Preprint Article Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

The Use of Drones in the Spatial Social Sciences

Version 1 : Received: 8 September 2021 / Approved: 9 September 2021 / Online: 9 September 2021 (10:33:31 CEST)

How to cite: Hall, O.; Wahab, I. The Use of Drones in the Spatial Social Sciences. Preprints 2021, 2021090168. Hall, O.; Wahab, I. The Use of Drones in the Spatial Social Sciences. Preprints 2021, 2021090168.


Drones are increasingly becoming a ubiquitous feature of society. They are being used for a multiplicity of applications for military, leisure, economic, and academic purposes. Their application in the latter, especially as social science research tools has seen a sharp uptake in the last decade. This has been possible due, largely, to significant developments in computerization and miniaturization which have culminated in safer, cheaper, lighter, and thus more accessible drones for social scientists. Despite their increasingly widespread use, there has not been an adequate reflection on their use in the spatial social sciences. There is need a deeper reflection on their application in these fields of study. Should the drone even be considered a tool in the toolbox of the social scientist? In which fields is it most relevant? Should it be taught as a course in the universities much in the same way that geographic information system (GIS) became mainstream in geography? What are the ethical implications of its application in the spatial social science? This paper is a brief reflection on these questions. We contend that drones are a neutral tool which can be good and evil. They have actual and potential wide applications in academia but can be a tool through which breaches in ethics can be occasioned given their unique abilities to capture data from vantage perspectives. Researchers therefore need to be circumspect in how they deploy this powerful tool which is increasingly becoming mainstream in the social sciences.


Drones; legislation; ethics; spatial social sciences


Engineering, Aerospace Engineering

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