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IDIS 103: Understanding Drone & Robotics Technology – History, Usage, Ethics & Legal Issues: Home

This guide provides an overview of selected printed and electronic resources.

Course Description

This new course is a response to the increasing use of drone technology and 3D robotics in business and society. Drones are unmanned, multi-purpose tools. Their history can be traced back to World War I when the US army experimented with unmanned aerial torpedos. Nowadays, drone technology belongs to the military arsenal of many nations. Drones serve many purposes (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance etc.), and they can be deadly. In business and society, drones are utilised to capture images of people and/or buildings, to monitor agricultural conditions, to take pictures from (or of) hard to reach places, to assess the impact of climate change on rainforests, to film events, to deliver parcels, to survey real estate, to deliver help to heart attack victims in remote areas via a flying defibrillator or to fly life-saving kits to swimmers in emergency situations. In view of their increasing importance in terms of commercial value creation, R&D (it is estimated that about $6.4 billion is spent annually for R&D on drones), job creation, innovation (e.g. Internet of Things), new forms of warfare as well as legal/moral-ethical/regulatory concerns, it is imperative that students learn to critically appreciate the multiple and often conflicting implications and consequences of this technology for business and society. To achieve that, students will have to read widely and familiarize themselves with the various drone functionalities in order to critically assess drone technology and to articulate informed opinions about ‘the good’, ‘the bad’, and ‘the future’ of unmanned aerial vehicles. The course will be taught by a multi-disciplinary team of instructors from three different SMU schools (LKCSB, SIS and SOL) plus exposure to drone entrepreneurs and first-hand, team-based experiences in piloting mini drones within the SMU campus.

Learning Objectives

The overall objective of this module is to equip students with core knowledge of drone (and 3D robotics) technology from a holistic perspective – i.e. technology, business and societal impact, legal, and ethical issues. By the end of this course, students will be able to:

•    Appreciate the historical evolution of drone & robot technologies;

•    Assess ‘the good’, ‘the bad’, and ‘the future’ of unmanned aerial vehicle technologies based on readings / case study materials covering different areas such as warfare, business, agriculture, geography, search and rescue etc. 

•    Explain the disruptive potential of drones and robot technologies in business and society, e.g. with reference to logistics, supply chain management, transportation etc;

•    Articulate the start-up potential and future impact of drones & robot technologies; 

•    Gain practical experiences in piloting mini drones on campus and grow their problem-solving, collaboration and team-building skills on the basis of hands-on user operations while mastering an obstacle course;

•    Articulate some of the legal, regulatory & ethical-moral issues of deploying drones and robots in business and society.

•    Evaluate the call by robotics experts to ban autonomous weapons and their concerns about the disastrous effects of the artificial intelligence revolution for humanity.

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The use of electronic resources must comply with the Appropriate Use of Electronic Resources Policy and Singapore Management University Acceptable Use Policy