Cardiovascular Parameters for Mental Workload Detection of Air Traffic Controllers

  • Thea RadüntzEmail author
  • Thorsten Mühlhausen
  • Norbert Fürstenau
  • Emilia Cheladze
  • Beate Meffert
Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing book series (AISC, volume 903)


In our study, we focused on air traffic controller’s working position for arrival management. Our aim was to evaluate cardiovascular parameters regarding their ability to distinguish between conditions with different traffic volumes and between conditions with and without the occurrence of an extraordinary event. Our sample consisted of 21 subjects. During an interactive simulation, we varied the load situations with two independent variables: the traffic volume and the occurrence of a priority-flight request. Dependent variables for registering mental workload were cardiovascular parameters, i.e., the heart rate, relative low-frequency and high-frequency band powers, and band-power ratio of the low- and high-frequency bands. Heart rate was the only parameter able to differentiate significantly between simulations with minimal and high air-traffic volume, while the effect of the priority-flight request remained doubtful. No significant interaction between traffic volume and priority request could be identified for any of the cardiovascular parameters.


Mental workload Heart rate Heart rate variability Signal processing Air traffic controllers 



We would like to thank Kerstin Ruta for her daily operational support, Lea Rabe for conducting the experiments, the numerous pseudo pilots for their contribution during the experiments, and André Tews for his conceptual, technical, and overall support.

More information about the project that acquired our data can be found at

Author Contributions.

T.R. initiated the project and was responsible for the overall conception of the investigation. T.R., T.M., and N.F. developed the research design of the study. T.M. was responsible for the implementation of the simulation scenarios and the overall technical support. E.C. conducted the experiments, acquired the data, and provided support for the data analysis with SPSS and graphic editing. The study was supervised by T.R. Data interpretation was performed by T.R. and B.M. The manuscript was written by T.R. Final critical editing was performed by T.M., N.F., and B.M.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thea Radüntz
    • 1
    Email author
  • Thorsten Mühlhausen
    • 2
  • Norbert Fürstenau
    • 2
  • Emilia Cheladze
    • 1
  • Beate Meffert
    • 3
  1. 1.Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Unit “Mental Health and Cognitive Capacity”BerlinGermany
  2. 2.German Aerospace Center, Institute of Flight GuidanceBrunswickGermany
  3. 3.Department of Computer ScienceHumboldt-Universität zu BerlinBerlinGermany

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