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29 March 2021

Defence Studies Academics to research the ethical use of drones during and after a pandemic

Professor David Whetham and Dr Marina Miron received a UKRI grant to investigate the use of drones in emergency situations


Defence Studies Department academics will conduct a research project on the use of drones in emergency responses during and after a pandemic.

The six-month project, undertaken jointly with WECORP Limited, will be led by Professor David Whetham, Director of the King’s Centre for Military Ethics and post-doctoral researcher Dr Marina Miron, and is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). WECORP Limited founded Comma, Secured, an innovative surveillance company utilising drones for private and public use.

While the use of aerial surveillance is not being proposed as an alternative to other emergency responders, evidence suggests that drones can improve the response by being on the scene within 90 seconds. This helps provide a real time, situational awareness that can ensure the right response is generated in the critical early moments of an emergency call.

This research project will provide an excellent opportunity to test the public’s reaction to the use of drones, from being unusual to being perceived as ‘normal’ in these scenarios. This will be a vital element of the project, given that the main barrier to the adoption of aerial surveillance is about public perception and trust.

The project will focus on aerial security providers and the impact on public trust by combining real-world experimentation, community surveys, and expert interviews to evaluate the shared-value of aerial surveillance through three core criteria:

  • Effectiveness – How greatly various means of aerial surveillance support the interest of stakeholders.
  • Public Perception – Level of acceptance non-stakeholders have on the use of aerial surveillance.
  • Value – The cost-benefit analysis of operating various means of aerial surveillance.

The data acquired will provide a detailed understanding of public perception of surveillance methods used by government agencies, known tech giants, and an alternative citizen-centric model of drone use.




In this story

David Whetham

Professor of Ethics and the Military Profession

Marina Miron

Post-doctoral researcher at the War Studies Department