Ethics, Culture

Ethical Considerations

No Human Pilot On Board

Manned aviation has a human pilot in the cockpit, admittedly often assisted by technical systems such as autopilots,  and it is assumed the pilot has a very real interest in personal safety.  It is very much in a pilot’s interest to fly the aircraft safely or, in the case of the Military, to minimise risk.  This is not the case for RPAS, where there is no human pilot in the aircraft.  The implications of this require analysis.

Security and Privacy

Although RPA may have a variety of sensors on board for safe navigation, those sensors are less likely to pose problems for secrity and privacy.  It is unlikely that the RPA itself is an issue in this respect.  However the payload a RPA may be carrying, especially imaging and similar equipment, may pose threats to both security and privacy.  Additionally, someone seeing a RPA flying nearby woiuld not know if the RPA were carrying a payload or not.  There may exist a perception of a security breach or invasion of privacy whther it is real or not.

Criminal Use

RPAS can be used for criminal purposes and many have been identified already.  These in include physical attack, smuggling, eavesdropping/espionage and the delivery of prohibited items and substances into prisons.  Apart from the ethics of criminal use, it poses problems for law enforcement and raises issues about to to counter unwanted RPAS operations.

Cultural Considerations

‘Risk Appetites'

Different nations have different ‘risk appetities’.  Some do not find this a helpful observation but it seems that in different parts of the world, the local governments and populations tolerate different levels of threat/risk.  The implications of this include that a specific RPAS operation which would be accep[table and approved in one country, may not be in another.


In a similar vein, there are different degrees of trust between governments, regulators and national populations.  In some countries, the population has a general trust in their government, in others less so.  This influences behaviour.  In some countries, the government and regulators trust their citizens to abide by the law and to follow regulations.  This might result in lighter but clear regulations and a lower requirement for enforcement.  Other countries without such confidence in the behaviour of their citizens might require more stringent regulation and more intensive enforcement.

Aviation Safety Culture

Manned aviation has evolved over decades and the majority of the traditional organizations and trained people in the sector have a pervading 'aviation safety culture'.  This is not the case for newcomers to aviation who enter the market for the first time through developing, manufacturing or buying a consumer ‘drone’.  It seems imperative to do all possible to propagate safety education and awareness to all newcomers to aviation, especially in the relatively new and rapidly growing RPAS sector.

Further Reading

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