Assessment of the mental workload of trainee pilots of remotely operated aircraft using functional near-infrared spectroscopy

Liya Tang, Juanning Si, Lei Sun, Gengsheng Mao, Shengyuan Yu

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Background: Operating an aircraft is associated with a large mental workload; however, knowledge of the mental workload of ROV operators is limited. The purpose of this study was to establish a digital system for assessing the mental workload of remotely operated vehicle (ROV) operators using hemodynamic parameters, and compare results of different groups with different experience levels. Method: Forty-one trainee pilots performed flight tasks once daily for 5 consecutive days in a flight simulation. Forty-five pilots experienced pilots and 68 experienced drivers were also included. Hemodynamic responses were measured by functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). Results: The median duration of peak oxyhemoglobin was 147.13 s (interquartile range [IQR] 21.97, 401.70 s) in the left brain and 180.74 s (IQR 34.37, 432.01 s) in the right brain in the experienced pilot group, and 184.42 s (IQR 3.41, 451.81 s) on day 5 in the left brain and 160.30 s (IQR 2.62, 528.20 s) in the right brain in the trainee group. Conclusion: Navigation training reduces peak oxyhemoglobin duration, and may potentially be used as a surrogate marker for mental workload of ROV operators. Peak oxyhemoglobin concentration during s task may allow development of a simplified scheme for optimizing flight performance based on the mental workload of a pilot.

Original languageEnglish
Article number160
JournalBMC Neurology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


  • Brain
  • Deoxyhemoglobin
  • Flight performance
  • fNIRS
  • Functional near-infrared spectroscopy
  • Mental workload
  • Oxyhemoglobin
  • Remotely operated vehicle operators

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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