the VB, which has an inertial heading and elevation sensor. Relevant
airfield situation text and graphic depictions that identify airfield features are overlaid on the imagery. In
addition, the display is capable of labeling and tracking vehicles on which an Automatic Dependent
Surveillance - Broadcast (ADS-B) system has been installed. The ARBS provides air traffic controllers and
airfield security forces with the capability to orient toward, observe, and conduct continuous airfield
operations and surveillance/security missions from any number of viewing aspects in limited visibility
conditions. In this paper, we describe the ARBS in detail, discuss the results of a Usability Test of the
prototype ARBS, and discuss ideas for follow-on efforts to develop the ARBS to a fieldable level.
Tower controllers are responsible for maintaining safe separation between airborne aircraft in the airport traffic control area, and separation between aircraft, equipment, and personnel on the airport surface. The objective of this project was to develop and demonstrate an out-the-window, augmented viewing system concept for Air Force air traffic control tower personnel to reduce look-down time within the tower and to optimize visual airfield operations, particularly during limited visibility conditions. We characterized controller tasks where a near-to-eye display greatly aids performance and identified form factor variables that influence user acceptability of hardware configurations. We developed an "out-the-window concept of operation" and analyzed the hardware requirements and feasibility of three near-to-eye viewing systems: two head-mounted monocular displays (HMMD) and a held-to-head binocular display (HHBD). When fully developed, these display prototypes should enhance tower controller situation awareness, and reduce such distractions as having to frequently attend to and respond to head-down (console) display information. There are potential users of this display concept in all branches of the military services, and in the commercial sector. There is also potential utility for surface surveillance operations in support of homeland security, law enforcement personnel, rescue workers, firefighters, and special operations forces in non-aviation applications.