Michael Knodler

Publication Date



Unmanned aerial systems (UAS), or drones, have become increasingly utilized for a myriad of applications in the vicinity of the roadway and can offer a low-cost alternative to many labor-intensive data collection techniques, including infrastructure inspection, roadway marking data collection, and more. To collect much of this data with a desired degree of accuracy, UAS must be flown near moving vehicles, pedestrians, and/or bicyclists. However, UAS, and their pilot/crew, have the potential to be a distraction to drivers. A study by Hurwitz et al. suggests that UAS operations are more distracting to drivers as the UAS traverses closer to the roadway laterally. Through a combined literature review and full-immersion driver simulator study, this study furthered the current state-ofthe-literature and investigated the potential for UAS to be flown near roadways in the future as well as potential safety implications of those circumstances. Specifically, driver performance due to drone height and the presence of drone operators was evaluated. The literature synthesis portion of this research revealed that UAS flights in the vicinity of roadways will continue to increase. The results of the driving simulation study showed that participants were more visually distracted in situations where the pilot and drone were both present compared to the drone only. Further, in 11% of all analyzed situations, participants were critically visually distracted (continuous glance of two seconds or more) by the drone or pilots. Ultimately, this research provides recommendations to policymakers for creating regulations on the use of drones in the vicinity of roadways.