Skip to Content

PhD Opportunities

Security, Privacy and Governance in AI-assisted Unmanned Aerial Surveillance

School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science | PHD

Applications are now CLOSED
Reference Number
Application Deadline
10 March 2023
Start Date
1 October 2023


An Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) has a huge role in military and civilian applications where government agencies and private organizations can use these for surveillance of national and industrial infrastructure, peacekeeping, crowd-management, and border security. PWC [1] predicted that by 2030, the drone’s industry would impact £42bn on the UK economy with £16 billion in net cost savings. It would involve around 70k+ UAVs operating at a time, with one-third in public sectors and 600K+ jobs as included in the Government’s response to Commercial and recreational drone use in the UK [2].

UAS incorporates several technologies such as aerial imaging, communication, and data analytics to perform surveillance and reconnaissance, enabled through a set of complex AI algorithms, offering more than ‘first point view’. Government agencies rely on expert advice to form guidelines on the operations of aerial vehicles, and those guidelines must be assured when UAS are in operations. It is worth noting that surveillance by UAS does not offer people a choice to understand or agree with the way their data will be used and stored [3] [4].

AI-assisted UAS raise a range of issues of surveillance, privacy, freedom, and security. The emerging control ecosystem has evolved to incorporate legal principles, design principles like privacy-by-design [5] and security-by-design, operational guidelines, and a wide range of stakeholders and agencies. This project seeks to understand how the challenges of AI-assisted UAS get parsed into technical and legal domains, which issues get resolved through design and which through regulation? How do these combine? And most importantly, how do the tensions between them get settled or distributed? It further amalgamates with the investigation of engineering aspects of ethical AI to understand how the design principles of security and privacy can be deployed for UAS surveillance and algorithmic evaluations of the underlying AI to resolve the data-islands dilemma onprivacy and security. These research questions make this project interdisciplinary, having cybersecurity and political problems surrounding surveillance with unmanned aerial systems.


1. PWC (2018). Skies without limits: Drones – taking the UK’s economy to new heights,, [last accessed on October 26, 2021].

2. Commercial and recreational drone use in the UK: Government Response the Committee’s Twenty-Second Report of 2017–19 [HC 2021], SO. No. 152, Science and Technology Committee, available via

3. Bakir V. Freedom or Security? Mass Surveillance of Citizens. InHandbook of Global Media Ethics 2021 (pp. 939-959). Springer, Cham.

4. Shalhoub-Kevorkian N, Shalhūb-Kīfūrkiyān N. Security theology, surveillance and the politics of fear. Cambridge University Press; 2015 May 28.

5. Bu F, Wang N, Jiang B, Liang H. “Privacy by Design” implementation: Information system engineers’ perspective. International Journal of Information Management. 2020 Aug 1;53:102124.

Funding Information

For more information about the LINAS Doctoral Training Programme, including eligibility criteria and how to apply, please visit:

Deadline for applications: 31 January 2023 at 4.00pm

Project Summary

Vishal Sharma

Research Profile

Mode of Study

Full-time: 3 Years or 4 Years

Funding Body
Apply now Register your interest