Ferdinand-Steinbeis-Institute organizes event to promote wider public acceptance of new technology

Let’s Talk Technology* – this was the invitation sent by the Ferdinand-Steinbeis-Institute (FSTI) to readers of the 2/2019 edition of Steinbeis TRANSFER magazine. Going by the motto #techourfuture, since November 2018 experts from Steinbeis have been working on a project called Technologie*Begreifen (Grasp Technology) backed by the Baden-Wuerttemberg Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labor, and Housing. The aim of the initiative is to foster more openness to future technological developments. Just how, was tried out on November 16, 2019, when the FSTI organized its first #techourfuture event on “The Future of Autonomous Flying – Over the Country and People” at the Technik Museum Sinsheim.

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The aim of the #techourfuture initiative is to foster an understanding of technology among the general public to allow people to make informed decisions regarding future developments. The experts at Steinbeis are not attempting to convince others that all new technologies and the products they lead to are good per se, but instead encourage everyone to think more about and become more involved in new technologies, before they jump to conclusions or are swayed by one-sided reporting in the media, for example.

The #techourfuture initiative is about sharing knowledge beyond the realms of technological know-how and encouraging people to make their own minds up about the nature and use of new technology – and thus play an active role in helping to shape the future. The experts at the FSTI are setting up panel sessions to discuss certain topics, providing an experimental forum to introduce members of the public to recent technological developments, not only in ways that are understandable to laypersons, but also in an objective and factual manner.

One important priority for the FSTI as a research institution is not just to share knowledge, experience emerging technology, or shape visions of the future, but also to evaluate technology acceptance from a scientific perspective. Previous research findings have shown that reservations about new technology – especially the increasing prevalence of digital solutions and autonomous systems – can be explained by a concern that people perceive a “loss of control.” (For further information, see also page 50)

Around 50 people of different ages and professional backgrounds responded to the invitation to come to Technik Museum Sinsheim and “talk technology.” The forum on November 16, 2019 was the first #techourfuture event, this time looking at The Future of Autonomous Flying – Over the Country and People.

Over the course of the day, the participants watched live demonstrations and even got to try out the very latest technological developments, such as a helium-filled aircraft called h-aero® and the Emqopter delivery drone. The event location was set up with a series of “tech stops.” These allowed visitors to find out more about the current and future application areas for unmanned aircraft and talk to experts from different specialist fields about the fundamentals, opportunities, and risks of flying objects. In the afternoon, the visitors were invited to take part in workshops and “get creative” by going through their own application scenarios and visions of the future of autonomous flying.

Their findings were demonstrated afterwards in short video presentations and discussed by the experts at the event. The event was moderated by Mirko Drotschmann, alias MrWissen2go (“MrKnowledge2go”), who also introduced the audience to interesting examples and discussed intriguing issues relating to autonomous flying.

The FSTI received positive feedback about the event. The participants completed a post-event survey and gave particularly high scores to the way the technology topics were presented, the interaction with experts, and the possibility visitors were given to add their own ideas and visions. Around 80 percent of the participants said that the event had improved their understanding of the application opportunities for the technology.

The majority of respondents also confirmed that they now have a better grasp and overview of the technology looked at during the day. Some participants suggested that more time should be set aside for the interactive sessions with the #techourfuture experts, and FSTI will ensure this is the case at the next event on June 26, 2020 on the Pforzheim University campus. The next #techourfuture day will deal with the future of medical technology, explore the impact Technology* has on our health, and discuss any changes that are likely to happen when it comes to healthcare systems.



Most emerging technology is not just based on an individual form of technology, instead it results from different technologies merging into one. For example, with autonomous aircraft that may be a combination of lightweight materials, AI control mechanisms, and energy-efficient technology. The word Technologie* in the German title of the initiative is about combining any number of technologies to come up with new applications – resulting in different societal and business models.


Tech Stop: People Transportation | Prof. Dr. Michael Decker, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)

What if we could simply fly to work? Flying cars are no longer the stuff of science fiction movies – they could also solve our traffic problems! But is the technology ready yet? And what impact would this have on life in the city or people in rural areas? What are the possible application scenarios? Maybe private flying cars? Or perhaps flying taxis? Answers to these questions and many more were provided at the People Transportation tech stop.

Tech Stop: Delivery | Marvin Bihl, Emqopter

The Delivery tech stop was presented by Emqopter, a young company that deals with the production and development of autonomous technology used in unmanned flying robots. These include the delivery drones made by Emqopter itself – the first of their kind in German airspace. These drones are capable of transporting small parts autonomously, flexibly, and efficiently. The Delivery tech stop allowed visitors to find out more about the complex collision avoidance technology surrounding delivery drones and techniques used to identify suitable landing areas. It was also an opportunity to experience a delivery drone at close quarters.

Tech Stop: Safety and Regulation | Simon Kennert, Baden-Wuerttemberg Ministry of Transport

Who is actually responsible for controlling autonomous drone traffic, and where should autonomous aircraft be allowed to fly? To understand these issues, one has to look closely at the fundamentals of legislation and understand risk assessment. These were the topics looked at by the Security and Regulation tech stop, including the legal framework for operating unmanned aircraft.

Tech Stop: Earth Observation | Dr. Csaba Singer, Hybrid-Airplane Technologies

Can autonomous aircraft help protect the climate and the environment? Visitors to the Earth Observation tech stop were shown how environmental issues can be dealt with by using flying technology (which is also sustainable in itself). Dr. Csaba Singer explained how h-aero® devices combine the advantages of a helicopter with those of an airplane and a balloon. Not only can they take off vertically (unlike an airplane), they can also turn mid-air “on the spot” and hover. Experts from h-aero® were also on hand to answer questions on the many different usage scenarios of sustainable weather monitoring and explain how the technology can even be used for the early detection of forest fires.

Tech Stop: General Aviation | Vincenz Frenzel, Institute of Flight Mechanics and Controls, University of Stuttgart

From Stuttgart to Atlanta – without a pilot? The General Aviation tech stop allowed visitors to find out everything to do with current developments in the field of automation with a bearing on general aviation. Firstly, the reasons for automating certain processes were explained, including the possibilities this creates. Then Vincenz Frenzel explained the difference between autonomous flying and highly automated flying. To explain current developments more vividly, a short video was shown on landing aircraft automatically in general aviation.

Tech Stop: Military Use | Dr. Olaf Theiler, Bundeswehr Planning Office

A “third eye” for the troops – the military use of drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs): Introducing drones to military operations instills fear among many people, but it is also misunderstood. This is partly due to the complexity of the topic and the myriad potential usage scenarios. For the German Federal Armed Forces, or Bundeswehr, drones are crucial for defense purposes, but others with a disregard for international law and the constitution see completely new potential in drones as an offensive weapon. The Military Use tech stop dealt with three topics. Olaf Theiler illustrated the complexity of the topic, from reconnaissance drones steered by humans to “automated” attacks from swarms of drones. He then showed how the Bundeswehr and other military forces currently use drones for reconnaissance purposes, early warning systems, and air support, also providing an overview of anticipated developments. And finally, the tech stop was a good opportunity to show video sequences demonstrating the concerted use of autonomous aircraft.


Dr. Marlene Gottwald (author)
Senior Research Fellow
Ferdinand-Steinbeis-Institute (FSTI) (Stuttgart)

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Dr. H.C. Norbert Höptner (author)
Research Fellow
Ferdinand-Steinbeis-Institute (Stuttgart)