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D-RAPCON demo
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Herbert Hayes Jr., an air traffic controller from the 54th Combat Communication Squadron, tests a new deployable radar approach control system, or D-RAPCON, design during a human factors assessment at a facility in Marlborough, Mass., Sept. 17. D-RAPCON, a Life Cycle Management Center-owned program, works to deliver air traffic control systems that can be deployed worldwide in support of armed forces and humanitarian operations. (Courtesy photo)
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D-RAPCON program evaluates design, receives feedback from end users

Posted 10/23/2013   Updated 10/28/2013 Email story   Print story

    


by Sandy Frey
D-RAPCON Program Office


10/23/2013 - MARLBOROUGH, Mass. -- Recently, the Deployable Radar Approach Control program office brought air traffic controller representatives from the Air Force Flight Standards Agency, Air National Guard and the 54th Combat Communications Squadron to a facility in Marlborough, Mass., to participate in the program's initial human factors assessment.

The purpose of the assessment was to evaluate the contractor's shelter-console design concept and elicit early inputs from end users.

"Initial feedback from the users was positive, and the event opened an important dialogue," said Kasie Moriarty, D-RAPCON deputy program manager.

The D-RAPCON demonstration units were reconstructed and reconfigured to provide a realistic concept of deployed operations within the shelter. Activities included an overview of the design concept, shelter tour, user enactment of simulated ATC scenarios, and the collection of additional user feedback through questionnaires and group discussions.

"The assessment gave users the opportunity to exercise the design and hardware within the context of realistic operational scenarios and then share their input and insights with engineers," said Keith Bishop, Raytheon's human systems integration lead.

D-RAPCON, a Life Cycle Management Center-owned program, is working to deliver an air traffic control system that can be deployed worldwide in support of armed forces and humanitarian operations. The D-RAPCON system is comprised of two ATC radars, a radar antenna, an ATC operations shelter, equipment shelters, communications systems and networked data systems.

D-RAPCON primarily relies on commercially available hardware and software. The majority of the work is performed by contractors who tailor and integrate pre-existing components into a system that fits both the operational community and mission need.

According to program specialists, it is especially critical for users to have early interaction with the contractor and design to ensure operational suitability.

"The philosophy of early interaction with the user is one all programs should consider," Moriarty said. "It can definitely help program managers avoid costly problems down the road."

She emphasized that when a user is brought into the process later in development, making little changes can have large impacts and cause a ripple effect across the system.

For example, modifying an item as small as button color creates a litany of expenses including code changes, manual rewrites and adjustments to the training program. Bringing in users earlier can help a program avoid costly rework and deliver a more complete and well received end product, Moriarty said.

"As critical as early user involvement is, the way in which engineers interact and collaborate with users is equally important," said Aileen Laughlin, D-RAPCON human factors lead. "Effective user interaction involves much more than gathering likes and dislikes. We are concerned with system performance, which includes the human factor. Users have to get in that 'operational zone' so they focus less on personal preferences and more on performance needs -- it's what gets the job done."

The D-RAPCON human factors working group identified more than 20 items which could possibly save millions of dollars if addressed early on in the development of the program.

"Forward thinking lays ground work for another programmatic success; the evaluation of facility layout, equipment placement, and user tasks early on in an acquisition program minimizes redesign, reduces cost and sets the foundation for the growth of the program," said James Dandin, AFFSA lead command deployable airfield operations requirements manager.



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