User Experience Design for Human-Machine Teaming in Commanding a Distributed Constellation of Unmanned Assets in Search and Rescue; Regulation of Dual Use Technology: A Drone Case Study

Zhou, Sarah, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Gerling, Gregory, EN-Eng Sys and Environment, University of Virginia
Foley, Rider, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

In recent years, technological advances within civilian drone technology have opened up applications in emergency response, specifically search and rescue (SAR). Drones, also known as unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or unmanned assets, would be a huge boon to SAR, as they have the potential to cover large swathes of land quickly without endangering human searchers. However, while technological advances have enabled such applications, UAV function is greatly constrained by limited human-machine teaming capabilities and a restrictive regulatory environment. A lack of understandability and adjustability of automation will detract from the reliability of a system. To enable human-machine teaming during SAR, the technical portion of this work designed a graphical user interface to command a distributed constellation of semi-autonomous drones tasked with locating and triangulating a lost individual by their mobile phone signal. This interface focuses on reducing positional uncertainty over time, monitoring asset information at different levels of abstraction, and empowering an operator to influence asset behavior. This is done through spatiotemporal representations of search areas, UAS positions, communications signals, and an alert system. User evaluations with search and rescue professionals and usability experts validated the ability of the interface to aid operators in successfully addressing non-nominal situations. Current Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) UAV regulations prevent drones from being used at their full capacity. To better understand how these regulations have impacted SAR, the STS portion of this work took a random sample of the public comments on two FAA-proposed rules, Remote ID and Operations Over People, and explored them for common sentiments and key themes. These themes were then analyzed through the lenses of dual use technology transfer and Actor-Network theory. The public comments have demonstrated the successful transfer of technology between military and civilian spheres as well as the lack of stabilization within the civilian UAS network. Main points of conflict are the inclusion of recreational aircraft in rules designed for commercial use and the failure to practice evidence-informed policymaking, leading to overly restrictive regulations. The graphical user interface is a prototype that hopes to further the growing field of human-AI-robot teaming. Similarly, analysis of the proposed FAA rules demonstrates movement towards enabling basic applications of drone use. Together, an understandable interface and a favorable regulatory climate will allow the goal of using a semi-autonomous distributed constellation for search and rescue to be realized.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
user experience, human-robot teaming, human-automation interaction, graphical user interfaces, unmanned aerial vehicle, unmanned aircraft system, drone, dual use technology, technology transfer, actor network theory, public comments
Sponsoring Agency:
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Systems Engineering
Technical Advisor: Gregory Gerling
STS Advisor: Rider Foley
Technical Team Members: Troy Anderson, Katherine Fogarty, Hannah Kenkel, Jonathan Raisigel

Issued Date: