Navigating the Ethical Skies: Community Best Practices for Drones and UAVs

Dr. Kerstin Sophie Haring
Department of Computer Science & Knoebel Institute for Healthy Aging
D. F. Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science
University of Denver

The rapid advancement and increased use of drones and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in various sectors pose significant ethical dilemmas and societal impacts. From privacy concerns to the weaponization of drones, the implications of this technology stretch far and wide. This Workshop aims to delve into these ethical issues, focusing on privacy invasion, the potential for weaponization, and the broader societal implications, including the perception and integration of drone technology within communities. Best practices will be explored, regulatory frameworks, and innovative solutions to ensure the responsible use of drones and UAS. 

Workshop Objectives
Workshop objectives center around the following topics:

  • Understand Ethical Dilemmas: Explore the ethical concerns surrounding drone usage, including privacy invasion, data security, and the potential for weaponization.
  • Community-Centric Approaches: Discuss the impact of drones on bystanders and communities not directly benefiting from the technology, emphasizing ethical design and deployment.
  • Best Practices and Guidelines: Develop community best practices and guidelines for the ethical use of drones and UAS, considering privacy, security, and societal impacts.
  • Public Perception and Engagement: Examine public perceptions of drones and strategies to improve understanding and acceptance of drone technologies for beneficial uses.
  • Regulatory and Policy Frameworks: Review existing regulations and propose policy recommendations to address ethical concerns while promoting innovation and beneficial uses of drones.

Key Topics
Key topics that will be addressed include, but not limited to the following representative list:

  • Privacy and Surveillance: Address the invasive potential of drones equipped with high-resolution cameras, explore consent, data protection, and the balance between surveillance and privacy rights.
  • Weaponization and Security: Discuss the risks associated with drone weaponization, including illegal use, and explore measures to prevent misuse while ensuring public safety and national security.
  • Ethical Design for Bystanders: Focus on the design and operational guidelines that consider the rights and safety of bystanders and individuals not directly benefiting from drone technology.
  • Public Perception and Moral Norms: Understand public perception and the moral norms related to drone usage, including the legitimacy of drone warfare, civilian protection, and the valorization of physical courage.
  • Regulatory Challenges and Solutions: Analyze current regulatory frameworks, identifying gaps, and proposing solutions to address ethical dilemmas and community concerns.
  • Beneficial Uses of Drones: Highlight the positive applications of drones, such as in disaster response, medication delivery, and ecological surveys, and discussing how to enhance public perception and acceptance of these uses.

Workshop Format

  • Keynote Presentations: Leading experts in drone technology, ethics, law, and social sciences will provide comprehensive insights into the ethical implications and societal impacts of drones.
  • Panel Discussion: Panels featuring a diverse group of stakeholders, including policymakers, industry leaders, ethicists, and community representatives, will debate and discuss ethical considerations and best practices.
  • Breakout Sessions: Interactive sessions where participants can engage in focused discussions on specific topics, share experiences, and collaboratively develop best practice guidelines.

Target Audience
The Worshop is suitable for: Policy Makers and Regulators; Drone Manufacturers and Industry Stakeholders; Ethicists and Legal Experts; Community Leaders and Advocacy Groups; Researchers and Academics in Robotics, AI, and Social Sciences; General Public and Drone Enthusiasts.

Expected Outcome
The Workshop aims to foster a collaborative environment where participants from multiple disciplines can contribute to the development of ethical guidelines, influence policymaking, and promote community engagement and public education on the responsible use of drones and UAS. The collective insights and recommendations will be compiled into a comprehensive, public report to guide future ethical practices and regulatory frameworks in drone research, development, and industry.