Drones and Safety: the subtle effects of security measures on perceptions of safety and the environment

Security measures such as CCTV cameras are often used in public spaces to reduce the occurrence if such criminal acts as petty theft and vandalism, but may also affect how safe people feel. This appears to working both ways: sometimes they make people more safe, whereas other times they instil feelings of unsafety in them. For similar reasons, many parties, such as the police and event organizers, are hesitant to deploy drones to maintain safety and security. With drones, however, it is even more unclear what their effects will be; there simply is very little literature that suggest what the effects of deployment will be, and what causes this effect to go one way or the other. A study by a previous Master student in Virtual Reality suggests that it may well depend on the environment (Oltvoort, 2018); her results suggest that in situations such as an event, seeing a drone is more acceptable than in a park; hence, in the latter case we could expect a more negative impact on safety perception than in the former.

Although these effects on safety perceptions appear trivial, they may be just the opposite, as peoples’ states have also been shown to affect how they perceive their environment, thus causing a cascade of effects. Thirsty people, for instance, appeared to be more susceptible to cues in their environment that were instrumental in alleviating this state (e.g., cups, oranges, etc.). (Aarts, Dijksterhuis & De Vries, 2001). Likewise, not feeling safe may also result in a more negative interpretation of elements in the environment, e.g., causing people to become more cautious.

The studies conducted by previous bachelor and master students on the effects of CCTV cameras have provided support for these ideas (e.g., see Van Rompay, De Vries & Damink, 2015); effects of drone deployment on safety, however, requires much more attention.

As described in the above, the current thesis project builds on the findings of Oltvoort (2018), and aims to replicate and, more importantly, extend these. This will be done by conducting a carefully designed experiment, using Virtual Reality – in collaboration with the BMS Lab. The only requirement to participate in this project is that you are interested in studying the effects of drones – no prior experience with Virtual Reality is required!

It is part of an ongoing research project by the dept. Psychology of Conflict, Risk, and Safety.

This project is open to more than one student.


Safety perceptions; Surveillance; Privacy; Social presence; Feeling of being watched


Please contact Jan Gutteling ( if you are interested in this assignment.



Aarts, Henk, Dijksterhuis, Ap, & De Vries, Peter. (2001). On the psychology of drinking: Being thirsty and perceptually ready. British Journal of Psychology, 92(4), 631.

Van Rompay, T. J. L., De Vries, P. W., & Damink, M. T. (2015). “For your safety”: Effects of camera surveillance on safety impressions, situation construal and attributed intent Lecture notes in computer science (Vol. 9072, pp. 141-146): Springer.

Okken, V.S. (2013). Exploring space. Effects of environmental stimuli on self-disclosure. Dissertation. Available at:     

Oltvoort, A. (2018). Is Smart City Enschede Ready For The Use Of Safety And Security Drones? Master’s thesis University of Twente. Available at: