Dynamic decision making for situational awareness using drones: Requirements, identification and comparison of decision support methods

Dominic j. Duxbury, Norman w. Paton, John a. Keane

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Decision makers increasingly operate in real-time information-rich environments, where limited time is available for interpreting data to inform decisions. These environments are driven by static or mobile sensing devices that can provide numerous dynamic data points. A prominent approach in this space is to utilise drones, which can be deployed to gather targeted information. However, deciding how best to deploy available drones is nontrivial, and stands to benefit from decision support aids that plan routes. Such a system must operate under time constraints created by the changing attributes of routes as the situation unfolds. This study describes a dynamic decision support system (DSS) for situational awareness with drones. The system applies Multi-Criteria Decision Making (MCDM) methods within a dynamic genetic algorithm to provide a continuously revised ranking of routes. Five desiderata for dynamic decision support are presented. It is shown how a dynamic DSS can be equipped with declarative specification of preferences (Desiderata 1), dynamic revision of recommendations (Desiderata 2), and high diversity of options (Desiderata 3). The study then compares four MCDM methods, namely the Weighted Product Model (WPM), the Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP), the Technique for Order of Preference by Similarity to Ideal Solution (TOPSIS), and the Preference Ranking Organization METHod for Enrichment Evaluation (PROMETHEE), with regards to how consistently they trade-off between criteria (Desiderata 4) and the stability of results under small changes to criteria values (Desiderata 5). To evaluate the trade-offs between criteria we analyse the smoothness of change in criteria outcomes as criteria weightings increase for each algorithm. The outcomes are calculated by automating the selection of routes in a case study that applies drones to the task of harbour management. The stability of results for the different MCDM methods are compared. Perturbations were applied to sets of routes ranked by each algorithm then each algorithm was reapplied and the magnitude of the changes in ranking was assessed. Overall, TOPSIS was found to be the algorithm which made the most consistent trade-offs between criteria, only under-performing another algorithm with respect to a single criterion. AHP and WPM were the next most consistent algorithms and PROMETHEE was the least consistent algorithm. TOPSIS was also found to be the most stable method under small changes to criteria values. AHP was the second most stable, followed by PROMETHEE and WPM respectively. The results show that TOPSIS achieves the best result for both Desiderata 4 and 5 and consequently the study finds TOPSIS to be an appropriate MCDM method for dynamic decision support.

Original languageEnglish
Article number124057
JournalExpert Systems with Applications
Early online date7 May 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 May 2024


  • Drones
  • Multi-Criteria Decision Making
  • Decision support systems
  • AHP


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