Empowering the smart cities of tomorrow with drones


Rabih Bou Rached, Founder and CEO of FEDS Drone-powered Solutions details how drones will play a crucial role in gathering data for smart cities to utilise

A smart city is one that is well-connected. Instead of keeping important data in separate locations (like filing cabinets, computers, teams, or even buildings), a smart city brings it all together, so that officials can make informed decisions that benefit the city as a whole.

Similar to any ‘smart’ device or system, its effectiveness is dependent on a steady stream of high-quality data. But how do you gather data that can empower the cities of tomorrow?

Data is the backbone of a smart city, and unmanned systems are being tested and deployed in smart cities all over the world to quickly collect, aggregate, analyse, and deliver such data. With this information, apps can be made to improve efficiency, get people involved, and make neighbourhoods stronger.

What role do drones play?

When you consider a city, it is vast and complex. Gathering data from each of its facets is an extremely challenging endeavour unless you can fly. Helicopters are slower, more dangerous and contribute to the city’s overall carbon footprint. Drones, on the other hand, are small and nimble, allowing them to fly around and collect data with their powerful sensors. But perhaps the best aspect of drones is that they are autonomous.

Not all drones are suitable for commercial usage; the powerful payloads or sensors that they can be equipped with are crucial to accurate data capturing. Among our drone fleet, you will find that it is mostly stocked with DJI Enterprise drones – these drones have proven themselves to be reliable, resilient, and safe.

But apart from collecting data, drones can also be used more actively in Logistics or Public Safety & Security. There is no limit to the ways in which drones could be utilised to facilitate either the current process of smart city evolution or the future construction of smart cities. But here are a few key ways in which drones are currently being used in smart cities.

Infrastructure and planning

Drones can be easily launched to gather information in locations where traditional methods are difficult or dangerous, from monitoring the development of new buildings to inspecting aging infrastructure. Real-time data on construction sites and development projects advances cost-cutting goals shared by the private and public sectors. Drones will also aid in the transition to a 5G network by assisting in network construction and detecting dead spots. As a result, a 5G network will allow thousands of drones to operate concurrently, provide faster connection speeds, and allow drones to fly over greater distances unaffected by network changes.

Under the current regulatory framework, using drones for planning, construction, and inspection is legal in UAE, as long as the necessary permits and you have qualified pilots following the guidelines set by regulatory bodies. In this domain, the flexible and robust DJI M300 RTK reigns supreme. This drone’s ability to fly with multiple sensors make it a versatile tool that collects accurate data.

Public safety and security

Sharing information is critical for protecting citizens, from the mundane (such as traffic congestion) to the extreme (like natural disaster response). Drones, which can be deployed quickly, can help with traffic management, parking, crowd monitoring and control, weather assessments, security, and emergency response. Drones can also provide city planners and municipal governments with much richer and more useful data than stationary sensors. People’s lives will be easier and government services will be better if information can be gathered in a more flexible, cost-effective, and timely way.

Drones are being used by law enforcement and fire departments worldwide to improve response time, increase resource efficiency, and save lives. Drones are also being used to monitor high-occupancy vehicle traffic on some highways. Firefighters are using drones like the M30T to accurately evaluate the fire, locate hazards, and identify victims, while first responders can dispatch drones like the Mavic 3T or M30 ahead of the team to reach the site and establish situational awareness. Both these drones are portable and easy to deploy. This factor is significant when even a second lost puts a lot in jeopardy – especially when you take into consideration advances like the DJI Dock, which allows drones to take off and land on their own, you now have a system that requires very little human input to operate. This cuts the response time even more and lets city officials go to even the most remote places.

Logistics

Drones in smart cities can meet the urgent need for quick and efficient delivery. With e-commerce at an all-time high as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, cost and time-efficient product delivery is becoming increasingly important for retailers and consumers. Aside from consumer goods, drones can transport medical supplies quickly. Drones can send precise GPS information about where a package is, so that it can be tracked. They can also help ease traffic in cities and cut down on gas emissions.

Some cities are piloting drone deliveries. Recently, the FAA (Federal Aviation Authority, USA) just granted the first full approval to UPS to operate Matternet drones at large. Once we have the infrastructure in place, drones can take over the role of goods delivery. In Dubai, we have something similar with the Dubai Sky Dome initiative, which looks to empower autonomous BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) operations.

How far away are we?

Smart cities may sound like something out of the Jetsons, but it is closer than you think. Countries like the UAE, India, New Zealand, Singapore, and more are using drones to bring their smart city visions to life.

Drones are faster, more efficient, they provide better data, they are safer, they are cost-effective, and best of all, they are sustainable. Drones are here to stay. And they are the way of the future.

Drones will be instrumental in the future of urban development and the rise of ‘smart’ cities. Drones like the DJI M30 series, DJI Mavic 3 Enterprise, and M300 RTK are a responsive, flexible, and cost-effective tool for cities and municipalities to connect citizens, respond to emergencies, and take advantage of opportunities, whether that be in the form of collecting information, traffic monitoring, package delivery, or emergency response.

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