Real-Time Eye-Tracking System To Evaluate and Enhance Situation Awareness and Process Safety in Drilling Operations

Eye tracking data at real-time operation center.

Lack of situational awareness in drilling operations has become an important factor in causing safety accidents or nonproductive time. Process safety is another critical aspect for such high-risk operations and cannot be ignored. A review of testimony from offshore rigs worker suggests long working shifts and fatigue as one of the crucial issues affecting performance. 

This study presents results from experiments conducted in a virtual-reality drilling simulator equipped with eye-tracking technology. The eye-tracking technology can be used to distinguish between less and more aware/alert participants, which, most of the time, is related to fatigue or onsite distraction. The ocular activity can be used to obtain visual cues that can quantify the state of drilling operator while operating. These cues can help in generating some warning alarms to alert the driller, thereby not only reducing accidents but also saving a tremendous amount of nonproductive time by improving efficiency. Because human eyes express the most direct reaction during less-alert or distracted mental states, ocular-activity data have been used as the basis for quantification of situational awareness by researchers. In recent years, eye-tracking systems have been developed in the form of static and dynamic devices. The camera installed in these devices capture different characteristics of the participants’ ocular movement in real time. These oculomotor data, such as eye fixation count and duration and pupil size, has been implemented in several industries, such as aviation and medical, to assess the performance of participants in recent years.

In this paper, eye-tracking techniques are used to investigate alertness and awareness of participants while conducting different drilling operations on the simulator. Results obtained from this study indicate that the system can detect the distraction and alertness exhibited by humans. The results show the very promising application of this technology on the drilling rigs. The novelty in this work is the development of a framework for implementation of real-time eye-tracking technology in various drilling operations such as drilling rigs and real-time operation centers.

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