May 5, 2023
Written by the Engineering Team, Kongsberg Geospatial
Written by Thomas Jimenez
Cognitive load reduction is an essential aspect of effective BVLOS UAS airspace management. Many-to-one airspace management involves the coordination of numerous ownship flights, operated by one pilot and integrated into the National Airspace System (NAS). This requires UAS operators and UAS airspace managers to process vast amounts of information quickly and accurately. However, the human brain has limits on the amount of information it can process at any given time, which is known as cognitive load.
When UAS operators experience high levels of cognitive load, it can lead to stress, fatigue, and errors, all of which can have severe consequences for both manned and unmanned aircraft safety. For example, when a UAS pilot is experiencing cognitive overload, they may struggle to make quick and accurate decisions, leading to mistakes such as incorrect altitude, direction or velocity adjustments, and even collisions.
Some might say that autonomous missions reduce the need for the operators to make these decisions, however in the event of a potential conflict, or various simultaneous conflicts, the accuracy of evasive decisions is as important as that of proactive mission inputs.
As in manned aviation standard, operating procedures and checklists can help to reduce cognitive load on UAS operators by providing a framework for manned and unmanned pilots to follow, supporting aircraft separation and reducing the need to process and remember information.
To reduce cognitive load in airspace management, airspace visualization and conflict warning tools can help. For example, smart traffic filters can assist UAS operators by removing air traffic that is not relevant to the current operation and freeing-up cognitive resources for more complex decision-making. Similarly, automated conflict warning systems aid the UAS operator in identifying potential loss-of-separation, thus allowing the operator sufficient time, and cognitive resources, to make educated decisions, and take avoidance action if needed.
In summary, reducing cognitive load is crucial for effective and safe airspace management. As BVLOS operations grow in number, in dimensions and importantly with the growth of many-to-one drone operations, these tools to reduce cognitive load will become increasingly important, and many would say essential, to reduce the risk of errors and accidents with manned aviation in the NAS.
About IRIS Terminal:
IRIS Terminal provides UAS operators with decision support tools such as smart airspace corridors, conflict warning and multiple types of track/traffic filtering to help manage their cognitive load by focusing attention on the airspace traffic and risks relevant to the mission being conducted.