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Autonomous systems used for infrastructure protection

Time is critical to prepare and react to disruptions of infrastructures. Faster and coordinated interventions can significantly reduce the impact, avoid negative cascading effects or in the best case prevent disruptions. The increasing interconnectivity of infrastructures has also led to bigger complexity in regards to the detection and response to incidents and certain technologies can be misused to conduct attacks or targeted disruptions of infrastructures. As underlined in the Security Union Strategy this is for example the case for scenarios involving unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). It could however also be relevant for possible incidents with land- or sea borne devices approaching at very high speed.

In order to allow for the best possible detection of threats and quick response and restoration of performance levels (e. g. through decontamination of the affected material/person; detection as well as mitigation of a risk), autonomous systems for infrastructure protection are a promising field of research. Many state-of-the art technologies used in other areas (for example: advanced robots or other autonomous detection and repair capabilities based on artificial intelligence) combined with user centred approaches, have the potential to significantly reduce the reaction time and can provide therefore an added value also for security solutions. Besides a reduced reaction time, the use of autonomous systems can reduce the risk for human responders, which is important for dangerous operations as for example in gas or chemical plants, or CBRN contaminated areas. At the same time, such systems can access challenging locations, such as underground cables, underwater pipes or assets in high altitude. Those features do not only present an advantage in responding to intentional acts, but also allow for faster and more efficient response to natural disasters and subsequent cascading effects. On the other hand, automated systems do create new vulnerabilities and its use raises ethical concerns that would need to be taken into account in any research. Solutions and measures must take into account legal and ethical rules of operation, as well as fundamental rights such as privacy and protection of personal data. Cost-benefit analysis not compromising ethics and privacy should also be considered.

Results achieved so far in the area of robots and autonomous systems (RAS), also under Horizon 2020, have led to applications making use of Unmanned Vehicles for example in the area of infrastructure maintenance and the detection and response to safety risks. Other concepts have been including self-healing materials, smart technologies and built-in tools as well as associated processes. For security incidents, there are so far less solutions available which would take into account the specific challenges of intentional disruptions as compared to accidents or material failure.

In this topic the integration of the gender dimension (sex and gender analysis) in research and innovation content is not a mandatory requirement.