Determination of Mental Workload During Operation of Multiple Unmanned Systems

Report No. ARL-TR-4309
Authors: Regina A. Pomranky and Josephine Q. Wojciechowski
Date/Pages: November 2007; 35 pages
Abstract: Many systems are being developed as part of the Armys Future Combat Systems (FCS). To determine the most effective and efficient way to integrate these new systems within the future force, the U.S. Army Research Laboratory's Human Research and Engineering Directorate is using predictive modeling to analyze the workload of FCS operations. This analysis is part of the Robotics Collaboration Army Technology Objective in which Soldier workload models of individual systems are being developed with the intent to be integrated into one complex model. This model will enable the investigation of Soldier workload as well as how these Soldiers and systems can more effectively combine their efforts to accomplish a mission. The reported effort can be incorporated into the complex model. FCS-equipped brigade combat teams (BCTs) consist of a family of advanced, networked air- and ground-based maneuver, maneuver support, and sustainment systems that will include manned and unmanned platforms. The FCS BCTs will rely heavily on unmanned systems to enable the quality of firsts (see first, understand first, act first, and finish decisively) by performing such missions as reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition, security, and communications relay. The robotics non-commissioned officer duties within FCS BCT include operating multiple unmanned systems. Given the complexity of future operating environments, the operation of multiple unmanned systems will often occur simultaneously. The number of unmanned systems that a Soldier can effectively operate simultaneously is one area of concern in the fielding of these systems. Further, the level of autonomy required to concurrently operate multiple systems effectively will need to be determined. One system of interest is the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency microair vehicle (MAV) being developed under an advanced concept technology demonstration. This system is a surrogate that represents the future Class I unmanned aircraft system. To investigate the possible effects on performance of simultaneously operating multiple systems, a workload model was developed to examine performance while as many as three MAVs are operated. Results indicate that the workload for the operation of one MAV was well within the cognitive limits of a normal Soldier. Operation of two unmanned systems showed high levels of visual demand and very high levels of cognitive demand. Effectiveness at this level could depend on the level of autonomy and would present high probability of error. Effective operation of more than two unmanned systems at a time results in extremely high workload levels indicating a Soldier's inability to effectively or safely operate those systems, regardless of the autonomy of the systems.
Distribution: Approved for public release
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Last Update / Reviewed: November 1, 2007