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Heterogeneous Design Approach for Ground Control Stations to Marginalize Human Factors Mishaps in Unmanned Aircraft Systems Open Access

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Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs) allow operators to conduct high-risk military missions without putting humans in harm's way. The United States Department of Defense's (DoD) usage of UASs increased six-fold from 2005 to 2011, while the DoD UAS budget has increased four-fold during the same period. However, UASs are subject to abnormally high accident rates that are traceable to human factors-related mishaps when compared to human-operated aircraft. DoD UAS Ground Control Stations (GCSs) are marred with Ergonomic Human Factors (EHF) issues. Studies indicate human factors are involved in up to 69% of all UAS mishaps. Of those, 25% may be attributed to EHF issues in UAS GCS input/output (IO) devices. Many of the EHF issues in UAS GCS IO devices continue to exist due to the lack of UAS GCS-specific EHF standards that address IO devices. An EHF standard for UAS GCS IO could help reduce these EHF issues and improve the outlook for UAS viability, airworthiness, and may reduced total lifecycle costs.Highly automated UAS GCSs have been developed to help reduce operator workload, which has led to significant changes in the design of GCS human-machine interfaces for operators. Many of the IO devices used to operate UASs based on conventional aircraft control mechanisms are no longer employed in UAS GCS designs (e.g., throttles, rudder controls, etc.). Automation allows UAS GCS physical designs and workloads to evolve toward those of a computer workstation (CWS). The CWSs are general-purpose computer desktops that employ traditional IO devices (e.g., mouse, keyboard, display, etc).A commercial EHF standard, the American National Standards Institute/Human Factors and Ergonomics Society-100 (ANSI/HFES-100) for CWS exists. To evaluate an ANSI/HFES-100 standard's IO category applicability to the design of DoD UAS GCSs, data were collected and evaluated from 20 DoD UAS GCSs. Data analysis was used to help determine the similarities and differences between the IO devices found in CWSs and UAS GCSs. The results demonstrated that DoD UAS GCS IO devices are up to 98% similar to those of general-purpose CWSs as described by an ANSI/HFES-100 IO category. Moreover, the usability of the IO devices in UAS GCS and CWS is similar. The finding suggests that ANSI/HFES-100's IO category can be applied to UAS GCS IO interfaces to marginalize EHF issues that are often associated with UAS mishaps.

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