RTI International and North Carolina State University (NCSU) are partnering to better understand how drones can be used for research – particularly, statistical sampling for social science.
RTI, a North Carolina-based nonprofit provider of research and technical services, conducted its first research flight at a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-approved location. The site, located northwest of Raleigh, is owned by NCSU and administered by the Next Generation Air Transportation Center.
NCSU and RTI aim to develop research methods using drones that could be applied to improve survey sampling in developing countries. According to researchers, current sample designs rely on satellite images that often cannot capture detailed enough information in developing countries.
‘Drones may allow us to have more complete information about where people are living and details about the dwelling unit, including house numbers and signs of occupancy,” explains Joe Eyerman, Ph.D., director of RTI's Center for Security, Defense, and Safety.
RTI researchers will also use the test site to evaluate how drones can be used for public safety research, environmental exposure, public health and disease surveillance, and agricultural research. Additionally, the project team is conducting research into public perceptions, privacy and safety of drones as they transition into national airspace.
‘As drones continue to develop, the opportunities for social science research, specifically data collection, will be numerous,’ Eyerman says. ‘As this leap forward is made, the FAA and commercial interests will need a greater understanding of the public's perception on drones and obstacles to be overcome.”
RTI is also partnering with the University College Dublin to leverage drone projects started in the U.S. to advance the understanding of these issues in Europe. The partnership is currently facilitating the development of guidelines for safe and appropriate uses that comply with local regulations and national policy.