Should drones be used in search and rescue operations, or are the eyes on the ground
better suited for this task? On 7 March 2013 a group of diverse experts came together in
order to discuss opportunities and challenges of the use of drones for search and rescue
operations in Norway. The workshop was hosted by the Peace Research Institute Oslo and
the Norwegian Board of Technology.
As Norway’s largest voluntary rescue organization, the Red Cross Rescue Corps undertakes
an increasing number of rescue operations every year. Rescue organizations are thus in
constant need for improvement of their operations. When assessing new tools and methods
to enhance search capacities, the security and safety of missing persons and of volunteers
are of utmost importance. Could new technological advancement, such as drones, make
rescue operations more efficient and safe, or is training and capacity building of staff
sufficient for improving operations?
In a full-day workshop format, 26 experts from governmental departments, academic
institutions, operational rescue organizations and the private sector discussed impacts of
the two potential investments on society at large. They provided insight from fields such as
military and defense, law, ethics and fundamental rights, security, technology and in
depth knowledge about rescue operations in practice. Using the newly developed DESSI
procedure for decision-making, the experts shed light on opportunities and challenges of
the two alternatives. The procedure enabled a multifaceted discussion in order to improve
the knowledge on search and rescue operations, as well as to identify ambiguities with
regard to future implementations.
The discussion problematized amongst other topics the different levels and potential gaps
of accountability in rescue operations, concerns of privacy and responsibility with regards
to data collection and storage, as well as the transfer of responsibility and risks from the
volunteer personnel on the ground to the technology operators if new technology is opted
for. The workshop served as a fruitful arena for increasing transparency and dialogue in
the decision-making process. By shedding light on areas of discussion which are easily
forgotten or not yet explored, the workshop also highlighted the need for further research
and discussion on the complex legal, ethical, societal, economic and political implications
of such security measures.
The DESSI workshop was hosted by PRIO and the Norwegian Board of Technology, in
cooperation with the Norwegian Red Cross.