New research highlights how video gamers could help plug the skills gap for drone operators.

Growth in the use of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) operations has outpaced current training regimes, resulting in a shortage of qualified UAS pilots.

In an effort to address this problem, researchers from the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, led by Dr Jacqueline Wheatcroft, and Dr Mike Jump from the Department of Mechanical, Materials and Aerospace Engineering, explored the suitability of three potential UAS groups: video game players (VGPs), private pilots and professional pilots.


The participants, 60 in total, all took part in a simulated civilian cargo flight to enable the researchers to assess their levels of accuracy, confidence and confidence-accuracy judgements (W-S C-A).

The participants made 21 decision tasks, which varied across three levels of danger/risk.

As danger increased levels of confidence, accuracy and the relationship between how accurate the decision was and the level of confidence applied to those decisions decreased.

Decision confidence

The dangerousness of the decision also affected how confident participants were when choosing to intervene or rely on the automation; confidence was lower when the operator chose to intervene.

Professional pilots and VGPs exhibited the highest level of decision confidence, with VGPs maintaining a constant and positive W-S C-A relationship across decision danger/risk.

All groups showed higher levels of decision confidence in decisions controlled by the UAS in comparison to decisions where the operator manually intervened.

“A useful resource”

Dr Jacqueline Wheatcroft, said: “Understanding which potential supervisory group has the best skills to make the best decisions can help to improve UAS supervision. Overall, video game players were less overconfident in their decision judgements.

“The outcome supports the idea that this group could be a useful resource in UAS operation.”

The full paper, entitled ‘Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) operators’ accuracy and confidence of decisions: Professional pilots or video game players?’, can be found here.

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