Steps Toward an Ethics of Environmental Robotics

Justin Donhauser*, Aimee van Wynsberghe, Alexander Bearden

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


New robotics technologies are being used for environmental research, and engineers and ecologists are exploring ways of integrating an array of different sorts of robots into ecosystems as a means of responding to the unprecedented environmental changes that mark the onset of the Anthropocene. These efforts introduce new roles that robots may play in our environments, potentially crucial new forms of human dependence on such robots, and new ways that robots can enhance life quality and environmental health. These efforts at once introduce a variety of new and unprecedented ethical concerns. This work uses a previously developed functional taxonomy of kinds of environmental robots to develop a list of key ethical questions to push forward the sub-field and study of Environmental Robot Ethics. By identifying unique concerns raised by the different sorts of existing environmental robotics technologies, this paper aims to provide resources for further critical analysis of the ethical issues and tradeoffs environmental robots present.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)507-524
Number of pages18
JournalPhilosophy and Technology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Anthropocene
  • Ecological robots
  • Environmental justice
  • Environmental robotics
  • Robot ethics
  • Sustainability


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