A basic strategy and framework to implementing a successful unmanned system must integrate cross cutting concerns from all stakeholders. The manufacture, end user or enterprise, the civil aviation authority, the affected public and the legislators. The stakeholders may differ in type and number based on the intended use of the unmanned system. For example, an unmanned ground system deployed for perimeter security at a mall, airport or a large industrial complex will not have the same privacy and ethical concern as an unmanned aerial system commissioned for a similar mission. Having a better understanding of the deployment scope will aid in the implementation strategy. Let’s explore how the topics of Privacy, Ethics, Safety and Lost Link could be considered for a basic unmanned system implementation strategy.
Privacy is a broad term that covers the protection of personal space, private affairs, private facts, public portrayal and appropriation of one’s likeness (McFarland, 2012). Privacy is viewed and defined differently in different culture. Therefore what may constitute a private affair versus public affair may differ from one culture/society to another. According to McFarland, an individual’s protected sphere includes personal opinions, communication and behaviour behind closed doors, with family and intimate relationship (2012). An individual’s privacy can be infringed upon in various ways including, unauthorized or coerced observation, public dissemination of private information as in the case of leaked or unsecured personal information. Unmanned systems equipped with visual and or audio sensors can be used to breach privacy in the simplest definition of the term. That is unauthorized observation or a person or group of people. This breach could happen further down the work-flow when the recorded observation is not protected and finds its way to the public domain without approval. In implementing a strategy for a successful unmanned system, measures must be placed to protect the privacy of those subjected to the operational effects of the unmanned system.
Ethical debates on the use of any kind of unmanned system are complex. The rightness of the use of unmanned systems is subjective. To a farmer, for example, an unmanned harvester and tractor could be a very economical and productive way of tilling and harvesting crops. To the displaced worker on the farm this could be a significant loss of income or livelihood. The same can be said to unmanned, autonomous trucks used in long haul heavy goods transportation. Such unmanned ground system could save millions in operational costs including fuel cost. They could very well be much more environmentally friendly than manned trucks. From the point of view of a truck driver this represents loss of employment. As can be inferred from these arguments, the ethical consideration must strike a balance between the intended use of an unmanned system and what they replace. Certainly, the progress of good innovation for the betterment of society should not be hampered by fear of displacing manned skills. However, there need to plans set in place to mitigate the potential negative effects on the displaced. In addition, manufactures and operators must take responsibility of collateral and physical damages caused by unmanned systems. When a self driving vehicle is involved in an accident, the insurance should be dealt with by the manufacturer or the business operator.
The safety consideration can be viewed in two parts. First, redundancy in safety measures engineered into the system. Secondly, proper education of the operators and the affected public. In the first case, the unmanned system should be implemented with various fail-safes. It is difficult to understand and anticipate every kind of failure that may emerge. However, known safety conditions must not be overlooked and the system should be implemented in a manner that allows newly discovered safety conditions to be easily programmed and retrofitted into it. For example, an unmanned aerial system are already commissioned with geofencing against important instalments such as aerodromes, sporting arenas and densely built up areas. These geofences should be updated in accordance to the laws of under the airspace the UAS will be deployed. The education of operators and people around the unmanned system is also key. This ensures everyone around an unmanned system will be aware of them and behave in a manner that does not endanger them. Educating could take form of simple posters and decals to public awareness messages to comprehensive training programs.
In the event of loss of system controls, all unmanned system should fall back on their safety redundant protocols. Unmanned aerial vehicles such as multi-copters programmed to “Return to home/base”, fixed wing unmanned aerial vehicles are programmed to fly in a holding pattern until the link is reestablished (Van Cleave, 2011). These aircrafts also have return to home features where they would orbit home or a safe zone and slowly land. In addition, unmanned systems should include beaconing systems such as transponders (Belamy III, 2017) which can communicate with tracking infrastructures (Van Cleave, 2011). Unmanned maritime systems could simply stay afloat while beaconing for help. Lost Link scenario must work hand in hand with safety protocols. An unmanned system that is no longer under its operators control should be safe. It this cannot be guaranteed then the system should never be deployed.
McFarland, M. (2012, June 1). What is Privacy? Retrieved from https://www.scu.edu/ethics/focus-areas/internet-ethics/resources/what-is-privacy
Van Cleave, D. A. (2011, January 2). Keeping Track of Unmanned Aircraft by Overcoming “Lost Links”. Retrieved from https://www.mitre.org/publications/project-stories/keeping-track-of-unmanned-aircraft-by-overcoming-lost-links
Belamy III, W. (2017, January 4). New ADS-B Transponder Introduced for Drones. Retrieved from http://www.aviationtoday.com/2017/01/04/new-ads-b-transponder-introduced-for-drones/