The View from Above: A Survey of the Public’s Perception of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Privacy

Jake R. Nelson, Anthony Grubesic, Danielle Wallace, Alyssa Chamberlain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are becoming increasingly popular, both for hobbyists and within the commercial, industrial, and military sectors. Approximately one million new UAVs have been registered in the United States, with the majority being recreational UAVs. This growth of UAV activity and their increasingly common public presence engenders a wide variety of opinions, perceptions, and concerns among individuals about UAVs, particularly concerning personal privacy. Drawing from the privacy and emerging technology literature, the purpose of this paper is to identify how individuals’ perceptions of privacy explain their attitudes on the use of UAVs and whether this aligns with what we would expect from an emerging technology. Utilizing Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk) for survey delivery to 2,108 respondents we conducted a descriptive statistical analysis of response frequency and t-tests of group mean differences. The results suggest that individuals who use UAVs, maintain a familiarity with the capabilities of UAVs, and have a basic understanding of UAV regulations, are somewhat less concerned about the growing presence of UAVs as it relates to privacy than individuals who are generally unfamiliar with UAVs, their capabilities, and UAV regulations. Policy implications of these results are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-105
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Urban Technology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2019


  • UAV
  • drone
  • emerging technology
  • privacy
  • regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urban Studies


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