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Varying Levels of Automation on UAS Operator Responses to Traffic Resolution Advisories in Civil Airspace  (2012)
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Continuing demand for the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) has put increasing pressure on operations in civil airspace. The need to fly UAS in the National Airspace System (NAS) in order to perform missions vital to national security and defense, emergency management, and science is increasing at a rapid pace. In order to ensure safe operations in the NAS, operators of unmanned aircraft, like those of manned aircraft, may be required to maintain separation assurance and avoid loss of separation with other aircraft while performing their mission tasks. This experiment investigated the effects of varying levels of automation on UAS operator performance and workload while responding to conflict resolution instructions provided by the Tactical Collision Avoidance System II (TCAS II) during a UAS mission in high-density airspace.

The purpose of this study was not to investigate the safety of using TCAS II on UAS, but rather to examine the effect of automation on the ability of operators to respond to traffic collision alerts. Six licensed pilots were recruited to act as UAS operators for this study. Operators were instructed to follow a specified mission flight path, while maintaining radio contact with Air Traffic Control and responding to TCAS II resolution advisories. Operators flew four, 45 minute, experimental missions with four different levels of automation: Manual, Knobs, Management by Exception, and Fully Automated. All missions included TCAS II Resolution Advisories (RAs) that required operator attention and rerouting. Operator compliance and reaction time to RAs was measured, and post-run NASA-TLX ratings were collected to measure workload. Results showed significantly higher compliance rates, faster responses to TCAS II alerts, as well as less preemptive operator actions when higher levels of automation are implemented. Physical and Temporal ratings of workload were significantly higher in the Manual condition than in the Management by Exception and Fully Automated conditions.
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Advisories, Airspace, Automation, automation, Civil, collision avoidance, Levels, Operator, Resolution, Responses, Traffic, UAS, unmanned systems, Varying
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Proceedings from the 4th International Conference on Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics 2012
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Curator: Phil So
NASA Official: Alonso Vera
Last Updated: August 15, 2019