The Evolution of Human-Autonomy Teams in Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems Operations

Mustafa Demir, Nathan J. McNeese, Nancy J. Cooke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The focus of this current research is 2-fold: (1) to understand how team interaction in human-autonomy teams (HAT)s evolve in the Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) task context, and (2) to understand how HATs respond to three types of failures (automation, autonomy, and cyber-attack) over time. We summarize the findings from three of our recent experiments regarding the team interaction within HAT over time in the dynamic context of RPAS. For the first and the second experiments, we summarize general findings related to team member interaction of a three-member team over time, by comparison of HATs with all-human teams. In the third experiment, which extends beyond the first two experiments, we investigate HAT evolution when HATs are faced with three types of failures during the task. For all three of these experiments, measures focus on team interactions and temporal dynamics consistent with the theory of interactive team cognition. We applied Joint Recurrence Quantification Analysis, to communication flow in the three experiments. One of the most interesting and significant findings from our experiments regarding team evolution is the idea of entrainment, that one team member (the pilot in our study, either agent or human) can change the communication behaviors of the other teammates over time, including coordination, and affect team performance. In the first and second studies, behavioral passiveness of the synthetic teams resulted in very stable and rigid coordination in comparison to the all-human teams that were less stable. Experimenter teams demonstrated metastable coordination (not rigid nor unstable) and performed better than rigid and unstable teams during the dynamic task. In the third experiment, metastable behavior helped teams overcome all three types of failures. These summarized findings address three potential future needs for ensuring effective HAT: (1) training of autonomous agents on the principles of teamwork, specifically understanding tasks and roles of teammates, (2) human-centered machine learning design of the synthetic agent so the agents can better understand human behavior and ultimately human needs, and (3) training of human members to communicate and coordinate with agents due to current limitations of Natural Language Processing of the agents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number50
JournalFrontiers in Communication
StatePublished - 2019


  • artificial intelligence
  • human-autonomy teaming
  • recurrence quantification analysis
  • remotely piloted aircraft systems
  • synthetic agent
  • team cognition
  • team dynamics
  • unmanned air vehicle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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