Working with Drones: Fatigue Management
Causes of fatigueThe preceding section has highlighted that there are a range of factors that cause or contribute to fatigue. To summarise, fatigue is normally the product of one or more of the following:
- emotional strain;
- mental workload;
- strenuous or sustained physical exertion;
- inadequate food and fluid intake;
- adverse environmental conditions, such as extremes of temperature, low light levels, * * * vibration and confined spaces;
- periods of monotony or boring activities; and
- disrupted and lost sleep.
Alcohol use and smoking
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- increased number of accidents causing injury;
- increased absenteeism or lateness;
- reduced productivity;
- frequent stoppages;
- lower quality work; and
- equipment damage.
The persistent effects of alcoholAn emphasis on blood alcohol level in determining fitness for work has masked a vital issue about alcohol use: its lingering impact on performance, even after BAC has returned to zero. The persistent effects of alcohol can result in marked impairment of performance for reasons including dehydration, hypoglycaemia, gastrointestinal upset and disturbances in the vestibular system. The alcohol-related reduction in performance after BAC returns to zero is known as ‘post-alcohol impairment.’ Recent studies have indicated that pilot performance can be measurably impaired for at least 8 to 14 hours after last alcohol ingestion. These performance deficits are apparent across a range of psychomotor and mental abilities, and include slowed reaction time, lowered vigilance, difficulties processing radio communications, disruptions to the formation of new memories, and impaired judgement in operating the RPA.
Drug use, including prescription and over the counter medicationsPrescription drugs Some prescription drugs can affect your ability to drive or operate heavy machinery. They may also interact with existing fatigue levels and other drugs (including alcohol), further affecting your performance. If you take prescription medication, and work in safety-sensitive roles, you should:
- ask your doctor about possible interactions with other drugs;
- ask your doctor about the drug’s effects on performance, such as your ability to drive, fly, and operate machinery and technical equipment;
- tell your supervisor what you are taking so they are aware of your situation (depending on the policies and regulations in your workplace); and
- remember that anaesthetics are prescription drugs that can show a positive result on a screening test – inform your supervisor if you have had an anaesthetic recently.
- blood pressure (angiotensin);
- allergies (antihistamines);
- sleep and anxiety problems (both barbiturates and benzodiazepines);
- depression (monoamine oxidase inhibitors); and
- other mental disorders (notably phenothiazines).
Over the counter drugsSome over-the-counter drugs used for pain relief or colds and flu may increase drowsiness and fatigue-related symptoms. Again, always carefully check the advice labels/directions for use. If you are unsure about the side effects of the drug, talk to your pharmacist. There are also over-the-counter drugs that are designed to increase alertness (broadly called stimulants). These medications include caffeine-based tablets or capsules (such as No-Doz) and pseudoephedrine, a decongestant (such as Sudafed). While both can be effective in increasing alertness and decreasing fatigue-related symptoms, they can also have serious side effects. For example, pseudoephedrine can cause increased anxiety levels, heart palpitations, and insomnia. Clearly, such symptoms have the potential to affect safety and work performance. It is recommended that stimulants be used sparingly and always under medical supervision.
Emotions, including anger, anxiety, depression and fearEmotions can affect your decision making processes. When these emotions revolve around anger, anxiety, depression and fear you are at particular risk of making bad decisions. It can take a level of self-reflection to recognise when these risk factors are present but they should not be ignored. As always, it is imperative that you follow your workplace procedures in relation to these matters and notify the person you are meant to notify. It is not ok to increase the risk to others because of your own emotions.
Spatial disorientation and illusionsSpatial disorientation (SD) has long been associated with inverted flying, the leans, centrifugal forces, and other physically-centric scenarios. However, with the employment of highly advanced remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) it is necessary to redefine, or at least research spatial orientation challenges as they pertain to unmanned flight. For various reasons, the RPA’s limited see-and-avoid capability and its absence of traditional motion and sensitivity cues are the primary threats to spatial orientation. Additionally, the see-and-avoid problem is not only relevant to spatial awareness as it pertains to the earth’s surface, but also to the location of other aircraft.
RPA OrientationAviators orient themselves in many ways; by touch or feel, auditory and visual cues, and by the inner ear which responds to both linear and angular acceleration. It is also known, that of these orientation mechanisms, the visual system is the most trustworthy.
RPA Orientation LimitationsBy removing the other physiologic, traditional, feeling-based systems from the equation, RPA pilots may not experience the traditional spatial disorientation illusions. However, removing these factors from the environment ironically creates a hyper-susceptibility to other orientation challenges. One example of such a challenge is a myriad of visual illusions due to the pilot’s inability to validate what he or she perceives to be true. Furthermore, even though the visual system is the most reliable sense of orientation, it is severely limited during flight. Another orientation limitation for RPA crews is information overload due to the high degree of RPA automation. This overload is expected with the advent of new technology however, the true danger rests in the resultant attention management threats. The lack of alternative orientation systems available to RPA crews places higher workloads on the conscious-focal system, and places no demand on the ambient-subconscious system
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