A new era in city history: how UAVs ensure sustainable development of settlements
Every year, the number of people living in cities is increasing. The World Bank predicts that by 2050, 70% of the population will live in megacities.
The rapid growth of the urban population in the near future will exacerbate the challenges that cities already face today, such as pollution and environmental degradation, congestion and difficulties in public transport, excessive energy consumption, spontaneous construction, etc.
In search of a comprehensive solution to these challenges, more and more cities are adopting the concept of sustainable development, which involves the rational use of natural resources and a balance between economic development and society's social and environmental interests.
Making cities and human settlements open, safe, resilient, and sustainable is one of the 17 goals set by the United Nations as part of the Sustainable Development Goals, which aim to sustainably improve the quality of life and create a favorable environment for future generations. Read more about the role of UAVs in realizing the concept of sustainable and smart cities in our next article.
Principles of sustainable cities
The key tasks for businesses and government in the transition to sustainable urban development are to implement a set of measures for strategic planning of urban development, use green technologies, ensure environmental balance and safe living conditions for the population, address housing issues, etc. The implementation of these measures imposes new requirements for land management and construction, business activities, and the use of urban infrastructure.
To create an environment that is environmentally responsible, socially inclusive, and economically viable, sustainable urban development should be based on the following principles:
1. Minimize the negative impact on the environment
In sustainable cities, priority is given to green technologies, renewable energy, and sustainable transport, which should ensure social and economic connectivity while minimizing negative impacts on the climate and the environment.
2. Using technology to improve the quality of life of residents
Smart cities increase efficiency and reduce costs through the use of various sensors to monitor and manage energy consumption, traffic flows, and waste management, as well as the deployment of a system of interconnected power grids, buildings, etc.
3. Accessibility, diversity, and social justice
Sustainable and smart cities should be inclusive and accessible to all residents, regardless of their income, age, or ability.
4. Cooperation and equal access to information
Implementing the concept of a sustainable city involves the involvement of representatives of all groups of its residents in decision-making. Cooperation between the government, business, and community groups ensures the success of projects and the adoption of effective and fair decisions.
Thus, an important component of the smart city concept is the introduction of innovations and modern technological solutions to solve urban problems, optimize processes, and allocate resources efficiently. Digital tools play a key role in this process, allowing the collection of large amounts of data and, based on their analysis, managing urban infrastructure more efficiently, increasing energy efficiency, enhancing public safety, and creating new economic opportunities.
For example, data collected by UAVs can be useful for solving the following tasks:
- Urban planning and optimization of urban services
Drones are used to obtain information about the terrain, objects located on it, traffic patterns, city infrastructure, etc. This data is used to plan development, identify areas that need reconstruction or repair, create maps and 3D models, and make decisions on the development of transport and urban infrastructure.
- Traffic management
UAVs can be used to monitor traffic flows and detect traffic jams in real-time. This data will allow city authorities to optimize traffic lights, optimize traffic patterns, reduce congestion, and improve overall traffic management.
- Infrastructure inspection
Drones can inspect infrastructure, such as bridges, roads, and buildings, identify defects, and create orthophoto plans and 3D models with maximum detail based on the data obtained. This helps to identify potential maintenance issues promptly and make decisions on further repair and restoration work.
- Environmental monitoring
UAVs equipped with special sensors can monitor the environment, including the quality of air, water, urban heat islands, noise levels, etc. The information obtained becomes the basis for identifying problem areas, making decisions on environmental policy, and developing and improving infrastructure projects.
- Ensuring public safety and controlling the use of public space
The data obtained from drones can be used to monitor public spaces for potential security threats, maintain social distancing, and detect unauthorized gatherings. UAVs can be used to control the use of public space, such as detecting unauthorized construction, illegal dumping, timely identification of potential threats, etc.
- Responding to emergencies
UAVs allow you to quickly and safely assess the consequences of emergencies, such as flooding, fires, road accidents, etc. Equipped with thermal imagers, they can also be used in search and rescue operations and identify fire risk areas.
The information obtained from drones is becoming a valuable source for smart city planning and management and for creating a more efficient and livable urban environment.
Menatir – "digital" territory care
In addition to direct territory monitoring and facility inspection, UAVs are also a valuable source of Big Data, which plays a crucial role in the realization of the concept of sustainable cities. Collecting, analyzing, and interpreting large amounts of data from various sources gives city authorities insight into the patterns and trends that underlie sustainable urban development and is a prerequisite for their development.
Combining the capabilities of unmanned aerial vehicles with Industry 4.0 technologies such as IoT (Internet of Things) and AI (Artificial Intelligence) allows not only to improve the technical characteristics of drones and the efficiency of their management but also to ensure complex interaction between aircraft to perform tasks with their help and create an effective decision support system.
One example of the integration of digital solutions is the Menatir UAV networked air monitoring system developed by Culver Aviation.
Built as a network of base stations made of containers with unmanned aerial vehicles inside, it allows for fully automated and continuous monitoring of the territory and objects without human intervention 24/7.
For Menatir, Culver Aviation engineers designed drones of a unique 5-rotor tilt-sitter design, which, due to their construction, rise vertically into the air from the base station and land at a precise point.
Each container can hold up to 6 of these UAVs with the same or different payloads at the same time. If necessary, the Menatir system can be scaled up: for example, coverage of large urban areas can be achieved by expanding the network to 5 such containers with 6 drones in each. The resulting overlapping zones will guarantee monitoring even if one of the system's containers is inactive (due to force majeure or adverse weather conditions).
The drones are launched remotely – at the operator's command in case of an urgent mission or by pre-programmed tasks. The system independently calculates the route and duration of the flight, and it takes only three minutes from the moment the command is received to the takeoff.
By the way, "menatir" means "territory care" in Elvish, and it is a very apt name, because the large amounts of data obtained with the Menatir system, combined with innovative technologies for processing and analyzing them, create new opportunities to make any urban environment transparent and controlled, and therefore safer.
This is just a partial list of tasks that the Menatir system can perform for smart and sustainable cities:
- Real-time monitoring and security of territories and objects
Equipped with a high-precision three-axis gyro-stabilized gimbal with a video camera, Menatir drones allow for real-time video surveillance and streaming of FullHD video with a delay of up to 350 ms over a distance of up to 45 km. This makes it possible to secure strategically important facilities and inspect areas with access even to hard-to-reach and dangerous locations.
- Road safety management and enforcement
Menatir allows you to collect real-time data on traffic patterns and congestion to optimize traffic flows and reduce congestion. Drones can also accompany convoys carrying important cargo or passengers.
- Responding to and preventing natural disasters
Menatir drones' HD photo and video footage can be used to quickly assess the damage and identify areas in need of assistance after fires, natural disasters, or other emergencies. This information will help first responders prioritize and allocate resources more efficiently to the response.
Drones can also conduct automated monitoring of facilities to prevent emergencies, for example, to determine changes in water levels to avoid flooding, etc.
- Urban planning
The Menatir UAV automated aerial monitoring system can provide detailed and up-to-date information about urban infrastructure, including buildings, roads, green spaces, etc. Aerial photography in HD quality will be the basis for creating detailed orthophoto plans of the area and can be used to plan new projects, identify areas in need of repair or reconstruction, and make decisions on the development of transport and urban infrastructure.
Equipped with multispectral cameras as payloads, drones will also provide data on water shortages, irrigation efficiency, the location of drainage tiles in parks and green areas of the city, and timely detection of tree and plant diseases.
- Environmental monitoring
With the help of Libelium eco sensors, Menatir UAVs can monitor the state of the atmospheric air for compliance with specified standards, identify sources of pollution, and measure the concentration of dust and other substances. This information is useful for identifying problem areas and tracking changes over time, helping cities make decisions about environmental policies and infrastructure projects and take appropriate action based on the data. The system's drones can also be equipped with any other custom payload for environmental monitoring, subject to weight and size parameters.
The Menatir system has a mobile application with real-time information. For example, it can be used to visualize popular transport routes and provide up-to-date traffic congestion data so that city residents can plan optimal routes for their trips around the city, monitor the traffic situation, availability of free parking spaces, air quality, and other important information.
The data obtained will allow local authorities to analyze information about the user habits of residents and use it for strategic planning of the city's development.
The Menatir automated air monitoring system is a valuable source of information for smart and sustainable cities. By collecting and analyzing data on the state of the environment, infrastructure, and resource use, city authorities will be able to make more informed decisions about city planning and management policies, ultimately leading to a more efficient and sustainable urban environment.
In the future, the use of large volumes of data obtained with the help of MENATIR in combination with innovative technologies will allow creating of digital twins of settlements to model the impact of events of various kinds, test hypotheses, and make the lives of residents and visitors comfortable and safe.