The U.S. Army Aviation Development Directorate, in collaboration with United Technologies Research Center and University of California: Santa Barbara, has developed a system for controlling multiple unmanned aerial systems (UAS) from a manned helicopter cockpit. Similar manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) capabilities have been successfully fielded in the AH-64E attack helicopter, with the Copilot/Gunner (CPG) managing one UAS; however, managing multiple UAS in the same manner would result in a cognitive processing bottleneck within the CPG. Removing this bottleneck requires implementation of autonomous behaviors and human-centered design principles to avoid detracting from the CPG’s primary mission. This research evaluates these concepts with respect to multi-UAS MUM-T performance. Sixteen U.S. Army aviators with MUM-T experience participated in the experiment. The first phase assessed the performance of a CPG managing multiple UAS simultaneously in a fixed-base MUM-T simulator featuring touchscreen displays, simulated aided target recognition, and task-level delegation of control (DelCon). The second phase iteratively improved the DelCon capability and added an Attention Allocation Aid (AAA) in the form of real-time gaze tracking feedback. The research demonstrated that a single crewmember can manage at least three UAS assets while executing complex multi- UAS MUM-T tactical missions. The DelCon capability allowed participants to more efficiently perform a subset of mission tasks. Furthermore, subjective ratings from the participants indicated a willingness to accept the AAA and DelCon systems. Overall, this research demonstrates the potential of utilizing automation and human-centered design principles to overcome cognitive bottlenecks and achieve greater system efficiency.
Thomas J. Alicia, Grant S. Taylor, Terry S. Turpin, and Amit Surana, "Removing the bottleneck: utilizing autonomy to manage multiple UAS sensors from inside a cockpit," Proc. SPIE 10640, Unmanned Systems Technology XX, 106400L (Presented at SPIE Defense + Security: April 19, 2018; Published: 3 May 2018); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2303915.
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