Gaze, steering, and active vision during skilled quadcopter flight

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Powell, Nathaniel V.
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Electronic thesis
Cognitive science
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Previous accounts of how humans locomote have focused on movements and perceptualjudgments along the 2D ground plane, such as when driving automobiles or walking over various types of terrain. Humans, however, can also locomote in very different conditions as evidenced by the flight of experienced quadcopter pilots as they fly through cluttered three-dimensional environments. In this thesis, I investigated how quadcopter pilots coordinate gaze with steering in a variety of environmental conditions. Chapter 1 reviews previous accounts of visually guided locomotion in humans and discusses whether such accounts may be able to explain the gaze and steering behavior of quadcopter pilots. The second chapter outlines a novel experimental paradigm designed to investigate how quadcopter pilots coordinate gaze with steering in a virtual reality (VR) environment. Chapters 3 and 4 detail the results from two experiments. There are three main takeaways from the present set of experiments. First, coordination of gaze and steering during quadcopter flight share some similarities with gaze during other forms of locomotion. During a purely path following task, participants spent a large portion of time orienting gaze towards the ground over which they would soon pass. However, in Experiment 1, the presence of hoops resulted in gaze predominantly being oriented through the center of those hoops. Second, pilots adapt their current trajectory in accordance with upcoming environmental conditions, suggesting anticipatory steering through the nearest hoop to align themselves with the subsequent. Lastly, Experiment 2 showed that even when obstacles lie directly on or close to the path participant gaze was still oriented towards the path outline or the terrain near the path. The findings from both studies provide evidence in support of a predominant gaze strategy where participants look towards their desired direction of steering, with little time spent orienting gaze towards obstacles or other objects. The last chapter is a general discussion, outlining the limitations and future directions of the current study.
August 2022
School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY
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