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GPS Improvements Could Reduce Plane Crashes

A picture of Cessna a 206H Stationair aircraft.

Better GPS technology in the cockpits of small planes makes mid-air collisions less likely.

Researchers at NC State University say perceptual cues help pilots make better decisions on the fly: Cues like blinking or color coded icons.

David Kaber is a professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering at NC State. He described some of the modifications his group added during simulations.

“It's not rocket science in terms of the add-ons that we made. So when you look at the displays you can see your own aircraft, and then you see icon representing intruder aircraft,” said Kaber. “So we're basically perceptually coding those aircrafts to draw your attention to them so you know which one is highest risk.”

He says a study of simulated flights showed pilots recognition and response time improved significantly when additional GPS cues were used. Some systems in small aircraft currently only show one other aircraft, and don't indicate how fast other planes are moving.

Jeff Tiberii is the co-host of WUNC's "Due South." Jeff joined WUNC in 2011. During his 20 years in public radio, he was Morning Edition Host at WFDD and WUNC’s Greensboro Bureau Chief and later, the Capitol Bureau Chief. Jeff has covered state and federal politics, produced the radio documentary “Right Turn,” launched a podcast, and was named North Carolina Radio Reporter of the Year four times.
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