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Autonomous vehicles are becoming a bigger part of the security industry every day. The recent research report released by the ASIS Foundation offers new insights on both the risks and opportunities presented by AVs. 

The Autonomous Vehicles: Threats, Risks & Opportunities report is now available, including practical recommendations for security practitioners to leverage AV technologies effectively while mitigating risks and challenges. 

We sat down with David Brooks, a professor of security science at Edith Cowan University and member of the ASIS Foundation board, to learn more about the report. 

Why did the ASIS Foundation Research Committee choose to support a research project on uncrewed autonomous vehicles? 

Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) technology, combined with Artificial Intelligence (AI), are rapidly evolving in our contemporary environment. Of concern has been past attacks by drones on commercial and industrial facilities. With the rapidly evolving military and commercial developments, autonomous technology will become significant in the security sector. 

As security professionals we need to ensure we are aware and understand both the significant benefits, but also the threats to our organization and its operations from AVs. Therefore, the ASIS Foundation Research Committee selected Autonomous Vehicles as this year’s topic, extending beyond just drones to include all types of vehicles. 

What can you tell us about the researchers who were selected and carried out the research? 

The Autonomous Vehicles research team was selected due to their extensive research and industrial experience in both autonomous military vehicles and the security sector. The research team combined their skills from two United Kingdom universities, University of West London and University of Portsmouth. 

Professor Peter Lee is an expert in applied ethics in the operations of military autonomous vehicles. His research spans the ethical, operational and other human aspects of UK autonomous vehicle operations, and artificial intelligence and autonomous weapon systems. A founding member of the UK Ministry of Defence Artificial Intelligence Ethics Advisory Panel and in 2022, contributed to the UK MOD’s now-published AI Ethics Principles. 

Professor Alison Wakefield is an expert in the security sector. She is a Senior Associate Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, a London-based security and defence think tank; Commissioner on the UK’s National Preparedness Commission; Academic Advisor to the Chartered Security Professionals Registration Authority and Chair Emeritus of the Security Institute, having served as Chair from 2018 to 2020. 

Ishmael Bhila is a doctoral candidate in the School of Law at the University of Portsmouth, researching autonomous weapons systems 

The research method—what the researchers called a scoping review—is not something people outside of academia are likely to be familiar with. Why was it ideal for this project on UAVs? 

Autonomous vehicles are still in their infancy and remain rare in security operations. Such a stance results in limited knowledge and experience in the security section on their development, legal and regulatory impacts, and operational application. Consequently, a scoping review is knowledge synthesis that uses a systematic and iterative approach to identify and assess existing and emerging literature on a topic, being autonomous vehicles. Such an approach allowed the researchers to assess the scope of current studies, importantly both inside and outside of the security sector, and what has been learnt on the topic. 

The use of a scoping review in this uncrewed autonomous vehicles project was therefore an ideal methodology. Primarily as there is limited literature on this topic and security professionals have limited knowledge and experience with autonomous vehicles. 

What is one thing you learned about UAVs from the research they did? 

The one thing I leaned from the Uncrewed Autonomous Vehicle (AVs) Report was that such technology can bring significant benefits to the security sector in their tactical and daily operations. Nevertheless, with increased development and use of AVs, the greater the threat to organisations. Importantly, that legislation in the present and near-future cannot provide a framework for the security professional to operate AVs or protection against their threats. 

Can you give us a hint about what the next Foundation research project will be about? 

The ASIS Foundation’s Research Committee is currently reviewing the strategic value to the security professional of undertaking a project into Operational Resilience. Operational Resilience is becoming embedded into sectors and organizations that are risk mature, such as banking. Therefore, the study will research the meaning and functions of operational resilience, to provide the security professional with an awareness and understanding of operational resilience. 

It is anticipated that security will not lead an organization’s operational resilience, but will certainly have a function with physical and cyber-security, business continuity, and security risk management. Our aim is to support the security professional in becoming an operational resilience champion in their organization. 



David Brooks is a professor of security science at Edith Cowan University in Joondalup, Western Australia. He has been a member of ASIS for over a decade and currently serves as a member of the ASIS Foundation Board of Trustees.