ARL field element conducts Common Controller testing
October 05, 2010
The U.S. Army Research Laboratory field element in Fort Rucker, Ala. recently conducted testing to determine if the Common Controller is an effective tool for Soldiers controlling unmanned systems in theater.
Since May 2009 the Human Factors Team and Army Expeditionary Task Force Soldiers out of Fort Bliss, Texas have participated in testing and provided over 500 assessment ratings about usability of the CC during day and night operations, including night vision goggle usage. These tests included Solider interviews and built upon previous research done by ARL's Human Research and Engineering Directorate.
Gina Pomranky, a research psychologist, serves as the government human factors lead for the CC program and said the main purpose for the CC is control over several unmanned systems, including ground and aerial robotic vehicles and unmanned ground sensors. In addition to controlling one of several unmanned resources, it can monitor other unmanned assets. Additionally, it can provide a common operating picture of the battlefield, along with information up and down the chain of a network.
"The team conducted several studies this past year to include day and night readability of the screens," said Pomranky. "We made changes to the user interface based on Soldier comments collected during cognitive walkthroughs."
With the device weighing around three pounds and the whole system approximately 12 pounds, a deployed Soldier can command and control an unmanned system, use mapping technology and create and receive spot reports and other important information, such as pictures.
In addition to the readability studies, the team also conducted studies on the gloves a Soldier would wear on a day-to-day basis.
"We had Soldiers use the CC wearing gloves they would commonly use in a combat situation," noted Pomranky. "We would have them control the system wearing tactical, cold weather and mission oriented protective posture gloves - worn in nuclear, biological or chemical environments.
"The data collected during these tests are being used to further enhance the user interface and hardware controls of the common controller," Pomranky added.
During the research process, the team also worked closely with AETF Soldiers to get their comments on the current unmanned system controllers as well as the CC. Overall, it has allowed the team to develop a user interface guided by and for the Soldiers.
"Being able to receive Soldier feedback has been very beneficial," said Pomranky. "The CC is an extremely effective battlefield tool, not only as a controller of unmanned systems, but as a conduit of information flow both horizontal and vertical."
As these studies continue, the CC Human Factors Engineering Team plans to complete a study in October in an effort to ascertain the workload of a CC operator while controlling an unmanned asset. The system is anticipated to be fielded in November 2011 - the first time a brigade will field a unit into theater.