Evaluating sociotechnical dynamics in a simulated remotely-piloted aircraft system: a layered dynamics approach

Jamie C. Gorman, Mustafa Demir, Nancy J. Cooke, David A. Grimm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


As coordination mechanisms change and technology failures occur, a sociotechnical system must reorganise itself across human and technological layers to maintain effectiveness. We present a study examining reorganisation across communication, controls and vehicle layers of a remotely-piloted aircraft system (RPAS) using a layered dynamics approach. Team members (pilot; navigator; photographer) performed 5 simulated RPAS missions using different operator configurations, including all-human and human-autonomy teams. Reorganization (operationally defined using entropy) time series measured the changing system reorganisation profiles under different operator configurations and following autonomy failures. Correlations between these reorganisation profiles and team effectiveness scores describe the manner in which the system had to be coordinated to maintain effectiveness under these changing conditions. Four unplanned autonomy failures were analysed to visualise system reorganisation following a technology failure. With its objective and real-time modelling and measurement capabilities, layered dynamics complements existing systems thinking tools for understanding sociotechnical complexity and enhancing system effectiveness. Practitioner summary: A layered dynamics approach for understanding how a sociotechnical system dynamically reorganises itself is presented. The layered dynamics of RPAS were analysed under different operator configurations and following autonomy failures. Layered dynamics complements existing system-thinking tools for modelling sociotechnical system complexity and effectiveness. Abbreviation: RPAS: remotely-piloted aircraft system; HIS: human-systems integration; EAST: event analysis of systemic teamwork; H1: hypothesis 1; H2: hypothesis 2; H3: hypothesis 3; CERTT-STE: cognitive engineering research on team tasks--synthetic task environment; AVO: air vehicle operator; PLO: payload operator; DEMPC: data exploitation, mission planning, and communications; ACT-R: adaptive control of thought-rational; sec: seconds; ANOVA: analysis of variance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)629-643
Number of pages15
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 4 2019


  • Dynamical systems
  • human-systems integration
  • real-time
  • remotely piloted aircraft system
  • unmanned aerial vehicle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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