Beth gets asked to help author Brown U's UAV policy! Adds feminist perspective on drones.

With the creation of the HCRI, new professors joining the university, and new classes being offered to students, the drone community at Brown is growing fast. In fact, one of our first drone projects was drone delivery of cookies. Yum! As a result, the University has asked the HCRI to draft the first University wide drone policy. I'm really excited to have been asked to co-author this policy. I think it will be great experience for me and will allow me to make a practical and lasting contribution to the University and its community. 

I recently saw a wonderful presentation on drone implications from a feminist perspective, which I had never considered before. I highly recommend reading it for people interested in drones and the societal implications of drones. I've asked the author (Kristen Thomasen, University of Windsor) for permission to include some of these considerations in our policy and I'm thrilled that she said yes. A link to the paper can be found here. 

For the TL:DR people, here's an overview. 

It is important to point out that compliance with regulation at the Federal and University level does not guarantee that all flight operations are without risk or unforeseeable consequences. More specifically, the use of drones has several ethical, social, and moral implications that are important to consider when planning, conducting, and reporting UAS activities. Here are a few things to keep in mind. Drone technologies:

  • Could be used to foster aspects of surveillance that are un- or under- protected by law.

  • Could perpetuate or alter forms of street harassment, creating unequal access to and enjoyment of public spaces.

  • Could allow others to collect information that can be used to make decisions that may be detrimental to individuals or groups, while lending anonymity and opacity to the drone owner by virtue of the instrument’s capacity to be discreet and fly at a distance from the pilot.

  • In and of themselves do not convey their purpose or the information that is being collected during their operation, causing an information imbalance between operators and the people being observed. Thus, it is reasonable to suggest that others could be suspicious of, and feel invaded by their use in public and private spaces.

  • Like other technologies, do not exist in a vacuum. Drones have the ability to amplify and reproduce existing conditions of inequality. For instance, drone technology does not inherently cause street harassment or stalking, but drones will be integrated into a social context in which street harassment and stalking are significant problems for some. Thus, it is worth considering how the use of drone technology might impact that social context, and people’s reasonable expectation to privacy, anonymity, and (in)accessibility.  

  • Do not present the same types of risks (injury or property damage) of the same level of importance to everyone. 


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