Robots and drones need rules

Ethical and legal frameworks needed for farm drones and autonomous machinery


Machinery
DIGITAL ETHICS: Queensland University of Technology, researcher, Kate DeVitt is concerned about ethical and legal frameworks for the future of agricultural.

DIGITAL ETHICS: Queensland University of Technology, researcher, Kate DeVitt is concerned about ethical and legal frameworks for the future of agricultural.

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Ethical and legal frameworks needed for farm drones and autonomous machinery

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AN EXPERT in thinking about social and technology interactions in agriculture believes the industry needs to think harder about ethical and legal frameworks for autonomous agriculture. 

Queensland University of Technology, researcher, Kate DeWitt said technically farms already had autonomous vehicles through auto steer functionality. 

“In a way agriculture has been really ahead on autonomous operation and it is because the risk is primarily seen as much reduced on farm with the sorts of autonomous solutions that have been used to date,” she said.

“As you get technology becoming more involved with humans in the loop,  maybe you've got a strawberry transport robot that is picking up strawberries from pickers, then you have occupational health and safety considerations coming into play.”

Ms DeWitt said some of the research she does looks at learning from the regulatory systems in aviation and space missions.

“There is all this excitement over start ups and ag-tech and how everyone can be a part of it.

“But we don't yet have the regulatory structures in place to help monitor and guide potential restrictions on what technology is produced.”

“Use of data is very unregulated in these industries at the moment.”

Ms DeVitt said ethics and legal frameworks, particularly when it comes to drones, had a long way to go. 

“Privacy laws in Australia cover things like you are not allowed to listen in to somebody else’s phone conversation,” she said.

“It has very little to say if you are an individual, when it comes to surveillance.

"So there is a lot of work to be done in terms of best practice, even at the top level of ethics.”

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