Human-Machine Interface for Directed Energy Weapons
Award last edited on: 6/19/2023

Sponsored Program
Awarding Agency
DOD : Navy
Total Award Amount
Award Phase
Solicitation Topic Code
Principal Investigator
Shannon Toftely

Company Information

Pacific Science & Engineering Group (AKA: PSE~Pacific Science and Engineering Group)

9180 Brown Deer Road
San Diego, CA 92121
   (858) 535-1661
Location: Multiple
Congr. District: 51
County: San Diego

Phase I

Contract Number: N68335-21-C-0595
Start Date: 7/6/2021    Completed: 1/2/2022
Phase I year
Phase I Amount
The design of the High Energy Laser (HEL) operator Human-Machine Interface (HMI) faces a number of challenges. The HEL operator will be asked to deal with large quantities of information and fast-paced task demands over a wide variety of tasking. These multiple and high-frequency task demands could lead to fatigue and lethal errors. Pacific Science & Engineering is highly experienced in developing evidence-based, effective HMIs for information-rich, fast paced, and high stakes environments. The objective of this Phase I effort is to develop innovative and effective HMI concepts and provide analyses to demonstrate the viability of these concepts so that they can be fully realized as high-fidelity prototypes in Phase II. During Phase I, PSE will use its proprietary user-centered design methodology to develop an evidence-based concept for the HEL operator HMI and then assess its feasibility. The benefits of these new, evidence-based operator HMI concepts are that they fit the operators tasking, workflow, and cognitive capabilities, thereby reducing operator fatigue, response delay, and error while improving operator situation awareness and decision making. The application goal is full implementation of these HMI concepts within the HEL system by applying the HEL HMI style guide to be developed by this project.

This SBIR will create HMI display design artifacts and a style guide for directed energy weapons control that provides detailed guidance to a new program of record to develop the HMI for the HEL operator. Transition of PSEs HMI designs for IWS 2.0s EW systems is on-going, and transition of the HEL HMI design developed here will follow that existing path. PSEs first HMI design from the EW Roadmap, the First Themed Capability Release (TCR1), is already being implemented by Lockheed Martin, Syracuse. Additionally, a Phase III SBIR contract with NAVSEA PEO-IWS 2.0 is pending, and anticipated to start in mid-2021 to continue and extend support to the implementation of PSEs Digital Operational Log (OpLog) HMI (the second Themed Capability Release in the EW Roadmap). The HEL HMI design developed here, and then matured through a Phase II SBIR, would transition (a) through expression in a revision of the EW HMI style guide, and (b) through implementation by a suitable OEM with PSE support to that implementation via a task order issued through GSA on the Phase III contract. The HMI design innovations developed to support the time-sensitive, multi-tasking position of the HEL operator can be generalized to support the development of HMIs for commercial systems that make similar demands on their operators. PSE is currently working with a utility company to redesign HMIs that are used for making rapid grid management decisions. Recent technical advances have led to a large increase in sensors and other information sources while increasing renewable energy generation has increased power generation variability. Utilities must assess and respond to rapidly changing weather, including public safety power shutoffs (PSPSs) to mitigate growing wildfire risk. PSE currently has a Phase I SBIR from the Department of Energy to support this work and its extension to other utility companies. Process control is another commercial application that can benefit from this SBIR. The number and range of time-critical tasks in process control is constantly increasing and requires sophisticated methods for addressing operator workload. PSE has a strong working relationship with Emerson Process Management of Austin, Texas, and will work with Emerson to transition the innovative HMI concepts developed here to their process control HMIs.

High Energy Laser Weapons, High Energy Laser Weapons, User-centered Design, interface design, task performance, directed energy systems, Human-Machine Interface, Workflow analysis, Cognitive Workload

Phase II

Contract Number: N68335-22-C-0437
Start Date: 7/20/2022    Completed: 8/10/2024
Phase II year
Phase II Amount
The continued maturation and technological sophistication of near-peer adversary fleets has necessitated an upgrading of the US Fleets sensors and associated systems. Directed energy (DE) systems offer an attractive counter-ISR ability, and Office of Naval Research (ONR) investments in prototype DE Laser Weapons Systems (LWS) have demonstrated the ability to dazzle UAV sensors at operationally relevant distances. Given a LWS has graduated effects from dazzle to destroy, low engagement cost, and nearly unlimited depth of magazine it has great promise for other mission areas. These new and sophisticated LWS capabilities require a highly effective and usable operator console and Human-Machine Interface (HMI) so that the Laser Weapons Control Operator (LWCO) can effectively manage and control the wide variety of tasking for which the system is designed. Developing this new console and its HMI poses a number of human factors challenges that Pacific Science & Engineering (PSE) has the experience and expertise to address. A new console in the Combat Information Center (CIC) will require a detailed workflow analysis and thoughtful design to ensure the development of a usable system for the Laser Weapons Control Operator (LWCO) watchstander position. PSE proposes to apply its proven UCD process for IWS 2.0 to the development of an LWCO HMI for the future DE system and future program of record. PSE proposes four main objectives across the Phase II Base and Option: Extend, refine, and mature the existing high energy laser with integrated optical-dazzler and surveillance (HELIOS) prototype via human factors support to government lab (Phase II Base). Develop and refine mockups and interactive prototype for the future DE Increment (Inc) 2 system based on planned and future capabilities with (Created in Phase II Base and updated in Phase II Option I). Document the DE system design with (a) a functional description document (FDD) to facilitate implementation by a prime developer / Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), and (Phase II Option I) (b) create a DE program style guide with (Created in Phase II Base and updated in Phase II Option). Demonstrate, test, and validate the DE prototype (Phase II Option I) As part of the UCD process, PSE will develop a number of key products and artifacts to ultimately inform the development of the future DE Inc 2 system: Workflows, Personas, and Scenarios Style Guidance Designs and Prototyping Prioritized Recommendations Evaluation / Human Performance Studies PSEs guiding philosophy and specialization is to bring science and analytic rigor to the analysis and development of end user tools and displays. Through its experiences reviewed above, working on Navy advanced development systems for decades, it has constantly striven to bring thoughtful, carefully reasoned, and rigorous products that represent end user domain task and cognitive requirements to bear to influence development of new capabilities.

Laser Weapons Systems (LWS) such as the Navys DE High Energy Laser (HEL) prototypes have shown promise against germane threats. With advantages such as a virtually unlimited firing capacity, low cost, and mission flexibility, LWS will certainly impact the future of Naval surface warfare. Given the great potential for LWS to play a key role on Navy platforms, it is critical for laser weapon control systems (LWCS) to be furnished with a highly effective HMI. As made clear in the RFP, the commercial world provides few, if any analogies, and provides no ready solution that meets the combination of cognitive and task demands placed on this future LWCO for the use of a weapon system that has no non-military counterpart, no historical precedent, and no off-the-shelf solutions. However, features and concepts developed as part of this effort could be marketable for use outside of the DoD. Technological improvements in laser technology have reduced the cost and made the technology more accessible for use for commercial applications. PSEs HMI innovations could be applied to the commercial world for the interaction with and the interpretation of laser range finding capabilities. Potential customers currently employing laser range finding technologies, to support precise distance measurement, include domains such as agriculture and farming, forestry. One future application of laser technology could be for large scale commercial operations to proactively monitor threats, such as small UAVs, and manage them with a semi-autonomous laser defense system. With increases in automation, there will be an acute need for intelligently designed supervisory control and decision support systems to help operators oversee automated tasks. To efficiently supervise automated systems, operators should be provided with proper interfaces for monitoring and interacting with automation. It is equally important that workflow tasking and decision-making functions are appropriately divided between humans and computers. PSE has expertise in both interface design and workflow optimization. Human supervisory control design metaphors and concepts, developed as part of this Phase II work, could also inform commercial human supervisory control systems such as in process control displays and air traffic control dashboard applications. While the market size is difficult to measure for these nascent commercial markets, significant resources have been allocated to several DoD DE programs to help fulfill requirements, requesting at least $578 million in FY2022 for unclassified DE research, development, test, and evaluation and at least $331 million for unclassified DE weapons procurement.

Lasers, Prototype, Combat Information Center (CIC), directed energy, User Centered Design (UCD), human performance evaluation, human machine interface (HMI), Style Guidance