Mahatma Gandhi had said very long ago that India lives in her villages. Fast forward to today when India’s urban cities are the backdrop for all of the activities- be it economic, commercial or social. Cities have become denser and more urban with time thereby increasing their dependence on technology to improve quality of life for all. This is where I step in; the technology-enthusiast in me believes that these very cities are a ground for innovations that harness technology for the betterment of our communities.
Developing cities into smart cities is the only way forward. In order to build a sustainable smart city, it is important to leverage airborne technologies for city inspections, disaster management and business development. As a pioneer in drone manufacturing, I can vouch for how technologies including drones are far away from a nuisance in the sky. Drones are poised to become an essential part of any smart city’s network.
Drones have several key technical advantages over classical aerial operations that makes them key to contribute to the sustainability of smart cities. The key technological differentiators are fast deployment, Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) capability (for quad-copters), Zero Emissions & Low Noise (for battery powered drones), fast response time and ability to be operated remotely.
Using these distinct advantages, UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) technology is key in domains such as:-
Mounting PM2.5 sensors on UAVs also possess a unique opportunity to monitor the air quality of smart cities. These are vastly superior to fixed ground sensors as they are better able to localise problematic areas with ease. In the case of any deviation from normal values, city personnel are able to then go to the affected area and stop any illegal activity that is causing spike in pollution.
Holding back drone technology from its full potential
While there are number of advantages of drone technology, like every form of technology there will always be those who oppose new technology developments. Regulators need to find the right balance to address all concerns. We need to address this soon to explore the full potential of drones. Some of the concerns are:-
Regulatory: Currently, India possesses no centralised regulatory framework for UAVs and there exists a blanket ban on0 their usage, however regulations are expected to be finalised very soon with the DGCA (Director General Civil Aviation) publishing multiple drafts of the policy. While the finalisation of regulations remains a stopgap to UAV operation, the DGCA has been receiving feedback from key players in the industry to ensure that when regulations are formalised, they ensure smooth & safe operations.
Security/privacy: With UAVs & cameras as a combination, concerns about security and privacy become inevitable. Urban environments are dense when compared to their rural counterparts and there are valid concerns with regards to invasion of privacy with such devices when flying near or around places of residence. With the Supreme Court’s recent judgement with regards to Right of Privacy, UAV usage in smart cities poses a greater complication.
Lack of awareness around the actual potential of drones for smart cities: Drones also pose another unique hurdle: the lack of awareness around their actual potential. Drone technology is commonly misunderstood to either be toy-like, with applications in hobbyist flying or photography, or something that is used for active military offensive strategies.
To overcome this hurdle, it is sometimes necessary to educate people on the entire spectrum of aerial solutions and how it is actually crucial for the development, maintenance and emergency response for Smart Cities.
The Government’s impetus towards transforming cities into smart cities is undeniable. Focusing on the influx of emerging technologies will help develop smart cities make greater strides in building an environment that is more vibrant, efficient, and progressive. With the integration of drones in evolution of smart cities, a plethora of opportunities lie for us to grow in a faster and in a more robust manner. The most important aspect of smart cities would be to improve lives and in this endeavor, deploying drones can certainly give greater fillip. So let us help build the wind beneath these drones' wings.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house