Air traffic controller workload level prediction using conformalized dynamical graph learning

Yutian Pang, Jueming Hu, Christopher S. Lieber, Nancy J. Cooke, Yongming Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Air traffic control (ATC) is a safety-critical service system that demands constant attention from ground air traffic controllers (ATCos) to maintain daily aviation operations. The workload of the ATCos can have negative effects on operational safety and airspace usage. To avoid overloading and ensure an acceptable workload level for the ATCos, it is important to predict the ATCos’ workload accurately for mitigation actions. In this paper, we first perform a review of research on ATCo workload, mostly from the air traffic perspective. Then, we briefly introduce the setup of the human-in-the-loop (HITL) simulations with retired ATCos, where the air traffic data and workload labels are obtained. The simulations are conducted under three Phoenix approach scenarios while the human ATCos are requested to self-evaluate their workload ratings (i.e., low-1 to high-7). Preliminary data analysis is conducted. Next, we propose a graph-based deep-learning framework with conformal prediction to identify the ATCo workload levels. The number of aircraft under the controller's control varies both spatially and temporally, resulting in dynamically evolving graphs. The experiment results suggest that (a) besides the traffic density feature, the traffic conflict feature contributes to the workload prediction capabilities (i.e., minimum horizontal/vertical separation distance); (b) directly learning from the spatiotemporal graph layout of airspace with graph neural network can achieve higher prediction accuracy, compare to hand-crafted traffic complexity features; (c) conformal prediction is a valuable tool to further boost model prediction accuracy, resulting a range of predicted workload labels. The code used is available at Link.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102113
JournalAdvanced Engineering Informatics
StatePublished - Aug 2023


  • Air traffic management
  • Aviation human factors
  • Controller workload
  • Graph neural network

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Artificial Intelligence


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