Computer Science and Engineering, Department of


Date of this Version



2013 IEEE RO-MAN: The 22nd IEEE International Symposium on Robot and Human Interactive Communication Gyeongju, Korea, August 26-29, 2013.


Copyright © 2013 IEEE. Used by permission.


This paper presents the first known human-subject study of comfortable approach distance and height for human interaction with a small unmanned aerial vehicle (sUAV), finding no conclusive difference in comfort with a sUAV approaching a human at above head height or below head height. Understanding the amount, if any, of discomfort introduced by a sUAV flying in close proximity to a human is critical for law enforcement, crowd control, entertainment, or flying personal assistants. Previous work has focused on how humans interact with each other or with unmanned ground vehicles, and the experimental methods typically rely on the human participant to consciously express distress. The approach taken was to duplicate the experimental set up in human proxemics studies, while adding psychophysiological sensing, under the hypothesis that human-robot interaction will mirror human-human interaction. The 16 participant, within-subjects experiment did not confirm this hypothesis. Instead a sUAV above height of a “tall” person in human experiments (2.13 m) did not produce statistically different heart rate variability nor cause the participant to stop the robot further away than for a sUAV at a “short” height (1.52 m). The lack of effect may be due to two possible confounds: i) duplicating prior human proxemics experiments did not capture how a sUAV would likely move or interact and ii) telling the participants that the robot could not hurt them. Despite possible confounding, the results raise the question of whether human-human psychological and physical distancing behavior transfers to human-aerial robot interactions.