Human-Swarm Partnerships: A Systematic Review of Human Factors Literature

Open Access
Conference Proceedings
Authors: Victoria SteaneJemma OakesSamson PalmerMark Chattington

Abstract: It is widely recognised that multiple autonomous agents operating together as part of a team, or swarm, could be used to assist in a variety of situations including search and rescue missions, warehouse operations and a number of military scenarios. From a sociotechnical perspective, these scenarios depict situations in which non-human and human agents are likely to work together in order to achieve a common goal. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are often viewed as a convenient and cost effective way to gather information that is not easily accessible from any other means. However, we are beginning to see increasing efforts to scale up the autonomy of single-UAV systems to create aerial swarms. It is thought that aerial swarms may be used to assist in various situations including search and rescue missions, warehouse operations and military scenarios. Compared to a single robot, a swarm can provide a more efficient means to cover large areas and are scalable (i.e., can easily add or remove individual robots without significantly impacting the performance of the remaining group). Despite this, there has been some concern that Human Factors research into human-swarm partnerships is lacking. Thus, in order to understand the current ‘state of the art’, a systematic literature review was conducted to explore what Human Factors research is being conducted within the area of human-swarm partnerships and explore what design guidance exists to support the development of efficient and effective relationships. The initial search returned 143 articles. Duplicates were first removed and then the screening process involved filtering articles by titles then by abstract and then finally, full text. This approach led to 55 articles being retained. Inductive coding was used to identify themes within the text. This provided greater insight into the current focus of research with the context of human-swarm partnerships. A total of 5 themes were identified: interaction strategies, user interface design, management, operator monitoring and trust. However, the review also found that when it comes to design guidance, very little is available. One potential avenue for future research centre on the concepts of Meaningful Human Control and Effective Human Control. These concepts have been recognised as providing the foundation in which the design of human-swarm partnerships may be developed. This is because human agents are still likely to play a pivotal role in overall mission success and as such should retain full decisional awareness and possess a comprehensive understanding of the context of action in order for control to be meaningful. This implicates four of the research themes identified as part of this review: interaction strategies, user interface design, management and trust. Operator Monitoring, the final theme identified as part of this review, is indirectly linked to MHC and EHC because it acts as the mechanism in which operator engagement can be augmented. Arguably then, the building blocks to achieve MHC and EHC are beginning to take shape. However, more research is needed to bring this altogether in the quest for efficient and effective relationships between human agents and robot counterparts.

Keywords: human, machine team, human, swarm interaction, multi, agent system

DOI: 10.54941/ahfe1003754

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