Gaze behavior of spotters during an air-to-ground search

Hum Factors. 2007 Aug;49(4):671-8. doi: 10.1518/001872007X215746.


Objective: This study was designed to develop methods for evaluating the gaze behaviors of spotters during air-to-ground search and to compare field-derived measures with previous lab results. Secondary aims were to assess adherence to a prescribed scan path, evaluate search effectiveness, and determine the predictors of task success.

Background: Crashed aircraft must be located quickly to minimize loss of life, often requiring visual search from the air.

Method: Eye movements were measured in 10 volunteer spotters while they searched from the air for ground targets. Visual acuity, contrast levels, and performance on a lab-based search task were also measured.

Results: Results were similar to those of previous lab-based studies of air-to-ground search. Task success could be predicted best from a combination of gaze and laboratory variables, and as in previous research, experience was not one of them.

Conclusions: In both lab and field research, performance is poor. Improvements in air search and rescue success will depend upon improvements in training, the refinement of scan tactics, changes to the task methods or environment, or modifications to parameters of the search exercise.

Application: Spotters were unable to reliably search their assigned area, which has implications for the current search training program and in-the-air protocol.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aircraft*
  • Eye Movements*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Rescue Work*
  • Vision, Ocular*