Responsible Design of Drones and Drone Services: towards an ethical and juridical tool for drone design and risk assessment.


The rapid expansion of drone technology and its applications makes it important to develop tools that connect the development and testing of drones with ethical and legal analysis. Drone technologies make it possible to perceive and to act on a distance, which has many societal implications. In public discussions, military drones have come to play a dominating role, but there are many other types of drones, raising various ethical and legal issues. Drones for surveillance and crowd control, for instance, raise issues of privacy, chilling effects and liability. Drones for (parcel) transport, earth observation and remote sensing, raise issues of environmental nuisance and public safety (EASA, 2015). One of the specific concerns is the combined use of manned and unmanned flights at smaller airports, due to the lack of air traffic control.

In this project, we aim to develop a tool that can be used for analyzing the ethical and legal issues related to the development and use of drone technology. More specifically, it will be a tool that can be used (a) to anticipate how a drone-in-development might have an impact on individual users, social practices, and societal processes; (b) to analyze the normative (legal and ethical) dimensions of this impact; and (c) to bring this analysis to technological and regulatory design processes. The tool combines insights from philosophy of technology (technological mediation, Value Sensitive Design) with a precautionary approach in legal design. This happens in close interaction with actual practices of drone development, testing, and use.


Project number


Main applicant

Prof. dr. ir. P.P.C.C. Verbeek

Affiliated with

Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen

Team members

H. Du, Dr. P. Novitzky


01/08/2016 to 31/08/2017