Uncrewed Systems Technology 049 - April/May 2023

114 H owmight you react to a UAV landing on your head or some other part of your body (writes Peter Donaldson)? It’s worth thinking about, and a team of academic researchers* from Germany and Israel recently did more than that, by investigating people’s responses to micro- and larger UAVs landing on various areas of the body. As UAVs become part of everyday life, how we interact with them is growing in importance, and physical interaction is a key aspect of that. Landing on people automatically could be important for police officers and others who might need a UAV’s eye view of their surroundings several times during a mission but are too busy with their primary tasks to manage UAV landings. It might also include people who need rescue or urgent medical attention. That raises a number of concerns for people, centred principally on safety and personal space, and mitigated by their perceptions of the importance of the UAV’s mission to the individual. There’s a precedent for this in our ancient relationships with pets andworking animals. Falconers for example have worked with birds that might be thought of as autonomous feathered air vehicles for millennia. What’s more, UAVs of various sizes have been launched by hand for decades. Nonetheless, there is something different about a robotic vehicle landing on a person of its own accord. Based on findings from a crowdsourced (Amazon MTurk) survey, a software implementation of different landing manoeuvres with two UAVs, and an immersive VR user study, the researchers produced maps of the body showing landing areas graded by acceptability for people during activities such as sitting, standing, walking and climbing. It was not a large study overall – 159 people took part in the MTurk survey and 12 in the VR user study, many of whom used or had experience of UAVs. The results identified areas that are practically always acceptable, some rarely or never and others depending on activity and/or context. The hands, shoulders, front and back of arms are in the first group, while the face, neck, lower torso front and back are in the second. Perhaps surprisingly, the top of the head is generally acceptable, as is the lower front of the torso while walking. More locations are acceptable while standing than by walking or sitting. The feet and front of the legs are acceptable while sitting or standing, but not while walking, and the back while standing but less so while walking. Appearance and behaviour also make a difference: militaristic styling or a spider or insect-like character tended to put people off, as did dark colours. Sharp points and exposed rotors raised the perceived risk of injury, which was offset by safety features such as blade guards. The team found that UAVs should indicate their intention to land and approach the user along a controlled and precise trajectory. Perhaps unsurprisingly, bright colours, friendly-looking designs and well- signalled, predictable behaviour make people more comfortable getting up close and personal with UAVs. * Understanding Drone Landing on the Human Body, Auda et al, September 2021 Landing on hands, shoulders, front and back of the arms are practically always acceptable, while the face, neck and lower torso front and back are less so April/May 2023 | Uncrewed Systems Technology PS | The human body as a UAV platform Now, here’s a thing