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A Remote, Human-in-the-Loop Evaluation of a Multiple-Drone Delivery Operation  (2022)
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Over time, advances in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) have enabled a shift in the operational paradigm from one operator managing one aircraft to that of multiple operators working together to manage multiple aircraft. This shift has highlighted the need for effective human-autonomy teaming methods to maintain manageable workload levels for operators as well as high standards of system performance and safety. This paper presents a study aimed at evaluating whether automation can help operators manage workload during small UAS (sUAS) package delivery scenarios featuring contingency situations. These contingency situations, resulting from unplanned UAS Volume Reservations (UVRs), required flight path reroutes for multiple aircraft simultaneously. The study manipulated the number of aircraft affected by the UVRs and the level of automation support. The presence of terrain conflicts was also controlled within each scenario. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, subjects were not able to gain direct access to the Ground Control System (GCS). Therefore, the study was conducted using a subject-surrogate paradigm that required subjects to relay commands through a verbal protocol from remote locations outside of the lab to a researcher surrogate who had direct control of the GCS interfaces at the lab location. Results show that the automated support condition was associated with faster reroute response times, more efficient reroute maneuvers, and significantly lower levels of perceived workload than the manual reroute condition. However, the automation support level did not significantly impact pilots' ability to avoid the UVR successfully; pilots were overwhelmingly capable of avoiding the UVR in all conditions. The presence of terrain conflicts primarily impacted pilot performance by leading to multiple uploads per vehicle, which was not typically required when pilots only needed to maneuver laterally. Although subjects did not have direct control over the GCS, subjective ratings indicate that the displays under test provided them with sufficient information to manage their aircraft and promptly respond to the unplanned UVRs. Overall, the objective and subjective data strongly suggest that the verbal protocol and subject-surrogate paradigm were effective methods for collecting data remotely amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
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aircraft, automation, Delivery, Multiple-Drone, Operation, system, UAS, unmanned
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In AIAA AVIATION 2022 FORUM (p. 4002). https://doi.org/10.2514/6.2022-4002. 2022-4002
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Adobe PDF Icon  6.2022-4002.pdf (Download Acrobat Reader Click to download Adobe Acrabat Reader)
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Curator: Phil So
NASA Official: Alonso Vera
Last Updated: August 15, 2019