Archive for category UAV

Supervising and controlling unmanned systems: A multi-phase study with subject matter experts

At last, a new publication in frontiers in Psyhcology co authored with Talya Porat, Michal Rottem-Hovev and  Jacob Silbiger (Synergy Integration).

This research is related to Macrocognition: The Science and Engineering of Sociotechnical Work Systems

In this article we conduct a retrospective examination of studies concerned with man-UAS ratio, i.e., how many systems should a single operator control, should a team share (multiple operator – multiple UASs; MOMU).


Mutiple operator -Multiple UAS – MOMU simulated environment


Proliferation in the use of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) in civil and military operations has presented a multitude of human factors challenges; from how to bridge the gap between demand and availability of trained operators, to how to organize and present data in meaningful ways. Utilizing the Design Research Methodology (DRM), a series of closely related studies with subject matter experts (SMEs) demonstrate how the focus of research gradually shifted from “how many systems can a single operator control” to “how to distribute missions among operators and systems in an efficient way”. The first set of studies aimed to explore the modal number, i.e., how many systems can a single operator supervise and control. It was found that an experienced operator can supervise up to 15 UASs efficiently using moderate levels of automation, and control (mission and payload management) up to 3 systems. Once this limit was reached, a single operator’s performance was compared to a team controlling the same number of systems. In general, teams led to better performances. Hence, shifting design efforts towards developing tools that support teamwork environments of multiple operators with multiple UASs (MOMU). In MOMU settings, when the tasks are similar or when areas of interest overlap, one operator seems to have an advantage over a team who needs to collaborate and coordinate. However, in all other cases, a team was advantageous over a single operator.

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IsraelDefense Conference on Unmanned Vehicles in Complex Environments (UVID 2013)

UVID International conference held on 10/10/2013.

Our paper “Is More Information Better? How Dismounted Soldiers Use Video Feed From Unmanned Vehicles: Attention Allocation and Information Extraction Considerations” won the best paper award for research articles in the area of unmanned systems and human factors. The award ceramony will take place at the conference.

Award ceramony with Alon Unger, the conference chair, Ophir Shoham, IMOD, and Prof. Daniel Weiss

Award ceramony with Alon Unger, the conference chair, Ophir Shoham, IMOD, and Prof. Daniel Weiss

Dr. Oron-Gilad presenting at the UVID conference

IsraDefence Conference on Unmanned Systems 2013

IsraelDefense Conference on Unmanned Vehicles in Complex Environments (UVID 2013)

Conference program can be seen at the following link:

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Is more information better? How dismounted soldiers utilize video feed from unmanned vehicles – attention allocation and information extraction considerations

Ronny Ophir-Arbelle, Tal Oron-Gilad, Avinoam Borowsky and Yisrael Parmet

Background: Operational tactics in urban areas are often aided by information from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). A major challenge for dismounted soldiers, particularity in urban environments is to understand the conflict area in general and particularly from the UAV feed. The UAV feed is usually used to enhance soldiers’ situation awareness abilities but less for identifying specific elements. Objective: A possible way to further enhance soldiers’ abilities is to provide them with multiple sources of information (e.g., aerial and ground views). This study examined the benefits of presenting video feed from unmanned aerial and ground vehicles (UAV/UGV) in a combined interface, relative to presenting aerial feed alone. Method: Thirty former infantry soldiers with no experience in operating unmanned vehicles participated. Objective performance, subjective evaluations and eye tracking patterns were examined, in two separate scenarios. Results: In Scenario one performance scores in both Identification and Orientation tasks were superior in the combined configuration. In Scenario two performance scores in the Identification tasks were improved and the addition of the UGV feed did not harm performance in the Orientation task. Eye movement scanning patterns reinforced that both UAV and UGV feeds were used for the mission. Conclusion: The combined configuration generated consistent benefits with regard to the Identification tasks, perceived mental demand, and reduction of false reports without having any apparent cost on participants. Application: Ground views may provide additional support to dismounted soldiers.

The full article appears in the Journal of Cognitive Ergonomics and Decision Making.

Here is a sample video feed of the eye scanning pattern of a single participant derived from Scenario 2. Note how the participant utilizes the C2 map (to the right) and both video sources.

Utilizing video feed from unmanned vehicles

Passive Operators\Information Consumers differ from operators and need special attention and interfaces to support their operational missions.

Here are some of the differences to consider:

  • Operational environment does not necessarily resemble the one of the unmanned system’s operator
  • Experience and expertise is different
  • Dismounted soldiers are limited in the weight and size of devices they can carry
  • Missions are diverse and often stressful
  • Information is provided from multiple sources (unmanned systems, commanders, others)
  • Multiple video feeds from various sources – the passive operator may not be aware or familiar with each system and its characteristics – operators are supposed to know their systems’ limitations well
  • Communication chains with active operators are indirect or blocked

We have been continuously working on developing interfaces for “passive” operators. See also Scalable interfaces for dismounted soldiers–displaying multiple video feed sources simultaneously

Here are two images from the current study: one of the interface and one of the scanning patterns of a sample participant. From the scanning pattern it is notable that the stronger routes are between the UAV and the map and the UAV and the UGV feed.


Display layout for the "is more information better" (2012) study

Display layout for the “is more information better” (2012) study

Sample eye scanning patterns for the "Is more information" study

Sample eye scanning patterns for the “Is more information” (2012) study



Tools and Techniques to support operators in MOMU (Multiple Operator Multiple UAV) environments

The ‘RICH’ (Rapid Immersion tools/techniques for Coordination and Hand-offs) research project is a US-Israel collaboration. The project aims to research, design and develop tools, techniques and procedures to aid operators in MOMU environments; to facilitate task switching and/or coordinate with other operators all for the benefit of improving overall mission performance.The Israeli partners on this task are Jacob Silbiger from Synergy Integration, Lt. Col. Michal Rottem-Hovev from the IAF, and Drs. Tal Oron-Gilad and Talya Porat from the Dept. of Industrial Engineering and Management. The US parents are Jay Shively, Lisa Fern (Human Systems Integration Group Leader, Aeroflightdynamics Directorate, US Army Research Development and Engineering Command (AMRDEC)), and Dr. Mark Draper (USAFRL). RICH is part of the US/Israel MOA (mutual operation agreement) on Rotorcraft Aeromechanics & Man/Machine Integration Technology.

Here I describe in brief the goals of the Israeli team and some of the tools developed.

Motivation: Multiple operators controlling multiple unmanned aerial vehicles (MOMU) can be an efficient operational setup for reconnaissance and surveillance missions. However, it dictates switching and coordination among operators. Efficient switching is time-critical and cognitively demanding, thus vitally affecting mission accomplishment. As such, tools and techniques (T&Ts) to facilitate switching and coordination among operators are required. Furthermore, development of metrics and test-scenarios becomes essential to evaluate, refine, and adjust T&Ts to the specifics of the operational environment.

Tools: Tools can be divided into two categories: 1) tools that facilitate ‘quick setup’, i.e., aimed to ease the way of the operator into a new mission or area of operation; and 2) tools that facilitate on-going missions where acquiring new UAVs, delegating, or switching is necessary to complete the tasks at hand. The Israeli team focused primarily on tools of the second type. Some “successful” tools have been the Castling rays (see CHI paper for detail), the TIE/coupling tool, and the Maintain coverage area.

Several outcomes of this effort have been presented and appear in the following conference proceedings.

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Scalable interfaces for dismounted soldiers–displaying multiple video feed sources simultaneously

  • One way to enhance soldiers’ orientation and SA is by adding various sources of information (including feeds from unmanned systems) to generate a broader perspective of the environment.


This is a demonstration of a key-hole effect, where it may be difficult to determine where in the map (left) the feed shown from the UAV is located.

  • Researchers and practitioners have recently begun to examine the use of several types of unmanned systems combined.
  • In order to do this well, it is important to minimize the visual load imposed on the soldier, a load that is obviously increasing due to multiple parallel displays.
  • Additional views can increase operator comprehension of the situation but may also cause overload and confusion. Often, too many choices, characteristics and applications may even harm the operator as much as lack of choices.

Our effort aims to examine the needs of dismounted soldiers in a multiple video feed environment (i.e., more than one source of information can be provided at a time) and to identify displays devices and interfaces that can support dismounted soldiers in such more complex intelligence gathering missions.

Combining UAV and UGV feed.

  • UAVs are meant to deliver the “larger” picture and are necessary for orientation tasks.
  • UGVs are meant to deliver a more focused and specific image.
  • Combination of the two should be advantageous when information is complex or ambiguous e.g., one may want to detect a target and then identify its features in more detail.


This is an example of a combined display, where both UAV and UGV video feeds are shown in addition to the aerial map. Waypoints of interest are marked on the map.

Coming soon  – experimental results of attentional allocation and performance on intelligence gathering tasks in such displays.


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