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Frank Drop

Address: Spemannstr. 38
72076 Tübingen
Room number: 112
Phone: +49 7071 601 607
Fax: +49 7071 601 616
E-Mail: Frank.Drop


Picture of Drop, Frank,

Frank Drop

Position: PhD Student  Unit: Bülthoff

Feedforward behavior in manual control (PhD project)

The study of manual control is relevant for the understanding and the design of human-machine systems. In order to examine how the human makes use of various information sources, every-day control tasks (such as driving a car, flying an aircraft or helicopter or riding a bike) can be simplified to a tracking task. During a tracking task, the human is supposed to control the dynamic system such that it follows a particular target signal as closely as possible. The behavior of the human will depend on a large number of task variables, such as the system dynamics, the information presented to the human, the properties of the target signal and many others.


The Successive Organization of Perception (SOP) theory by McRuer1 hypothesizes three levels of control through which the human controller might proceed while learning a particular control task. Initially, the human controller (HC) will focus on the error between the target and the system output and adapt only to the system dynamics, such that a stable situation remains. The HC is hypothesized to ignore all other available sources of information and thus only compensates for the error. Hence, this mode of control is called ‘compensatory control’. It is McRuer’s hypothesis that this behavior can be modeled as a linear feedback controller.


Then, at some point after learning how to perform the control task in a compensatory fashion, the HC might (or might not) develop a control strategy that makes use of other information cues that are perceivable by him/her at that moment in time. Such as the absolute position or velocity of the target system or an internal representation of the system dynamics. This mode of control is called `pursuit control’.


The third level of the SOP theory is called precognitive control. The HC makes use of learned knowledge that might not be directly perceivable at that moment in time but can be memorized from earlier experience. The resulting control action depends on this information or might be memorized as well.


Compensatory control has been studied and modeled extensively in the past. The other two modes of control have only received limited attention. It is the goal of this PhD project to:

  1. understand the circumstances under which the HC might select a pursuit or precognitive control strategy,
  2. to characterize (i.e., the possibilities and limitations) of these control strategies, and to apply this knowledge to a practical “design case”.

1 D. T. McRuer, L. G. Hofman, H. R. Jex, G. P. Moore, A. V. Phatak,D. H. Weir, and J. Wolkovitch, “New approaches to human-pilot/vehicledynamic analysis,” Systems Technology, Inc., Tech. Rep., 1968.

Curriculum Vitae in short

  • 1986, Born in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
  • 2004-2007, B.Sc. Aerospace Engineering at the TU Delft.
  • 2007-2008, Technical Manager at the DUT Racing Formula Student team of the TU Delft.
  • 2008-2011, M.Sc. Aerospace Engineering at the TU Delft.
  • 2011, Employee at DESDEMONA B.V.
  • 2011-present, PhD at the MPI for Biological Cybernetics in collaboration with the TU Delft.


Frank was born in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in 1986 and studied Aerospace Engineering at the Technical University Delft, the Netherlands. He is interested in all facets of human behavior and the behavior of the human in control of a vehicle in particular and thus joined the group of professor Mulder on Human-Machine Interaction. While reading the works and papers written in the 60s on manual control experiments carried out at (among others) NASA and STI, his interest was immediately sparked.


After a positive experience during his internship at the department of Prof. Bülthoff in 2009 he was keen on returning to the MPI for Biological Cybernetics for his PhD project, that started in September 2011.

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Articles (1):

Drop FM Person, Pool DM Person, Damveld HJ , van Paassen MM and Mulder M (December-2013) Identification of the Feedforward Component of Manual Control in Tasks with Predictable Target Signals IEEE Transactions on Cybernetics 43(6) 1936-1949.

Conference papers (3):

Wiskemann CM Person, Drop FM Person, Pool DM Person, van Paassen MM , Mulder M and Bülthoff HH Person (May-2014) Subjective and Objective Metrics for the Evaluation of Motion Cueing Fidelity for a Roll-Lateral Reposition Maneuver 70th American Helicopter Society International Annual Forum (AHS 2014), Curran, Red Hook, NY, USA, 1706-1720.
Drop FM Person, Pool DM Person, van Paassen MM , Mulder M and Bülthoff HH Person (May-2013) Feedforward and Feedback Control Behavior in Helicopter Pilots during a Lateral Reposition Task 69th American Helicopter Society International Annual Forum (AHS 2013), Curran, Red Hook, NY, USA, 1797-1811.
Drop FM Person, Pool DM Person, Damveld HJ , van Paassen MM , Bülthoff HH Person and Mulder M (October-2012) Identification of the Transition from Compensatory to Feedforward Behavior in Manual Control IEEE International Conference on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics (SMC 2012), IEEE, Piscataway, NJ, USA, 2008-2013.

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Last updated: Friday, 17.01.2014