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Sci Eng Ethics. 2015 Dec;21(6):1393-412. doi: 10.1007/s11948-014-9603-3. Epub 2014 Nov 5.

Domesticating the Drone: The Demilitarisation of Unmanned Aircraft for Civil Markets.

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Digital Citizen Security Unit, Institute for the Protection and Security of the Citizen (IPSC), Joint Research Centre (JRC), European Commission, Via Enrico Fermi 2749, 21027, Ispra, Italy.


Remotely piloted aviation systems (RPAS) or 'drones' are well known for their military applications, but could also be used for a range of non-military applications for state, industrial, commercial and recreational purposes. The technology is advanced and regulatory changes are underway which will allow their use in domestic airspace. As well as the functional and economic benefits of a strong civil RPAS sector, the potential benefits for the military RPAS sector are also widely recognised. Several actors have nurtured this dual-use aspect of civil RPAS development. However, concerns have been raised about the public rejecting the technology because of their association with military applications and potentially controversial applications, for example in policing and border control. In contrast with the enthusiasm for dual-use exhibited throughout the EC consultation process, the strategy for avoiding public rejection devised in its roadmap would downplay the connection between military and non-military RPAS and focus upon less controversial applications such as search and rescue. We reflect upon this contrast in the context of the European agenda of responsible research and innovation. In doing so, we do not rely upon critique of drones per se, in their neither their civil nor military guise, but explore the extent to which current strategies for managing their public acceptability are compatible with a responsible and socially beneficial development of RPAS for civil purposes.


Drones; Dual-use; RPAS; Responsible research and innovation; UAV

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