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Without wishing to drone on… unmanned aircraft are the ideal Smart City vehicle

The use of pilotless, remote-controlled aircraft in the urban setting is big news these days, with more and more applications being found for these ingenious airborne devices. Their use has proliferated as technology has improved, with today’s drones able to fly higher, travel further, stay in the air longer and carry heavier loads. In short, they are the perfect solution for many of the operational requirements of urban agencies. Just two weeks ago, Gulf News reported that Dubai Customs had deployed unmanned quad-copters for surveillance of suspicious activity and to support the inspection of trade vessels in Dubai Creek. The authority is reviewing their performance, with a view to extending their use to Jebel Ali Port.

As Dubai gears up its efforts to become a Smart City, the unmanned drone is perhaps the vehicle that best exemplifies this technological transformation. Here are five important functions that drones can fulfill in Dubai as it moves into an exciting future:

1. They can save lives. In the event of a serious traffic accident or a major incident, drones can save lives. As an aerial platform they can be positioned to survey damage, locate injured victims and assess for any more threats. As they are unmanned, they can get close in to the affected area, with no concerns about risks to on-board personnel.

2. They can support law enforcement. Drones are the ideal vehicles to track suspects, monitor large crowds and reinforce border controls. As Dubai Customs has realised, they are also extremely useful for surveillance and for assisting with cargo inspection.

3. They can help maintain infrastructure. Unmanned aerial vehicles are perfect for the close-up inspection of high rise buildings, bridges and metro railway lines – a function that is already being put into place in Dubai. Spider Access, a buildings management provider and client of C&B, has recognised their value in this respect and ordered a number of drones to support its maintenance operations across the city.

4. They can deliver documents. Today’s drones contain smaller batteries, use lighter weight materials and have more powerful motors, giving them a much greater lifting ability and range. They are able to carry documents and even parcels around the city in minutes, making them much more versatile as well as safer than the traditional, ubiquitous document carrier, the motorcycle.

5. They can give media organisations better access. Probably the most pertinent use of the drone for people in our industry, unmanned aerial vehicles can access hard-to-reach places and can do so efficiently and economically. Aerial photography enables increased coverage for a news broadcast and adds an exciting new angle for a public relations event.

So there you have it. Drones are set to be the answer to many of Dubai’s needs in the future. Keep your eyes to the skies – there is likely to be a drone hovering above your office soon!