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Effects of UAV Supervisory Control on F-18 Formation Flight Performance in a Simulator Environment

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Master's thesis

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Continual advances in technology, along with increased cockpit workload-- particularly the shift from two-seat to single-seat fighters to save money and reduce risk to life--push the limits of human mental capacity. Additionally, there is interest within the military aviation community to integrate Unmanned Aerial Vehicle UAV control into the cockpit in order to expand force projection capability. This study compared the effects on formation flight performance of two different secondary tasks, specifically a traditional secondary task such as target prosecution with an electro-optical Forward Looking Infra-Red FLIR pod, and a futuristic secondary task such as UAV supervisory control. A total of 34 military fighter aviators volunteered to fly three five-minute F-18 simulator sessions in close formation with no secondary task, and then treated with each of the two secondary tasks. Results provided clear indication that the futuristic task was significantly more challenging than the traditional task, and that both secondary tasks significantly increased the average mean following distance and variance compared to the undistracted flying baseline scenario. Additionally, we found no evidence that increased flight experience total flight hours significantly improved performance of the prescribed primary task when treated with the futuristic task distraction. Knowledge gained from the results could contribute to improved crew resource management CRM and pilot workload management as well as flight safety resulting from the modification of flight procedures based on known effects of distractions in the cockpit.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Aircraft Operations
  • Attack and Fighter Aircraft
  • Pilotless Aircraft

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