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Drones Making our Roads Safer

Drones Making our Roads Safer

Using Drones for Safer and Smarter Cities

Drones (aka Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)) are increasingly being used in various fields due to their free-space mobility and low cost. UAVs offer many advantages, for instance, they can be equipped with mounted devices, including cameras, sensors, and/or communication interfaces, allowing them to efficiently execute missions in an automated manner without being obstructed by ground restrictions. Moreover, they can also perform on-demand tasks without the need to be always activated, which permits the reduction of energy and maintenance costs.

Still, UAVs confront many challenges limiting their effective and continuous operations. Their limited energy capacities can be considered as the main technical challenge, which handicaps the ability of UAVs to complete their missions in an uninterrupted manner. This challenge became the motivation for a research and innovation project funded by the Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) in its 9th cycle of the National Priorities Research Program (NPRP). Titled “DroneITS: Drone-aided Platform for Enabling Next Generation Intelligent Transport Systems” (Proposal Number: NPRP9-257-1-056) the project was awarded under the 9th cycle of the NPRP, and is conducted by a local team of researchers lead by Dr. Hamid Menouar, a senior R&D expert, at Qatar Mobility Innovations Center (QMIC), in collaboration with Florida International University (FIU).

The DroneITS project aims at investigating and developing UAV-based solutions for applications in the areas of intelligent transport and road safety. Some of the use-cases that have been fully developed and field-tested in Doha include flying police eye, traffic counting, flying traffic signal, and a flying road-side unit which can communicate with passing vehicles and alert them about a road hazard ahead.

Another outcome of the project is the patented electromagnetic pad that solves the main technical challenge of the limitation of battery life. To overcome such a limitation, the team proposed landing the drone on a low-cost, metallic landing station to charge and turn off the motors in order to save energy. This has been achieved by developing an electromagnetic solution that has been patented, implemented, and field-tested by the team. Such an innovative solution allows the UAV to extend its battery lifetime and, therefore, its mission time. Also worth mentioning is the fact that many local organizations have shown much interest in the applications that UAVs can offer them, making them potential end-users of DroneITS expertise and outcomes.

Therefore, to help continue the excellent work and outcomes of the DroneITS project, Dr. Hamid Menouar and his team have been awarded a continuation grant in the 12th cycle of NPRP by QNRF. This new project is titled “DroneCMS: Flying Infrastructure for Intelligent Crowd Management and Security for Mega Events” and aims at using UAVs to enable a dynamic flying infrastructure for crowd management and surveillance. Such a solution will be helpful in the many mega-events that Qatar plans to host in the future, where large crowds of people could form at expected and unexpected locations.

Links to videos of the drones in action:

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