The deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles (i.e., drones) in military and police operations implies that drones can provide footage that is of sufficient quality to enable the recognition of strategic targets, criminal suspects, and missing persons. On the contrary, evidence from Cognitive Psychology suggests that such identity judgements by humans are already difficult under ideal conditions, and are even more challenging with drone surveillance footage. In this review, we outline the psychological literature on person identification for readers who are interested in the real-world application of drones. We specifically focus on factors that are likely to affect identification performance from drone-recorded footage, such as image quality, and additional person-related information from the body and gait. Based on this work, we suggest that person identification from drones is likely to be very challenging indeed, and that performance in laboratory settings is still very likely to underestimate the difficulty of this task in real-world settings.
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