Entitled ‘Power and Space in the Drone Age’, the project is funded to the tune of 440,000 francs over three years by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF), the university said in a statement.
The money will fund two doctoral theses on the subject as well as a study group of international academic partners and representatives from the federal civil aviation office (BAZL) and Neuchâtel police.
Considered to be the first of its kind, the research will contribute to the international debate over the advantages and disadvantages of drone usage in civilian life.
It aims to consider issues related to privacy, individual freedom, security, terrorism and the growing digitalization of daily life.
The project will also assess the proliferation of drones in Swiss daily life and the merits and risks of their use by Swiss public services including the Neuchâtel police force and the fire service of north Vaud, as well as private companies active in developing drones.
Drones – or unmanned aerial vehicles – have long been linked to the military, but are increasingly being used in everyday civilian life.
Earlier this year Switzerland’s postal service, Swiss Post, said it had begun testing parcel deliveries by drones with a view to launching such a system, potentially in five years.
The move follows the lead of retail giant Amazon, which earlier this year revealed it is testing a drone delivery system in North America.
The Swiss Army and various police forces in Switzerland use drones for surveillance, while a growing number of private individuals are using drones for recreation and to take aerial photos.
In April this year BAZL proposed stricter laws regulating the use of drones in Switzerland, including drone pilot training for larger drones.
At the moment anyone can buy and operate a drone, though some regulations about where small drones can be flown have been in place since last year.
Fears over the security risk posed by drones have led to several temporary bans in recent months.
In March Geneva banned the use of drones during a time when several sensitive international meetings were being held in the city.
Around the same time the canton of Vaud also banned drones around Montreux where meetings were scheduled about the use of nuclear power by Iran.
Away from Switzerland, drones regularly hit the headlines around the world.
Earlier this week The Local Spain reported on drone footage that captured a demonstration by the Saharawi people against surveying and exploratory drilling by the San Leon oil company in Western Sahara.
And on Thursday The Intercept, the website of former Guardian writer Glenn Greenwald, who reported on Edward Snowden’s leaked NSA documents, published a series of leaked documents detailing drone use in the US military’s assassination programme in Afghanistan and elsewhere.