Small Boat Recovery Task Performance in a Moving Environment

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Human Factors




Objective: Assess operator performance in a simulation of US Coast Guard small boat recovery to a larger vessel on a large scale, six degree-of-freedom, full motion simulator. Background: Studies of human performance in small boat recovery task have never been conducted on a high amplitude, low frequency simulator. Empirical evidence of small boat recovery task performance in challenging motion conditions is needed to inform future maritime systems designs. Method: Experienced active-duty boat crewmembers (N = 13) conducted a small boat recovery task in three sea states on the Vertical Motion Simulator (VMS) at the NASA Ames Research Center. Task performance was assessed using a task equivalent for time to complete the task. Participant behaviors associated with increasing motion severity were observed. Results: Task performance declined as motion conditions became more severe. Participants were more likely to use at least one hand to maintain balance during motion conditions, becoming more frequent with increasing motion severity. Many participants used one hand to complete the task despite contrary instructions and previous experience. Conclusion: Two design recommendations were proposed to counter declining task performance in increasingly severe motion conditions. Handholds available to participants during the task, and task design supporting single handed completion were recommended for small boat recovery systems. Application: This research is directly applicable to gross motor tasks requiring simultaneous maintenance of balance in a maritime environment, and may be extended to other environments where humans experience complex motions while completing tasks.


maritime systems, physical ergonomics, simulation, system design, task analysis