Although we’re likely to see drone surveillance used by the police and the military, another possible user could be your local traffic controllers. Traffic jams are a huge problem for society and they result in a drain on the economy due to loss of working hours. What’s more, traffic jams encourage the consumption of huge volumes of
Although we’re likely to see drone surveillance used by the police and the military, another possible user could be your local traffic controllers. Traffic jams are a huge problem for society and they result in a drain on the economy due to loss of working hours. What’s more, traffic jams encourage the consumption of huge volumes of fuel as vehicles wait to get where they’re going, and in the process add to growing air pollution problems and health care costs. In fact, Nationwide Insurance estimates that yearly fuel costs to each driver due to congestion are equal to $713 and roughly 1.9 Billion gallons of fuel are wasted nationally each year.
So it’s no surprise that many are proposing that aerial drones be used to monitor real-time traffic conditions in order to provide accurate information to traffic controllers, which would then help them to make informed decisions quickly in order to improve flow. So what are the pros and cons of such an application of drone technology and are the benefits are worth the effort?
Pros of Using Drone Surveillance for Reducing Traffic Jams:
There are quite a few advantages to using drones for traffic monitoring. What’s more, it is already quite easy to obtain telemetry data from the drones and very cheap solutions (<$50) are already being used by drone owners. Here are a few compelling arguments that support this cause:
- No Satellites Required: The present system of traffic monitoring uses satellites to monitor current traffic patterns. These are extremely expensive to build and maintain; drones are much cheaper alternatives and provide similar results. Multiple drones can be stationed at different intersections in order to provide continuous updates during peak traffic hours.
- Improved Decision Making: The information from the drones can be used by operators to check which intersections are currently under a high load of traffic in order to allow them to make better decisions to help reduce jams.
- Lightens the Commuter: The real time traffic updates provided by drones would be relayed to traffic controllers, who could then broadcast that information using radio channels or through the Internet. Such measures would help commuters to avoid routes where there are jams, which would also help reduce the traffic burden.
- Good Data Acquisition Possibilities: The data gathered from traffic monitoring drones could help the authorities to carry out data analysis and spot trends in the flow of traffic. Such trends could then be used to come up with the most optimal strategies for traffic management.
Cons of Using Drone Surveillance for Reducing Traffic Jams:
Sure, there are lots of perks to using drones to monitor traffic, but what of the disadvantages of using drones for this purpose? They range from flight time to fleet management:
- Weather Dependence: The drones cannot be used during bad weather conditions such as in the snow or rain as the elements can severely reduce their effectiveness. Although companies such as QuadH20 are developing such drones, they are quite bulky and currently only suited to videography applications.
- No Fully Suitable Drone Exists: It is debatable which type of drone should be used for the purpose of traffic monitoring. Two types have been tested for the purpose of traffic management: multirotors (such as the Aibot X6) and fixed wing UAVs (including the MLB BAT4). Both of them have some inherent disadvantages by design for usage as traffic monitoring devices.
- Battery Life of Multirotors: Even though multirotors are highly suited for this purpose, their battery life is very short, with most of them struggling to get past 20-30 minutes of flight time. Deploying multiple drones will only be a headache for operators as they will continually require charging. The only other solution would be more efficient batteries, which are being worked on by at University of Illinois and at other research centers.
- Fixed-wing Aircraft Cannot Hover: Fixed-wing aircraft such as the Falcon Unmanned have much longer flight times (2-3 hours) but cannot be held stationary in the air like a multirotor. As a result, a fixed-wing UAV is unable to monitor a single intersection to see the traffic moving through it, but can, however, follow a fixed course to monitor the flow of traffic.
So, although UAVs can be used for the purpose of traffic monitoring, their utility is severely affected by these issues. In order for these UAVs to be viable, it is important that multirotors drones be developed that have battery times exceeding one hour at the minimum.
If you’re an inventor or designer and you’ve already got the next-best battery in the works or your looking for ways to ruggedize drones to allow them to fly in inclement weather, we invite you to contact us to be interviewed. We want to share the stories of those looking to really transform how drones are used in the world and so we want to hear from you!
Image via: Highways Agency