Human-Drone Collaboration

A drone, also called an unmanned aerial vehicle, is an aircraft designed to operate without an onboard human pilot. It can be either remotely piloted or preprogrammed to fly  autonomously. Especially autonomous drones, supported by recent advances in AI, can take over monotonous, tedious, or difficult tasks from humans in a quicker fashion, allowing them to focus on other tasks that require more attention or a different skill set. As a consequence, a wide range of situations will occur in which drones and humans will collaborate with each other.

In order to effectively collaborate with each other, drones and humans will need to communicate effectively with each other, coordinate their actions, and combine their efforts to achieve mutually desired goals. Even though this might hold for any collaboration the collaboration between humans and drones is special. Drones possess capabilities which are hard to imagine for most humans: they can reach places and provide perspectives otherwise not available for a human being, they can move in three dimensions and easily change their altitude, and still they are a physical object in space. This makes it harder for a human to ascribe potential beliefs, desires, and intentions to a drone than for instance humanoid or animoid robots moving on the ground.

In projects with public entities, we study the application of drones in realistic scenarios. We employ technical experiments to explore the capabilities of drones. We conduct simulation-based and role-play experiments to understand impact of drones on the general public and individuals who collaborate with the drone. Finally, we study organizational and political consequences of drone applications by public bodies. The first experiments suggest that human-drone collaboration bears new, specific challenges and might require adaptation of public policy.


Artificial drone and a bee