Distributed situation awareness in an Airborne Warning and Control System: Application of novel ergonomics methodology

Rebecca Stewart, Neville A. Stanton, Don Harris, Chris Baber, Paul Salmon, Mel Mock, Kerry Tatlock, Linda Wells, Alison Kay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)


This paper applies a distributed theory of situation awareness based upon the analysis of interactions between agents (both human and non-human) in an Airborne Warning and Control System (Boeing E3D Sentry). The basic tenet of this approach is that agents within a system each hold their own component(s) of situation awareness, which may be very different from, but compatible with, other agent's view of the situation. However, it is argued that it is not always necessary to have complete sharing of this awareness, as different system agents have different purposes. Situation awareness is regarded as a dynamic and collaborative process that binds agents together on tasks on a moment-by-moment basis. Situation awareness is conceptualised as residing at a system, not an individual level. Data were collected from crew-members in theE3D during a series of simulated air battles. These data pertained to task structure, communications between the crew and the collection and analysis of crew actions at critical decision points. All phases of operations were considered. From these data propositional networks were developed in which key knowledge objects were identified. Analysis of these networks clearly shows how the location and nature of distributed situation awareness changes across agents with regard to the phase of operation/air battle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-229
Number of pages9
JournalCognition, Technology & Work
Issue number3
Early online date23 Aug 2007
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Agents
  • Command and control
  • SA
  • Systems
  • Teams
  • Theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development


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