Situational Awareness of UAV Operators Onboard Moving Platforms

Sjoerd C. de Vries and Chris Jansen

A helicopter-based operator of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has to deal with an additional frame of reference compared to a ground-based colleague. The goal of the research was to determine whether the situational awareness (SA) of a moving UAV-operator differs from the SA of a stationary operator. In a simulator experiment, we provided UAV-operators with a set of displays having two design dimensions: map orientation (north-up / heading heli up / heading UAV up) and map center (heli / UAV). During half of the trials motion feedback was given, i.e. large visuals showed the imagery corresponding to a view from the heli. We assessed SA in world-centered terms and in vehicle-centered terms. We found clear evidence that the feedback on the heli’s motion influences the UAV-operators’ SA. For instance, operators have more problems answering world-referenced questions when motion feedback is present, whereas helireferenced questions are answered more accurately. Overall, the best display seems to be the north-up display.

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