Human operators in human-robot teams are commonly perceived to be critical for mission success. To explore the direct and perceived impact of operator input on task success and team performance, 16 real-world missions (10 hrs) were conducted based on the DARPA Subterranean Challenge. These missions were to deploy a heterogeneous team of robots for a search task to locate and identify artifacts such as climbing rope, drills and mannequins representing human survivors. Two conditions were evaluated: human operators that could control the robot team with state-of-the-art autonomy (Human-Robot Team) compared to autonomous missions without human operator input (Robot-Autonomy). Human-Robot Teams were often in directed autonomy mode (70% of mission time), found more items, traversed more distance, covered more unique ground, and had a higher time between safety-related events. Human-Robot Teams were faster at finding the first artifact, but slower to respond to information from the robot team. In routine conditions, scores were comparable for artifacts, distance, and coverage. Reasons for intervention included creating waypoints to prioritise high-yield areas, and to navigate through error-prone spaces. After observing robot autonomy, operators reported increases in robot competency and trust, but that robot behaviour was not always transparent and understandable, even after high mission performance.
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