Abstract Effective human–robot team configurations and exchanges are needed to ensure optimal task performance for human–robot teams. The exchanges between robots and human operators are mediated through an interface and this interaction has a direct impact on the team configuration associated with a particular task. Building upon the traditional methodologies of job and cognitive work analysis, Petri nets are introduced as a modeling tool for human robot interaction (HRI). An overview of Petri nets is provided and utilizing data from search-and-rescue unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operations, operator nets are constructed. Analysis of the networks yielded several significant findings. Petri nets provide many advantages beyond traditional methodologies and are seen as a useful tool for modeling human–robot interactions. Future research can utilize the methodology not only in a descriptive fashion, but also prescriptively for building models of optimal human–robot interaction.