Human-computer interaction, training, simulation, control, interface, unmanned, systems, input devices, aerial vehicle


Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) carry no pilot on board, yet they still require live operators to handle critical functions such as mission planning and execution. Humans also interpret the sensor information provided by these platforms. This applies to all classes of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV's), including the smaller portable systems used for gathering real-time reconnaissance during military operations in urban terrain. The need to quickly and reliably train soldiers to control small UAS operations demands that the human-system interface be intuitive and easy to master. In this study, participants completed a series of tests of spatial ability and were then trained (in simulation) to teleoperate a micro-unmanned aerial vehicle equipped with forward and downward fixed cameras. Three aspects of the human-system interface were manipulated to assess the effects on manual control mastery and target detection. One factor was the input device. Participants used either a mouse or a specially programmed game controller (similar to that used with the Sony Playstation 2 video game console). A second factor was the nature of the flight control displays as either continuous or discrete (analog v. digital). The third factor involved the presentation of sensor imagery. The display could either provide streaming video from one camera at a time, or present the imagery from both cameras simultaneously in separate windows. The primary dependent variables included: 1) time to complete assigned missions, 2) number of collisions, 3) number of targets detected, and 4) operator workload. In general, operator performance was better with the game controller than with the mouse, but significant improvement in time to complete occurred over repeated trials regardless of the device used. Time to complete missions was significantly faster with the game controller, and operators also detected more targets without any significant differences in workload compared to mouse users. Workload on repeated trials decreased with practice, and spatial ability was a significant covariate of workload. Lower spatial ability associated with higher workload scores. In addition, demographic data including computer usage and video gaming experience were collected and analyzed, and correlated with performance. Higher video gaming experience was also associated with lower workload.


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Graduation Date





Kincaid, J. Peter


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Sciences

Degree Program

Modeling and Simulation








Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)