Human Factors in the Unmanned Industry

By Elise Lagerstrom, Human Factors / Flight Safety

It has always been a challenge for me to explain my degree and career path. The conversation usually starts with “Where did you go to school?” to which I reply “Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.” As it turns out, very few people outside the aerospace industry are familiar with Embry-Riddle, so I feel the need to make sure to include the descriptor “aeronautical university.” Typically, the conversation continues along a normal path, to which my next response is that I have a degree in Human Factors. This response is also met with a similar level of skepticism and confusion as the original question.

What does Human Factors mean?

I have found in life, and even at Insitu, that describing myself as a “Human Factors practitioner” actually offers little clarification. The definition of “Human Factors” can be region-, industry-, and even company-specific.

In short, it can be boiled down to the following: Human Factors is a discipline that applies an understanding of human abilities and limitations to the design of the built environment.

The longer definition of Human Factors (based off the FAA’s definition) is the scientific discipline that utilizes a multidisciplinary approach to generate and compile information about human capabilities and limitations and apply that information to equipment, systems, facilities, procedures, jobs, environments, training, staffing, and personnel management for safe, comfortable and effective human performance.

The application of Human Factors in product development at companies like Insitu is accomplished through analysis, design and evaluation. We provide an analysis of our users’ characteristics, behaviors and needs. We then correlate this analysis with task demands and environmental characteristics and apply Human Factors design principles (requirements) to ensure the system supports safe and effective human performance.

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