Responsible Drones

Within the Responsible Drones project we explore how cities could utilize drones in a responsible way.
© Bureau Marineterrein

In the near future, drones could help solve a variety of challenges. Which requirements should be satisfied in order to use drones in a ‘responsible’ manner?

One of the possible applications for drones in the future could be the transport of medical supplies such as AED’s or medications. Another benefit could be the facilitation of city management, for instance to check upon the state of quay walls and increasing efficiency in construction site management.

Amsterdam Dronebezorging 1
Meal delivery by drone during a testflight as part of a pilot
© Dutch Drone Delta, Antea Group
Amsterdam Dronebezorging 4
Meal delivery by drone during a testflight as part of a pilot
© Dutch Drone Delta, Antea Group

However, some of the challenges in using drone technology is the fact that they are often invisible to citizens and their purpose is often unclear. Moreover, since drones are often equipped with cameras and other sensors, the increasing use of drone technology may present risks, such as privacy issues and threats in the fields of (cyber)security. Hence, it is evident that drone technology could pressurize public values and arouse suspicion amongst citizens.

Drone technology offers many chances and possibilities. Simultaneously they can be seen as sensors that – while flying around – collect a huge amount of data. This is why it is very important to explore how we can allow drone technology in the city in a responsible manner.”

— Coen Bergman, co-initiator Responsible Sensing Lab

Testing on the Marineterrein

Responsible Drones is a collaboration between the Responsible Sensing Lab, Amsterdam Drone Lab (ADL) and Amsterdam Smart City (ASC). On the Marineterrein in Amsterdam, an operations testing facility is located where drones or UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and their possible applications are being tested. How could drone technology be implemented within the city and what are the conditions to be set in order for these services to be executed by private parties?

Heli Platform 2
© Bureau Marineterrein
Drone Test
© Bureau Marineterrein

Within the Responsible Drones project we explore how drone technology could be utilized in a responsible manner. Which conditions should be imposed? In a series of knowledge-sharing and design sessions with relevant stakeholders, we address subjects such as the following: 

  • How do we design a responsible policy on drone technology and how do we involve citizens in this process?
  • How do we apply the lessons that we, the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area, have already learned to the responsible use of drone technology?
  • How to comply with the Tada-principes? What are delicate subjects? 
  • How do we communicate to citizens in a transparent manner about what drones do, which data they collect and what happens with this data?

Have a look at a testflight of a drone in this teaser that was created for the Amsterdam Drone Week 2020 by Marineterrein Amsterdam Living Lab (MALL).

Ground rules and an advice

The first sessions have been taking place. The enthusiasm to collaboratively work on the responsible use of drones in the city is great.

On November 18th we discussed the subjects of communication and transparency, together with our partners and stakeholders in this project. We focussed on two use cases of the Amsterdam Drone Lab: to inspect bridges and quay walls with drones and to support fire departments by using drones to check fire notifications and help identify fire incidents (for instance with heat maps). The latter will in the future possibly be executed by a so-called 'drone-in-the-box', which is a drone that is based on a fixed location and flies to incident locations automatically.

Drone Vlucht By Michielton Websize 48
Use case: supporting fire department by using drones
© Michiel Ton
Amsterdam Drone Lab Brandweer Shoot By Michielton Websize 15
Use case: supporting fire department by using drones
© Michiel Ton

During this second session we discussed the general and specific challenges for these use cases regarding the subjects of transparancy and communication. How do you communicate clearly about the purposes of drones and which communication channels could and should be used? How do we involve citizens?

Step by step we explore how we can use drones in such a manner that they support livability in the city. Government, market parties and knowledge institutions together perform testflights in our inner-city drone facility in order to support future city living.”

— Pim Stevens, projecteider Amsterdam Drone Lab,

On December 9th the last exploratory session took place. The results of the Responsible Drones sessions led to ground rules and to an advice on responsible use of drones in the city, as well as an advice on future research. The results of the Responsible Drones project are published in the report below.

Official Report

In this report, we describe the five main outcomes of the sessions within the Responsible Drones project, followed by the Lab's advice. In our advice we focus on loopholes in current legislation and opportunities for the City of Amsterdam's drone policy.

Both versions of the report are available in Dutch only.

Rsl Drone Rapport Mockup

Mozfest 2022 – Responsible Sensing Drone Workshop

On March 8th Hidde and Sam hosted a workshop on Responsible Drones at MozFest. Our main goal was to involve the public in the subject of drones, as our previous explorations have shown that this can be challenging. 

During the session, participants were challenged to imagine their ideal future with drones. The personal collages - each of them holding interesting ideas - were combined into a group collage.

Mozilla Festival 2e16d0bafill 760x760 C100 Format Jpeg


Living Lab

Amsterdam Smart City

Amsterdam Drone Lab

Coen Bergman

Initiator Responsible Sensing Lab and Innovation Developer Public Tech, CTO Office, City of Amsterdam

Pim Stevens

project lead Amsterdam Drone Lab

Hidde Kamst

G4 informatiemanagement trainee, CTO Office, City of Amsterdam