Date of Award

Spring 2023

Access Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Aviation


College of Aviation

Committee Chair

Dothang Truong

First Committee Member

Jennifer Thropp

Second Committee Member

Cynthia T. Pugh

Third Committee Member

Paul L. Myers, III

College Dean

Alan J. Stolzer


The small, unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) sector within the aviation industry is experiencing unprecedented growth. However, the regulatory guidance for the safe integration of sUAS into the National Airspace System (NAS) has not kept pace with this technological growth within the market. Current regulatory limitations of line-of-sight operations may have an impact on the establishment of an equivalent level of safety for sUAS operations as maintained by manned aircraft. The focal point of the discussion of line-of-sight operations has been the ability of the sUAS pilot to see and avoid all obstacles and other aircraft in a safe and timely manner. The purpose of this dissertation study was to examine whether the use of first-person view (FPV) techniques while piloting sUAS within the NAS would have an effect on the operator’s workload and if FPV techniques affect the operator’s Level 1 situation awareness (SA). More specifically, this study examined sUAS operator workload and Level 1 SA while using three visual acuity techniques: visual-line-of-sight, FPV with a 21-in. liquid crystal display monitor, and the use of FPV head-mounted goggles.

A preliminary experiment was designed and conducted to collect the required data for analysis. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three visual acuity technique groups and were required to navigate an sUAS, DJI Inspire 1 quadcopter, on a flight v course. Participants completed a demographic survey, the Ishihara color blindness test, and two post-experiment tests. The post-experiment tests included the National Aeronautical and Space Administration Task Load Index (NASA TLX) questionnaire and a Level 1 SA test used to assess the participants’ perceived workload during the experiment based on their assigned visual acuity technique and their recall of elements within the flight course environment, respectively. ANOVA and ANCOVA tests were conducted to test the hypotheses. The results indicated no statistically significant differences between the three groups’ scores for perceived workload or SA.

The preliminary results of the experiment provided a foundation for further analysis using a UAS dataset retrieved from NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System database, where the primary aircraft was listed as a UAS. SA was identified as the most prevalent causal factor among the human factor elements within the event reports. A comparison between SA and non-SA groups was constructed using the Chi-square statistical test. The results indicated there was a statistically significant association between the event reports where SA was listed as a causal factor and the event’s geographic region listed within the report. Additional Chi-square analysis showed a statistically significant association between the human factor elements of SA and time pressure within event reports where the geographic region was not indicated within the report. Aviation organizational safety managers must continually analyze their safety management system performance to ensure the effectiveness of their risk mitigation measures. This dissertation study provides information helpful to operational managers and their selection of risk mitigation processes.