Study «Civil drones, a future technology ? Challenges and prospects»

The use of drones in many areas now seems to be one of the significant technological innovations of the past decade, opening up horizons as yet uncharted. Initially used by the army for surveillance or combat missions, drones are now moving into the civilian world: mapping, surveillance of industrial sites or civil engineering works, leisure, events, agriculture and humanitarian aid are likewise areas in which drones might be used. Current research projects, focussing particularly on miniaturisation and empowerment of drones, are developing them into a key technology for the future, with implications for a number of economic sectors, but also for society as a whole.

The project will present an inter- and trans-disciplinary view of civil drones, taking into account the opportunities, obstacles and risks of both ongoing and upcoming developments within the sector. The project will adopt a forward-looking approach, examining innovations and developments in the field of drones in the period up to 2020-2025. It will identify the technological innovations which will affect the development of the drones sector, as well as the applications and areas for their potential use, with the aim of demonstrating the impact of drones on society. Finally, the project will enable proposals to be formulated for the sustainable and responsible integration of drones in the public domain.

Duration of the project :

Begins in May 2016, completion expected in November 2017


Final report and summary (available at the end of the project)

Project mandataries


Dr Michel Guillaume, Head of the Centre for Aviation (ZAV), Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW)

Project team:

  • Dr Peter Lenhart, Centre for Aviation, ZHAW
  • PD Dr Markus Christen, Head of Network Ethics of Monitoring and Surveillance (NEMOS), Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ)
  • Dr Kurt Moll, lawyer, Bern

Project management TA-SWISS

Dr Catherine Pugin, TA-SWISS (E-Mail)

Supervisory group

Das Projekt in Kürze

Ursprünglich von der Armee zu Kampf- und Überwachungszwecken eingesetzt, werden die Drohnen mittlerweile auch im Zivilen verwendet. Sie kommen zu gewerblichen Zwecken unter anderem in der Landwirtschaft, für die Überwachung von Industrieanlagen und bei der humanitären Hilfe zum Zuge; gleichzeitig werden sie auch privat als Freizeitgadgets genutzt. Die prospektive Studie von TA-SWISS befasst sich mit den zu erwartenden Innovationen und Entwicklungen auf diesem Gebiet im Zeitraum bis 2020/2025 und untersucht den Einfluss der zivilen Drohnen auf die Gesellschaft.