RAPID: Human-robotic interactions during Harvey recovery operations
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Effective and efficient disaster recovery is necessary for individuals, the community and businesses to return to normal functioning from large-scale disasters, like hurricanes Harvey and Irma. In recent years, unmanned robots have been used to facilitate rescue, response, and recovery and have been found invaluable in these efforts as they can go where humans cannot. Although these robots do not have someone on the vehicle itself, they do require humans to operate them, and little is known about the demands of this technological work environment on the humans during disaster recovery. What is known is that the pilots often work: in high work demand stressful environments; outside (often in the heat, as hurricanes happen in the summer); require ambulation or prolonged standing in awkward postures for extended periods of time; and sometimes these operators live in the affected area themselves and thus maybe experiencing psycho-social stressors due to the disaster. Given the finite number of trained operators, the availability of different types of robots, and the increasing areas of the country needing assessment of damages using robots due to large-scale disasters, there is a critical need to examine naturalistic human/robotic interactions during recovery operations in affected regions. The study will create a fundamental, principled understanding of attributes of collaborations between human and robot teams that are resilient during disaster recovery operations to minimize costly errors and improve effectiveness of future disaster robotics response and recovery operations.This RAPID award will provide critical and timely information on human/robotic interactions during robot-assisted Harvey recovery operations in the Texas Gulf Coast and surrounding locations impacted by flooding. The study will examine recovery operations that focus on inspections of critical infrastructure affected by the flooding and to assist with economic recovery across different types of structures (homes, factories, neighborhoods, etc.). The objectives of this study are to 1) document the relationships between the human (e.g., pilot) and the robot (e.g., unmanned aerial vehicle) to achieve specific recovery tasks (surveillance and inspections) in dynamically changing and unstable environments (e.g., flood-damaged infrastructure); and 2) determine the key contributors of poor human/robotic interactions to provide heuristics/guidelines for improved human/robotic interactions. Both qualitative and quantitative data collection and analyses techniques will be used: video observations to document the gamut of human/robot interactions during recovery operations, perceptions of workload/fatigue, trust in robots, usability, communication, and training gaps through surveys and interviews from the human teams, types and functions of robots used, operator physiological responses, and task productivity metrics. Findings obtained from this study will be rapidly disseminated to appropriate stakeholders (industry, government, public safety) for developing effective best practices in disaster recovery operations.