Team Performance in Networked Supervisory Control of Unmanned Air Vehicles: Effects of Automation, Working Memory, and Communication Content

McKendrick, R., Shaw, T., de Visser, E., Saqer, H., Kidwell, B., & Parasuraman, R. (2013). Team performance in networked supervisory contol of unmanned air vehicles: Effects of automation, working memory, and communication content. Human Factors.


Assess team performance within a networked supervisory control setting while manipulating automated decision aids and monitoring team communication and working memory ability. Networked systems such as multi–unmanned air vehicle (UAV) supervision have complex properties that make prediction of human-system performance difficult. Automated decision aid can provide valuable information to operators, individual abilities can limit or facilitate team performance, and team communication patterns can alter how effectively individuals work together. We hypothesized that reliable automation, higher working memory capacity, and increased communication rates of task-relevant information would offset performance decrements attributed to high task load. Two-person teams performed a simulated air defense task with two levels of task load and three levels of automated aid reliability. Teams communicated and received decision aid messages via chat window text messages. Task Load × Automation effects were significant across all performance measures. Reliable automation limited the decline in team performance with increasing task load. Average team spatial working memory was a stronger predictor than other measures of team working memory. Frequency of team rapport and enemy location communications positively related to team performance, and word count was negatively related to team performance. Reliable decision aiding mitigated team performance decline during increased task load during multi-UAV supervisory control. Team spatial working memory, communication of spatial information, and team rapport predicted team success. An automated decision aid can improve team performance under high task load. Assessment of spatial working memory and the communication of task-relevant information can help in operator and team selection in supervisory control systems.