Robot Ethics and Aerial Vehicles Lab

The Robot Ethics and Aerial Vehicles Laboratory (REAL) examines both the ethical ramifications and scientific underpinnings associated with developing autonomous aerial vehicles and robots. Our goal is not only to create technology which will advance the science and state-of-the-art, but to also critically investigate the societal impact of creating autonomous robots and aerial vehicles.

The lab focuses on two broad but intertwined questions: First, how can robots, such as autonomous aerial vehicles, be made to intuitively interact with, communicate, and influence people? And second, what are the ethical, societal, and cultural ramifications of creating autonomous machines?

Investigating questions such as these demands a multidisciplinary team of researchers and a diversity of perspectives. Our research uses methods from social psychology, behavioral economics, and game theory in conjunction with artificial intelligence, machine learning and engineering. We tend to focus on higher, cognitive, aspects of human-robot socialization such as relationship development, modeling of one’s interactive partner, and reasoning about trust and deception. We are particular interested in the possibility of using robots for search and rescue and humanitarian missions.

The REAL lab was recently created from a cofunding agreement reached by the Department of Aerospace Engineering and the Penn State Rock Ethics Institute.

Visit the REAL Lab website to learn more.

Key Faculty:



The Penn State Department of Aerospace Engineering, established in 1961 and the only aerospace engineering department in Pennsylvania, is consistently recognized as one of the top aerospace engineering departments in the nation, and is also an international leader in aerospace education, research, and engagement. Our undergraduate program is ranked 16th and our graduate programs are ranked 15th nationally by U.S. News & World Report, while one in 25 holders of a B.S. degree in aerospace engineering in the U.S. earned it from Penn State. Our students are consistently among the most highly recruited by industry, government, and graduate schools nationwide.

The department is built upon the fundamentals of academic integrity, innovation in research, and commitment to the advancement of industry. Through an innovative curriculum and world-class instruction that reflects current industry practice and embraces future trends, Penn State Aerospace Engineering graduates emerge as broadly educated, technically sound aerospace engineers who will become future leaders in a critical industry

Department of Aerospace Engineering

229 Hammond Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802

Phone: 814-865-2569