Visual observers are used to assist the Remote Pilot with maintaining sight of the unmanned aircraft as well as scanning the surrounding airspace for potential collision hazards. The purpose of this study was to examine the effectiveness of visual observers in detecting an intruding general aviation aircraft approaching the small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) operations area. The study sought to determine the effectiveness of sUAS visual observers in detecting a general aviation aircraft collision hazard with a sUAS. Ten participants were asked to perform visual observer duties in support of a sUAS operation. Participants were asked to indicate when they were able to hear and see an aircraft that conducted a scripted series of close intercepts with a sUAS. Additionally, researchers assessed each visual observer’s ability to accurately judge the closure rate of the aircraft, by estimating the duration from initial sighting until the aircraft would intercept the airborne sUAS platform. Geolocation data from both the aircraft and sUAS were time correlated and compared to determine estimation accuracy. Findings were used to formulate operational recommendations to improve visual observer performance in detecting and assessing intruder aircraft collision potential.

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