A ‘Smart City’ is a city that uses sensors to gather data from its inhabitants and the infrastructure to improve efficiency and quality of life. It employs Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to increase operational efficiency, communicate information with its inhabitants, and deliver excellent government services and citizen welfare. It is safe to say that ‘data’ is at the crux of a Smart City, and that’s exactly where drones fly into the scene!
Urbanisation is expected to grow by as much as 90% by 2050; technology is the only way to leverage existing resources to cope with this rise in demand, with Drones at the forefront! Be it ensuring public safety, delivery of packages, smart transport, traffic monitoring, supply and metering of power, water, and other essentials, or routine checkups of critical infrastructures, the practical applications of drones in smart cities are virtually infinite! So, let’s break it down.
The unpredictability of the sector has constantly challenged Public Safety and Security personnel. But, ultimately, decision-makers would know – People are at the heart of it, and ‘Saving Lives and improving the Quality of Life’ is the goal – and drones are here to help.
From Frontline Operations to Remote Surveillance missions, drones and their powerful payload capabilities have been an invaluable asset to the Police force and other law enforcement agencies. The applications of drones for the Public Safety and Security sector include Firefighting, Search and Rescue, Disaster Management, and Law Enforcement.
Let’s look at a real-life application of drones in this regard — The Sharjah Police have been successful in utilising drones to investigate crime scenes and road accidents, search and rescue missions, track illegal activities, secure sensitive areas, patrol hazardous industrial sites, manage mob violence, provide crowd surveillance during public events and much more. Recently they have also been incorporating AI into this equation for exceptional results. In a nutshell, drones make city life more stress-free for the inhabitants and the authorities alike. Public Safety and Security personnel can depend on Drone solutions to gather live data and make quick and better-informed decisions.
In the fast approaching future, drones can be dispatched automatically to incident sites, establish situational awareness or investigate disturbances and provide actionable intel to emergency services.
There are critical assets crucial to the productive functioning of city life — Telecom Towers, Powerlines, Pipelines, Buildings, and Trams – to name a few. Constant surveillance of these complex infrastructures is required to identify problems at a nascent stage to avoid a financial and otherwise major catastrophe.
Imagine a power outage in the city — Traditionally, fixing the issues or finding the root cause is time-consuming, and the range of inconveniences that would arise is a story for another day! Usually, powerlines, or any other critical infrastructures, are situated at inaccessible locations and are too expensive for frequent (or otherwise) manual inspections. But no matter how uncooperative the weather or how difficult the terrain is — Drones equip us with precise details on the condition and location of assets, helping us make quick and better-informed decisions. Likewise, drones enable the city to automate routine inspections, improving the operations’ efficiency and even providing room for proactive or preventive maintenance.
A single drone pilot can undertake an inspection by sending live videos and photos of the assets to the site manager, and sometimes without a pilot too! With innovative drone solutions like the DJI Dock, an operator located at any corner of the world can remotely select a Dock device and conduct immediate inspections of substations and connecting lines — Imagine getting live videos of all your infrastructures in the comfort of your office, translating to effortless resource allocation.
Establishing an effective road network is not a one-time job; it’s more of a periodic trail of road maintenance and planning measures. But whether to expand an existing network, create new roads, or maintain the old ones – surveying massive road structures stretching over long distances is hard to do manually, but easy once a drone gets involved. The fundamental advantage of any drone-powered survey is that it produces time-critical yet accurate measurements without compromising safety or interrupting road transportation. They directly address the pitfalls of traditional road surveys by mitigating many associated risks and doing the job in one-third of the time required by conventional road surveys.
Even post-construction of a Road/Bridge, drones can also help you with Traffic Management. Interestingly, we aren’t talking about the future; drones are already up in the air, monitoring traffic and assisting the authorities in managing traffic situations effectively.
For instance, the Ajman Police Force has been deploying robust drone solutions to monitor the overall traffic situations in the Emirates – from monitoring accidents and road congestion to arresting violators of traffic rules. This data can then be used to streamline traffic management and potentially make improvements.
Another noteworthy application of Drones in Smart City development is smart Logistics and Transportation. The ever-growing global population needs innovative means of transportation as ground infrastructures are already congested. The solution? Provide people with a safe, sustainable and convenient solution that leverages the airspace above cities – or simply drones!
In 2017, we all realised that the Dubai Government was “serious” when they said Drone Taxis would soon become a reality. The test flights were extremely successful; now it’s just a matter of time to see when the Drone Taxis will flay over the cityscape. Today, retailers, restaurant chains, and delivery companies have been trialling drone solutions for faster delivery and for reaching rural communities. And we can’t wait to give you more updates about the progress under the ‘Logistics and Transportation’ domain.
Ambitious construction projects are the face of any city. And Dubai is no different, Dubai and the visage of the Burj Khalifa are almost synonymous. Construction projects are crucial to Smart City development. Drones can help with every phase of the construction pipeline — from a topographic survey in the planning stage to Routine Asset Inspections of the built assets.
The PwC report also testifies to how implementing drones in your construction efforts makes a crucial difference in managing costs, controlling risks, increasing safety and influencing outcomes. Construction companies and governing entities can implement drone technology to plan, execute or even ensure the operations efficiency of the built assets in the Smart City premises and ensure that the project adheres to all the possible standards set by the government and other regulatory bodies.
Efficient governing bodies are always prepared for the unexpected — for instance, a Disaster situation, where the first responders often bear the same life-threatening risks as the victims themselves. There is a need to save the lives of people caught in the heat of the disaster while ensuring the safety of people involved in the rescue mission.
Drones can take off in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, map the affected areas, and provide responders with photos, live video streams, and GPS coordinates. Likewise, drones can help us with disaster preparedness by mapping areas prone to natural disasters. This will help the disaster response teams identify areas of high risk and implement plans to mitigate the potential damages. Moreover, Drones can help you with Search and Rescue operations, Delivering urgent supplies, Extinguishing Fires, Airlifting Victims and even more.
Smart cities are particularly well-suited for the use of drones in disaster management, as they are equipped with the latest technologies and infrastructure to support their use. With their ability to fly quickly and easily over affected areas, drones can provide first responders and emergency personnel with valuable insights into the extent of damage and the location of survivors. Cities can develop specialized drone programs and train pilots and emergency responders to operate them effectively. A market survey reveals that DJI drones dominate the public safety sector; more than 90% of disaster response drone programs trust them.
Drone technology constantly evolves, providing jaw-dropping and innovative solutions to major pain points. Drones play a significant role in modernising cities and the emergence of Smart Cities. Drones are here to stay, and remember – a Smart City is not a technology of the distant future; FUTURE IS NOW!