Rising population numbers, overcrowded streets and high use of mail order pose logistical and transportation policy problems for cities throughout the world. The answer could lie in developing airspace as a “third transportation level”. The TU Berlin-Wissenschaft im Dialog Sky Limits research project addresses the opportunities, challenges and risks of using urban airspace.
A representative public survey commissioned by the project team of people’s attitudes towards transport drones and their willingness to make use of this technology reveals that the majority of people living in Germany are opposed to the use of delivery drones (55 percent) and air taxis (62 percent) and therefore also the use of urban airspace for transportation purposes. The exception to this widespread skepticism is the use of transport drones for medical emergencies. Almost two thirds of those asked were in favor of their use for such eventualities.
The survey, conducted by forsa in fall 2019, initially interviewed five focus groups in Berlin, Stuttgart and Erfurt to gain a first qualitative insight into people’s attitudes. This was followed by telephone interviews with 1,000 persons.
Key factors influencing the majority of respondents’ attitudes towards unmanned air transportation are issues such as safety and environmental impact. 75 percent of those surveyed expressed some or indeed a very strong fear that delivery drones could result in accidents causing injury to persons. For air taxis, this number rose to 81 percent. 79 percent of those surveyed stated that it is important for them that delivery drones be environmentally friendly, while 83 percent felt this was so for air taxis.
Two-thirds of those interviewed expressed doubt concerning the added value of drone technology for the delivery of parcels and transportation. 21 percent said they could imagine using delivery drones themselves. 18 percent would be prepared to use air taxis to get around.
There was considerable concern that delivery drones and air taxis would cause noise and stress as well as potential loss of jobs. Overall, the survey showed that the assumed disadvantages are felt to outweigh the possible benefits of transport drones.
Age and gender also influenced people’s attitudes towards delivery drones and air taxis: On average, women are more skeptical than men regarding transport drones. Respondents aged between 30 and 39 were three times as likely to use air taxis for personal mobility as those aged over 60.
The findings of the Sky Limits research project funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research as part of its Innovations- und Technikanalyse (ITA) initiative are based on a two-tier survey focusing on attitudes towards and willingness to use transport drones. “While manufacturers and politicians are currently pushing for a quick introduction of transport drones, our study shows that the majority of the population is opposed to this technology,” says Nico Dannenberger, project leader of Sky Limits at Wissenschaft im Dialog.
“It was striking that in comparison to the results of previous studies, acceptance actually seems to have further declined in recent years. It was also surprising to see just how much value the population places on environmental issues regarding this new potential form of transport,” adds project leader Robin Kellermann of the Chair of Work, Technology and Participation at TU Berlin.
Sky Limits is a joint project of Wissenschaft im Dialog and Technische Universität Berlin and seeks to systematically record and discover the opportunities and challenges posed by transport drones. It brings together literature analyses, attitude surveys and participative formats involving both experts and members of the public.
The interdisciplinary team is operating at the interface between technology assessment, futurology and social-scientific mobility research. The goal is to create a basis for public debate and develop specific recommendations for political, business and planning measures.
Sky Limits project leader
Phone: +49 (0)30 2062295-24
Chair of Work, Technology and Participation, Mobilities Research Cluster
Sky Limits coordinator
Phone: +49 (0)30 31424373
Wissenschaft im Dialog
Management Public Relations
Phone: 030 2062295-55