The general public is unaware of the use of drones by first responders in emergency situations, according to research conducted by the international ResponDrone Project, which is developing a situation awareness system for emergency situations. The drones provide critical information and communication services to first responders.
The EU-funded ResponDrone Project held focus group discussions, which revealed that most participants associated drones with amateur photography and videography, children’s toys and military operations, or knew very little about drones.
Comments on the acceptance of the operation of drones were split between negative feedback, mainly due to privacy and noise concerns, and the understanding of the potential improvements it could offer to emergency responders, to a lesser extent.
All participants indicated that they would be willing to tolerate some disturbance if it were for the purpose of saving lives or mitigating disasters.
The 12 focus group discussions took place in six countries (France, Netherlands, Greece, Bulgaria, Latvia and Armenia). The countries were carefully chosen to represent different cultural settings within Europe and beyond.
The main aim of the focus groups was to develop recommendations on how to communicate and position the societal benefits of using drones for emergency response in order to increase public acceptance of drone technology.
“The answers indicate that drones still appear to be new and somewhat unknown to the vast majority,” said ResponDrone project coordinator Max Friedrich from the German Aerospace Center (DLR).
“In light of the findings, ResponDrone recommends that emergency drones carry special identification, such as a specific colour or a logo, make distinctive sounds or have unique lights. Further, it is recommended that the residents are informed about flights and drills beforehand.”
It is apparent from the research that as drones are a relatively new technology, people want to learn more about their types, capabilities, and applications. However, the public clearly knows little about their usage in emergency situations.