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10. Spatial Disorientation in Uninhabited Aerial Vehicles

Human Factors of Remotely Operated Vehicles

ISBN: 978-0-76231-247-4, eISBN: 978-1-84950-370-9

Publication date: 2 May 2006


SD is defined as a failure to sense correctly the attitude, motion, and/or position of the aircraft with respect to the surface of the earth (Benson, 2003). The types of SD are generally thought to be “unrecognized” and “recognized” (Previc & Ercoline, 2004). Although a third type has been reported (incapacitating), this type seems irrelevant to UAV operations. Unrecognized SD occurs when the person at the controls is unaware that a change in the motion/attitude of the aircraft has taken place. The cause is often the result of a combination of sub-threshold motion and inattention. This type of SD is known to be the single most serious human factors reason for aircraft accidents today, accounting for roughly 90% of all known SD-related mishaps (Davenport, 2000). Recognized SD occurs when a noticeable conflict is created between the actual motion/attitude of the aircraft and any one of the common physiological sensory mechanisms (e.g., visual, vestibular, auditory, and tactile). Recognized SD is the most common type of SD, accounting for the remaining SD-related accidents.


Self, B.P., Ercoline, W.R., Olson, W.A. and Tvaryanas, A.P. (2006), "10. Spatial Disorientation in Uninhabited Aerial Vehicles", Cooke, N.J., Pringle, H.L., Pedersen, H.K. and Connor, O. (Ed.) Human Factors of Remotely Operated Vehicles (Advances in Human Performance and Cognitive Engineering Research, Vol. 7), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 133-146.



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