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Abu Dhabi DoT launches drones to fix traffic woes

Employs two unamanned autonomous vehicles - Matric 600 and Inspire 2

Abu Dhabi DoT launches drones to fix traffic woes
Marzouqi: We needed a solution that could be deployed instantly.

A new drone-based intelligent traffic management system can alleviate any traffic in the Emirate, according to the Abu Dhabi Department of Transport (DoT).

Called Project Gernas, and launched on the first day of GITEX Technology Week, the initiative is licensed by the UAE's civil aviation regulator and employs two unamanned autonomous vehicles, a Matric 600 and the Inspire 2, housed inside a Ford-F150. Manned by a pilot operating the drones, the vehicle acts as a temporary control centre and receives live video streams transmitted over a WiFi connection. Data collected is analysed in the control centre to offer suggestions that can alleviate traffic jams and other issues arising from accidents and emergencies.

"The reason we developed this was because putting in fibre lines and then deploying cameras is very expensive. We needed a solution that could be deployed instantly and resolve issues as and when they happen," says Salah al Marzouqi, director of intelligent traffic systems, Abu Dhabi Department of Transport.

Both drones can hold power for upto an hour, fly vertically to 400 feet and up to a distance of seven kilometres away from a the pilot manned vehicle. However, regulations from the UAE's civil aviation regulator stipulate that the aircraft must be within the pilot's line of sight and maintain a vertical distance of 200 feet until an unspecified trial period.

The drones are equipped with thermographic cameras that can collect data in any weather that causes reduced visibility such as fog or sandstorms. It would have been possible to allow for 4G capability as well, but real-world practical considerations had to be made says Marzouqi. "It took us close to three years to devlop this, according to the specifications of each stakeholder and partner we were working with. Theoretically the drone could carry upto 10 hours of charge and connect over any range of networks. But this is the most practical solution that can be deployed."

Project Gernas is being looked at to deliver more than solutions aiming to relieve traffic issues. The use of UAVs can help decrease operational costs related to monitoring parking, by reading number plates and deliver traffic fines on the spot. "It's possible we might not need any parking meters as well," Marzouqi adds.


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