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Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) & Human Error"Literature Review" Chapter

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¶ … Human Factors affecting safe operation of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)

In this chapter, we will examine the various sources that discuss different factors affecting the safe operation of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). This will be accomplished by look at a variety of information that will discuss what is happening not only with the Air Force, but other branches inside the Department of Defense (DOD). Once this occurs, it will provide specific insights about what precise factors are affecting the safe operation of this kind of aircraft and the role that it playing in supporting the demands of the military.

Human Errors

The piece of literature that was written by Thompson (2005), discusses the number of human and mechanical errors that are occurring with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). as, they found that in nearly 68% of the incidents (that have been reported), human errors were the main causes of accidents and other mishaps. While during remaining 32% of time that these events were occurring, the underlying causes were based upon: various mechanical failures, malfunctions and other anomalies. This is important, because it identifies the basic categories as to why these events are taking place. (Thompson, 2005)

The author then, breaks down what each of the various branches of the DOD reported by: looking at the total number of accidents that occurred. He found that the Air Force has the largest number of failures with these kinds of vehicles. as, there were a variety of common incidents that were being experienced by them to include: sensory feedback / instrument failures, channelized attention issues and automation challenges. The Army reported failures with their UAV program due to: a lack of training, following procedures, operator arrogance, communication and crew coordination issues. While the Navy / Marine Corps found that their most common reasons for UAV accidents include: workload and risk management issues. This is important, because it is showing the different reasons why various failures are occurring with UAVs. as, the Air Force was mainly reporting mechanical issues as the main causes surrounding why these kinds of incidents were taking place. While, the other branches of the DOD were having their UAV issues based upon operators challenges. This includes everything ranging from: over confidence in the operator to the underlying workload that they have. When you put these different factors together, they are highlighting specific reasons why these events have been taking place and what are the causes behind these kinds of accidents. (Thompson, 2005)

Next, Thompson (2005) provides specific recommendations that: the Air Force, Army, Navy / Marines and DOD need to embrace to address these issues that they are wrestling with. As far as the Air Force is concerned, they need to improve operator training and the communication between ground control personnel to the aircraft itself. The Army needs to improve operator training and they must establish various checklists for the staff to follow. In the case of the Navy / Marines they need to improve manpower assessment criteria, develop more effective training procedures and reduce the operational risks these vehicles are facing. For the entire DOD, it is recommended that they move away from focusing on mechanical failure as the primary reason for accidents. Instead, there needs to be a concentrated effort to look on other human related factors behind these incidents including: the project management, organizational culture and the focus of these programs. This is important, because these various elements are highlighting how there are other factors besides mechanical issues, that will have an effect on the operation of UAVs. (Thompson, 2005)

As a result, the information from this source is useful, because it provides specific insights as to what factors could be contributing to accidents surrounding the use of UAVs. This is accomplished by providing specific general statistics about: human error vs. mechanical failure. It then, looks at exact issues inside each branch of the DOD and how they can be addressed. Once this takes place, it gives precise and general trends about what factors have been contributing to: a host of issues for a variety of UAVs. Understanding these different elements will help to impart more specific insights about: how human errors and other issues that have been contributing to different safety challenges. (Thompson, 2005)

Constable (2005), talks about how human errors is the main causes of various accidents surrounding the use of UAV's. as, his research is indicating that 60.2% of errors were attributed to different mistakes that were made by personnel during the operation of the aircraft. The below table illustrates the most common causes for human error that has occurred in UAVs. (Constable, 2005)

Most Common Causes of Human Error in UAVs





Physical Limitations






Crew Resource Management


Physical Environment


(Constable, 2005)

These different numbers are significant, because they are showing how the majority of human errors that are occurring are mainly limited to cognitive and crew resource factors. As a result, this helps to prove more specific insights as to what precise human causes are leading to a host of incidents. (Constable, 2005)

Next, the author shifts gears and focuses on the total number of human errors that are occurring based upon: each branch of the Department of Defense. He found that the Air Force had the majority of incidents reported. However, inside these different numbers, it is important to note that the other branches of the service do have certain categories that they have higher in for select errors. For example, when you look at the different behavioral factors, you will find that the Air Force is the lowest of all the branches of the services in this category (coming in at 9.3%). While, the Army reported readings of 30.0% and the Navy was at 11.8%. This is significant, because it is highlighting how operator errors are common among all of the various branches of the DOD. (Constable, 2005)

As a result, the information from this source is useful, because it provides detailed insights about what factors are contributing to various safety issues in the operation of UAVs. Where, it was determined that the underlying causes of most accidents are based upon human error. Yet, inside these general numbers, the main causes (in the majority of accidents) were poor environmental conditions that had an effect on the operator's ability to see. as, the Air Force has the highest rates of: operator error within the DOD. When you put these different facts together, they are corroborating the findings of the previous source. At the same time, they are giving specific insights as to what are the main reasons that lead to human errors in UAVs. This helps to answer the research question by looking at the various factors that human error can have on: the operation of the aircraft and the frequency of these events occurring. Once this takes place, it means that we have a better understanding as to what issues could be leading to specific safety challenges with this type of aircraft. (Constable, 2005)

Moreover, Lund (2006) discusses various factors that could be contributing to accidents involving the use of UAVs. This is accomplished by conducting a literature review of various military and government documents. The results of the study were that several different variables were identified as the main reasons why these kinds of incidents were taking place. The most notable include: stress / lack of vigilance, situational awareness, decision making, teamwork, monitoring performance and an overreliance on technology. These different elements are important, because they can provide more detailed information about what specific factors are helping to contribute to various UAV safety issues. (Lund, 2006)

As a result, the information from this source is useful because it can be used with the previous facts to provide specific background surrounding: operator error and the underlying causes. Once this occurs, it means that we have a greater understanding as to what specific factors are contributing to UAV safety errors. as, it is providing precise insights that are helping to focus the research on: some basic background information. (Lund, 2006)

Effectiveness of the Program

Furthermore, Drury (2008), talks about the effectiveness of having a remote pilot program. Where, researchers found that despite various operator errors that will occur humans do play a significant role. as, the best operators will be able to: see the entire theater of operation and have an understanding of the activities of their intended target. This is because; the operator and the technology are working together, to improve the data that is being collected. Once this occurs, it will give the operator the most complete picture of what is happening, helping them to make more prudent decisions. This is important, because it is showing how both the operator and the aircraft must work together, to understand the most effective use of the UAV. (Drury, 2008)

The information from this source is useful because it is providing specific insights about possible characteristics of successful UAV pilots. as,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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