Are drones the future of cities?

Nesta has produced an update on their ‘Flying High’ project, which began in January and is exploring different ways that drones could benefit cities in the UK.

Their report looks at the economic and societal impact of drones across five city regions including medical delivery within London and across the Solent, traffic incident response in the West Midlands, fire response in Bradford and construction and regeneration in Preston.

Some of the benefits of drone technology in the report include enabling deliveries of medicine, improving situational awareness for emergency services, increasing efficiency in construction site management and reducing false alarms for fire and rescue.

However, they concede in the report that there are several obstacles in the way of a widespread take-up.

It says a new regulatory environment is needed for the technology that allows flight beyond the operator’s line of sight and a new air traffic management system is required to allow drones to operate without interfering with each other or with other aircraft. A public consultation is also required on issues such as noise pollution.

To support the growth of drones, Nesta has announced series of challenge prizes to encourage further innovation in the technology.

Writing in the report, Tris Dixon of Nesta said: ‘There are competing views of the future of drones in the UK. Utopian visions of smart cities, congestion solved, services
streamlined. Dystopian visions of surveillance, nuisance and noise. And for many, not much vision at all: an uncertain future, seldom thought of in any depth.

‘The Flying High project intends to help influence this future. The first step has been to better understand what drones’ place in our skies might be, to find out what challenges lie in store, to assess the benefits to cities and the people who live in them, and to start a much-needed conversation to build a shared view of this future. What should come next is a plan that takes the vision of cities, public services and citizens and frames them as a challenge.’

Read the report here


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