Combining cognitive work analysis and empirical evaluations to understand map use by operators of small carry-on unmanned aerial systems

Yonatan Back, Yuval Zak, Yisrael Parmet, Tal Oron-Gilad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Operating a small carry-on unmanned aerial system (UAS) alone is challenging. Research on facilitating single-operator work has focused mainly on payload operation and health monitoring. Little focus has been given to mission-related aspects and how the command and control (C2) map display contributes to mission accomplishment. This study uses cognitive work analysis (CWA) to describe the operational work of the mission operator of a Skylark miniature UAS system. Three CWA phases were conducted – work domain analysis, control task analysis and strategy analysis – providing a rich framework of operational mission phases, task components, processes and the physical interface-objects in use. These representations highlight the operators' extensive use of the C2 map during all mission phases, for all object-related processes. To further enhance the outcomes of the CWA, and prior to outlining specific design requirements, an empirical investigation was conducted in which the eye movements of five experienced operators were obtained during a simulated mission. The empirical results confirm and further specify the work patterns that operators adopt. Quantitative analysis shows operators’ extensive focus on the map, especially during mission-critical phases. These analyses led to the conclusion that a significant change in the way operators interact with the C2 map, or alternative designs to enhance map-based information utilization, should be applied. Insights drawn from this analysis can be applied to other aerial surveillance work domains, and adding empirical evaluations is helpful to further refine and reinforce the CWA outcomes.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number103218
JournalApplied Ergonomics
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2021


  • Cognitive work analysis
  • Command and control
  • Map display
  • Single operator
  • Unmanned system

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)


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