Unmanned aircraft and the human element: Public perceptions and first responder concerns
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) are a relatively mature technology currently used for military and homeland security purposes that are quickly being developed for transition to public safety, first responder, and commercial applications in the United States. Although currently closely regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), UAS are expected to be cleared for wider use in the continental United States (CONUS) following the congressional mandate that FAA establish guidelines for use within U.S. national airspace by 2015 (H. Rep. No. 112-381). Furthermore, economic forecasts predict that the UAS domestic market will have annual sales of 40,000 units by 2015 and sales are expected to grow to 160,000 units within 10 years (Jenkins & Vasigh, 2013).
RTI International began a research program in 2012 dedicated to understanding the social, behavioral, and policy factors associated with UAS technology. As part of this research program RTI conducted two pilot studies to inform our understanding of public perceptions and law enforcement concerns. The first pilot study was a nonrepresentative survey of police chiefs in Ohio. The second pilot was a public perception survey of the general population of the United States. The results of these studies are summarized below. More extensive analysis of these data will be presented in subsequent publications.