Drones and Urbanization: Science Fiction Turned to Reality
Over the past few years, drones have made many people think about the potential applications in real world and urban scenarios. What was once a movie-like infrastructure is nowadays a technology that is coming closer and closer to the everyday people.
Summing Up The Benefits and Challenges
What’s safe to say is the fact that drones present a number of opportunities for cities, most of which related to reducing costs, improving efficiency and presenting tons of opportunities for alleviating the pressure on ground transportation networks – as well as enhancing the speed and availability of emergency services.
However, there are some challenges to this as well. They mostly range from questions regarding the safety and security of drone operations – and most importantly – the allocation, design and regulation of droneports within complex and changing urban environments.
Aside from this, we have the issue of integration (or competition) with the existing urban ground transport services and the ones regarding privacy, visual amenity and noise. Currently, large-scale drone operations are becoming a more distinct possibility for many cities.
The big question is – will governments be demanding more from this technology in the decision-making process?
Three Approaches for Use of Drones in Urban Settings
There has been some movement regarding new policies and law-making efforts by drone pioneers. So far, there have been three approaches for use of drones in urban settings. They included:
- The use of existing infrastructure (e.g. passenger drones landing on roof buildings)
- The creation of new small scale logistics centres dispersed across the city
- The creation of new street furniture or new designs for buildings
The service areas in this manner include fixed-route transfers, and other high capacity multimodal transfer terminals. However, what remains to be seen is a regulatory status that will transform all of these plans to reality.
The Current Regulatory Status: Is There Room for Change?
Most of the national frameworks currently forbid the use of drones in urban areas, typically because of the risks where flight occurs over other people’s property. In general, routing density is a crucial challenge that needs to be address by drones – especially ones catered to solve problems with their delivery concepts.
Safety also needs to be addressed – and the ban to fly over cities also raises a critical question of regulatory responsibilities. Urban drone operations need to be scaled up in the years to come – all so that a developing drone infrastructure can take place and be linked (and adapted) to the current infrastructure.
A new wave of urbanization could well be accompanied by innovations of this kind. However, what remains to be addressed first is the infrastructure development in the form of landing sites or droneports – where drones can be put to test – not to mention their full operation and planning.
Operators and landing site managers could also help with standards and guidelines being developed – all in order to promote the emergence of dedicated infrastructure in cities. Only this can help in opening up more opportunities for collaboration between planners, regulators and drone operators in areas where crashes, noise and other drone hazards could lie among the potential challenges.
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