Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Human Factors & Systems


Human Factors and Systems

Committee Chair

Dahai Liu, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Shawn Doherty, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Yan Tang, Ph.D.


For many years, the military has understood the value and versatility of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). In the recent years, UASs have sparked the interest of other fields, and in the very near future, they will be introduced into the National Airspace System (NAS). With this inclusion come new concerns. Due to the future wide range applications for UASs, it is important to explore factors, which may affect operator performance. The UAS operator task differs from that of a manned aircraft pilot. An UAS operator does not get the same sensory cues as a pilot and their field of vision is significantly restricted among other limitations.

This study examined the effects of system reliability and task uncertainty on UAS operator performance, measuring image processing accuracy and image processing time through a primary task and three secondary tasks. The primary task was image processing that entailed differentiating between targets and distracters, making necessary changes to the identifications provided by the automation and processing images accurately within a five-second window. There were also three secondary tasks that are typical of UAS operations to which the participants had to respond as quickly as they could. Both system reliability and task uncertainty were found to be significant for primary task image processing time. In contrast, accuracy was not found to be significantly affected by either one of the independent variables. The results are examined, and recommendations for future research are discussed.