What are the Primary Concerns which may prohibit the rapid deployment of Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles for Search and Rescue operations in the immediate aftermath of a disaster?

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


When a disaster occurs, the effects can be catastrophic. Since the year 2000 approximately 1.23 million people have been killed by natural hazard-related disasters (UNDRR, n.d.), this is a sharp increase compared to the previous 20 years.

To prevent survivors becoming victims speed is of the essence; the faster people can be located the higher the chance of survival. The first 72 hours post disaster are referred to as the ‘golden hours’ with the survival rate reducing to below 10% after that time. It is search and rescue (SAR) operations that save lives and whether that is local, national, or international teams, efficiency and effectiveness is paramount.
Technology plays a significant part in locating victims and any technology that can expedite this stage of SAR will save lives. Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles (UAV), commonly known as drones, is one technology that has been demonstrated to have multiple benefits for SAR, from faster times for locating victims to reducing the risk to responders. However, there are concerns that can act as barriers for SAR teams to integrate UAVs into their standard operating procedures (SOP).

This study conducted online surveys and interviews to capture both quantitative and qualitative data. The aim of this was to identify the primary concerns when deploying UAVs for SAR in the immediate aftermath of a humanitarian disaster.

Additionally, the study aims to identify if there is a hierarchical significance of these concerns. Multiple barriers were identified, some more significant than others. Regulatory restrictions were found to be one of the higher concerns; global coordination is required to tackle this. Ethical use of drones was an additional concern, particularly in conflict settings.

The real question is: does the use of UAVs to save lives outweigh any potential ethical implications that could arise?
Date of Award5 Jul 2021
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorRichard Teeuw (Supervisor)


  • Drones
  • Disaster
  • Management
  • Search
  • Rescue
  • Barriers
  • Enablers
  • UAV
  • UAS
  • Multirotor
  • Fixed wing
  • UN
  • Unmanned
  • Uncrewed
  • Aerial
  • Vehicles
  • Systems
  • Earthquake
  • Flood
  • Fire
  • Emergency

Cite this