With the use of small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS) proliferating throughout industry and public safety, it is imperative to ensure safety of flight. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) published regulations for commercial use of sUAS in 2016 and included the requirement to maintain visual line-of-sight with the aircraft at all times. However, due to the nature of the sUAS ground control stations (GCS), remote pilots time-share between observing the aircraft and interacting with the display on the GCS. Time-sharing between the aircraft and GCS can be seen as similar to the cross-check a pilot uses when flying a manned aircraft. While manned aircraft designers have invested in the ergonomics and understanding of the cognitive process to optimize situational awareness, it has not been a design requirement for sUAS. The result is that the unmanned operator must change head orientation, eye focus, and remove the aircraft from peripheral vision during the cross-check between the GCS and aircraft. This, coupled with the limited field of view of the sUAS GCS displayed camera, leads to loss of situational awareness through task saturation, and misprioritization. Mixed reality, virtual reality, and augmented reality visual devices are being adopted in the gaming and technical world. The application of these devices to the sUAS GCS could mitigate some of the degradation of situational awareness. Specifically, the incorporation of augmented reality devices where a synthetic display is overlaid on the real-world, allows the remote pilot to observe the aircraft, manipulate the camera, and interact with the GCS without changing head position. This participant observational study evaluated the difference between the remote pilot cross-check while flying with a typical GCS display and when flying with an augmented reality headset in a field setting. The results indicate a significant difference between the pilot’s crosscheck when using augmented reality glasses allowing the pilot to maintain the aircraft in their field of view 56.7% of the time compared to 20.5% when not using the glasses.
Scholarly Commons Citation
Coleman, J., & Thirtyacre, D. (2021). Remote Pilot Situational Awareness with Augmented Reality Glasses: An Observational Field Study. International Journal of Aviation, Aeronautics, and Aerospace, 8(1). https://doi.org/10.15394/ijaaa.2021.1547