A global horizon scan of the future impacts of robotics and autonomous systems on urban ecosystems

Mark A. Goddard, Zoe G. Davies, Solene Guenat, Mark J. Ferguson, Jessica C. Fisher, Adeniran Akanni, Teija Ahjokoski, Pippin M. L. Anderson, Fabio Angeoletto, Constantinos Antoniou, Adam J. Bates, Andrew Barkwith, Adam Berland, Christopher J. Bouch, Christine C. Rega-Brodsky, Loren B. Byrne, David Cameron, Rory Canavan, Tim Chapman, Stuart ConnopSteve Crossland, Marie C. Dade, David A. Dawson, Cynnamon Dobbs, Colleen T. Downs, Erle C. Ellis, Francisco J. Escobedo, Paul Gobster, Natalie Marie Gulsrud, Burak Guneralp, Amy K. Hahs, James D. Hale, Christopher Hassall, Marcus Hedblom, Dieter F. Hochuli, Tommi Inkinen, Ioan-Cristian Ioja, Dave Kendal, Tom Knowland, Ingo Kowarik, Simon J. Langdale, Susannah B. Lerman, Ian MacGregor-Fors, Peter Manning, Peter Massini, Stacey McLean, David D. Mkwambisi, Alessandro Ossola, Gabriel Perez Luque, Luis Perez-Urrestarazu, Katia Perini, Gad Perry, Tristan J. Pett, Kate E. Plummer, Raoufou A. Radji, Uri Roll, Simon G. Potts, Heather Rumble, Jon P. Sadler, Stevienna de Saille, Sebastian Sautter, Catherine E. Scott, Assaf Shwartz, Tracy Smith, Robbert P. H. Snep, Carl D. Soulsbury, Margaret C. Stanley, Tim Van de Voorde, Stephen J. Venn, Philip H. Warren, Carla-Leanne Washbourne, Mark Whitling, Nicholas S. G. Williams, Jun Yang, Kumelachew Yeshitela, Ken P. Yocom, Martin Dallimer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)
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Technology is transforming societies worldwide. A major innovation is the emergence of robotics and autonomous systems (RAS), which have the potential to revolutionize cities for both people and nature. Nonetheless, the opportunities and challenges associated with RAS for urban ecosystems have yet to be considered systematically. Here, we report the findings of an online horizon scan involving 170 expert participants from 35 countries. We conclude that RAS are likely to transform land use, transport systems and human–nature interactions. The prioritized opportunities were primarily centred on the deployment of RAS for the monitoring and management of biodiversity and ecosystems. Fewer challenges were prioritized. Those that were emphasized concerns surrounding waste from unrecovered RAS, and the quality and interpretation of RAS-collected data. Although the future impacts of RAS for urban ecosystems are difficult to predict, examining potentially important developments early is essential if we are to avoid detrimental consequences but fully realize the benefits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-230
Number of pages12
Journal Nature ecology & evolution.
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful to all of the participants who took part in this study, and to J. Bentley for preparing the figures. This work was funded by the UK government’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (grant EP/N010523/1: ‘Balancing the Impact of City Infrastructure Engineering on Natural Systems using Robots’). Z.G.D. was funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (consolidator grant no. 726104).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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