Drones for Smart Cities: The concept of a smart city is based on the seamless integration of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), incorporating its latest trends. UAVs, fondly called “drones” are going to be the major contributors in this endeavour. Previously synonymous with devastation, drones have unshackled themselves from limited military roles into a new world of possibilities in enhancing the human existential experience. With a phenomenal scope of application, drones have found their way into virtually every field- smart cities being no exception. They are involved in a wide range of applications and functions in various stages of development and sustenance of smart cities.
“What gets measured gets done.” – This age-old wisdom can now be applied for building empowering economies. “What goes into empowering an economy?”one may ask. Well, simply stated, it is empowering the people. It is shifting the focus from the popular survival triad of “Roti, Kapda, Makaan” (literally translated as food, clothing, and shelter) to substantiating human productivity. That indeed is pretty logic-defying. How can one be productive without focusing on one’s survival? The answer to that question is technology; specifically, the smart use of technology. Hence, a city that caters to the survival requirements of its occupants through smart technology, so that they are provided the ideal environment and infrastructure to focus on their productivity can be called a “Smart City”. The measurable result of progress is monitoring the development of smart cities.
Now, there are several ways drones can accelerate the creation and maintenance of smart cities. Some key applications include traffic monitoring, planning and progress monitoring of key infrastructures, security, transport and mapping and surveying for monitoring development work on a regular basis. In most smart cities around the world, experts are using UAVs to collect, aggregate, analyze and deliver highly accurate and detailed data. This greatly improves the way operations, citizen engagement and community support is carried out. By 2021, $135 billion will be spent worldwide to enable smart city initiatives, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC).
Drones are being seriously considered as an aid to enhance security. There will be a steep incline in using drones for security and surveillance in the immediate future. Along with smart cities, smart police systems will also be the norm. The police forces will be equipped with the latest technologies, so that the security problems that are now complex, can be resolved with ease using drones. Imagine how the police could be empowered if a drone was deployed in a dangerous or inaccessible place on their behalf. A network of drones and IoT can be a reliable tool for crime prevention.
Further, they can also be effectively employed in investigations. A well trained and networked swarm of drones on surveillance can be highly effective against criminals. This will also directly affect the delivery of justice. We can expect swift sentences and ensure that crime rates are reduced eventually.
Drones can be effectively used in running a chunk of mundane, yet essential activities that consume a considerable amount of time and mind space of people so that they can focus on bigger things assured that the drones have their back. Be it delivery of packages, smart transport, traffic monitoring, supply and metering of power, water, and other essentials, the applicability of drones in smart cities is virtually infinite. If you consider a hypothetical smart city served by a swarm of robustly networked drones, a road accident on a busy street, stalling traffic for long hours and denying timely response of medical services can all be prevented. The traffic monitoring drone detects the accident and alerts the emergency services almost instantaneously, with all the necessary details. The drone ambulance lifts off, ready for its mission. The traffic gets diverted away through the best route suggested by the network of traffic monitoring drones, easing congestion. The security drone rushes to the spot, simultaneously alerting and guiding the law enforcement authorities.
Notice how all this happens in real-time, leaving a lot of time to spare for the survivors to be attended to!
In addition, studies are on to explore the employability of drones in the prediction of natural calamities, predominantly floods and landslides to alert the public well in advance. This new-age technology is lifesaving due to its potential for maintaining and monitoring public services.
Urbanization is expected to grow by as much as 90% by 2050 and technology is the only way to leverage existing resources to cope with such an increase in demand.
Testing air quality has actually never been conducted in the air. But when you have a ground-based monitoring model, you are challenged by physical barriers that complicate data collection. Using drones to determine air pollution levels can accurately capture air temperature, atmospheric pressure, humidity, carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ammonia (NH3).
Drones are great for measuring and monitoring air pollution because of how easily navigable they are. UAVs can monitor noise, traffic, light, wind, temperature, humidity, air quality and among many other metrics.
Mapping and Survey
Drones have been finding widespread application in mapping and survey, making spending long hours under the sun a thing of the past. Smart cities find a constant need to upgrade their infrastructure to cater to the growing needs of citizens. This has to be done quickly to remain current and relevant. It is a no-brainer that the most essential, time-consuming and labour intensive part of any infrastructure development is the preliminary survey. Although in the final stages of development and standardization as a technology, 3D mapping and modeling by drones have gained great traction in recent years. Drones are widely being used in various stages of complex infrastructure development.
An aerial survey by drones with advanced high-resolution cameras and post-processing techniques has reduced the time, money and effort required for surveying by a large margin. Drones also find application in the construction and monitoring of transmission lines, power grids, and power plants. Additionally, drones can also be used in various facets of urban planning and management such as the construction of roads, residential colonies, etc.
In the 21st century city, there are more than a few things above the ground- flyovers, metro lines, power transmission lines, and even perhaps your own home. However, it has done nothing to dramatically improve the quality of our lives. Using drones to build our smart cities could make that difference, leaving us to live our lives beyond daily life constraints.