Drones: responsible flying robots?
Nico Nijenhuis is CEO of the startup Clear Flight Solutions. He and his team design drones for all kinds of purposes. 'Think of bird control around airports, but also of inspecting agricultural or natural areas to see where wild or endangered animal species are living.'
Drones are relatively new, but they play an increasingly important role in society, from freight to earth observation and disaster response to warfare. There are many ethical and legal aspects associated with the use of drones. Nijenhuis encounters these legal aspects on an almost daily basis. 'Drones are forbidden around airports, for obvious reasons. But the whole purpose of flying there with our "robird", which looks exactly like a bird of prey to real birds, is to keep the birds away from the aeroplanes. So there is a clear paradox.'
Professor Peter-Paul Verbeek at the University of Twente has teamed up with Clear Flight Solutions to investigate both the legal and ethical aspects. Verbeek: 'We will develop a tool to anticipate both aspects so that these can be developed and integrated in the development and use of drones. It is no use trying to stop the rise of these new kinds of technology that could threaten our privacy, for instance. Rather we should be prepared and take these risks seriously so that we can anticipate them.'