The US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) plans to develop new technology that identifies and mitigates stress factors affecting soldier performance.

Researchers aim to identify combat stress factors, including dust, toxic fumes, and fatigue from carrying heavy loads, that might cause degraded performance.

ARL Dismounted Warrior Branch chief Dr Mike LaFiandra said: "Special sensors are being used to measure the effects those variables have on performance.

"Once the information is quantified, the next step is exploring various mitigation strategies to prevent performance degradation. Mitigation strategies that work could result in improved task performance upwards of 20% or 25%."

The research team will develop systems to reduce stress induced by complex controls, displays and actions, which can increase the time it takes for soldiers to make decisions.

"Mitigation strategies that work could result in improved task performance upwards of 20% or 25%."

US Air Force (USAF) chief scientist Dr Greg Zacharias said: "A mitigation strategy to prevent complexity would need to come at the early design phase of the system, with extensive user testing to determine how well the human is interacting with the machine.

"The right level of operator trust in their equipment is also important. If an operator puts too much trust in a UAV to operate on autopilot, for instance, the operator might not notice a decrease in speed and elevation and a crash could result."

The research follows a recent occupational health study, which revealed that soldiers on flight lines experience hearing loss due to toxic aircraft fumes and noise.

Image: Human-machine relationships with autonomous vehicles like unmanned aerial vehicles and unmanned ground vehicles are explored for future research. Photo: Peggy Frierson / US Army.