Aerial Flight Paths for Communication

Alisha Bevins, Brittany A. Duncan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This article presents an understanding of naive users’ perception of the communicative nature of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) motions refined through an iterative series of studies. This includes both what people believe the UAV is trying to communicate, and how they expect to respond through physical action or emotional response. Previous work in this area prioritized gestures from participants to the vehicle or augmenting the vehicle with additional communication modalities, rather than communicating without clear definitions of the states attempting to be conveyed. In an attempt to elicit more concrete states and better understand specific motion perception, this work includes multiple iterations of state creation, flight path refinement, and label assignment. The lessons learned in this work will be applicable broadly to those interested in defining flight paths, and within the human-robot interaction community as a whole, as it provides a base for those seeking to communicate using non-anthropomorphic robots. We found that the Negative Attitudes towards Robots Scale (NARS) can be an indicator of how a person is likely to react to a UAV, the emotional content they are likely to perceive from a message being conveyed, and it is an indicator for the personality characteristics they are likely to project upon the UAV. We also see that people commonly associate motions from other non-verbal communication situations onto UAVs. Flight specific recommendations are to use a dynamic retreating motion from a person to encourage following, use a perpendicular motion to their field of view for blocking, simple descending motion for landing, and to use either no motion or large altitude changes to encourage watching. Overall, this research explores the communication from the UAV to the bystander through its motion, to see how people respond physically and emotionally.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number719154
JournalFrontiers in Robotics and AI
StatePublished - Dec 7 2021


  • communication
  • drone
  • gesture
  • human-robot interaction
  • small UAS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Artificial Intelligence


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