Set Your Sights High: The Effect of Heads-Up Displays on Situation Awareness and Performance for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Rebensky, Summer Lindsey
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The purpose of the current study was to examine the effect of two interface designs—traditional and heads-up displays (HUDs)—on situation awareness (SA), performance, and workload for sUAS operations. The study utilized an experimental repeated measures design to determine the relationship between interface design on the various dependent variables through a simulated search and rescue mission. Participants flew two simulated search and rescue missions to find missing persons utilizing traditional and HUD displays. During the missions, participants took pictures of human targets and were queried on their SA using the freeze probe SAGAT approach. Then participants rated their subjective SA using the SART and workload using the NASA-TLX. A repeated measures MANOVA revealed no significant effects of interface on SA performance or workload. Therefore, a follow-up mixed model repeated measure MANOVA was conducted with between subject factors of interface order and UAS experience level. With experience and order included as between subjects factors, the model revealed a significant effect of interface. Univariate analyses revealed a significant impact of interface design on SA measured via the SAGAT. No significant differences were discovered for subjective SA, workload, or performance. The findings from the current study support aspects of SA theory. Consistent with Endsley’s (1995a) model of SA, interface design improved SA. Targets detected, and subjective SA measures were determined to lack adequate sensitivity for differences to emerge. Exploratory analyses of workload revealed that the HUD did not result in an increased workload. The current findings align with HUD research in medical, automotive, manned aircraft, and UAS domains. The results of this study provide support for integrating HUDs into UAS operations, such as via augmented reality technology.