Seoul trials drone-docking smart city light poles to battle illegal parking

drones smart city poles

The South Korean capital Seoul is upgrading its stable of smart city light poles with drone-equipped models that will aid officials to battle the problem of illegal parking and monitor traffic snags.

Many cities across the world have been adopting smart city lights along their streets as multifunctional assets whose modern lamp technologies are both more economical and ecological. South Korea began installing the equipment in 2020, and the capital plans on swapping over 130 old poles with new versions in the first half of this year alone. In addition to illuminating the surrounding areas, the units can charge electric vehicles, house close-circuit TV cameras, provide Wi-Fi access, and various internet-of-things services. 

Incorporation of a UAV into that mix was first proposed by Portugal-based Omniflow, whose use of  FlytBase specialized drone software transformed the smart light poles into super-efficient docking stations. Similar variations by competitors that have followed now afford municipalities the opportunity to integrate UAVs into the structures, where they’re charged awaiting flight facilitated by FlytBase navigation tech.

Some are intended primarily for swift deployment of first responder UAVs, while others may also allow drones on commercial delivery and other missions to re-charge for a fee.

Seoul officials plan to use the devices for detecting traffic problems or accidents in the hopes that will allow them to respond faster. Drones housed in the smart city poles, meanwhile, will be flown to provide video footage of nearby areas. In cases where people are seen about to park illegally, remote operators will be able to chase the recalcitrant drivers off using an integrated speaker.

According to a report in Aju Business Daily, the police unit overseeing trials of the project will initially rely on two drone-outfitted smart city poles, with sorties limited to a couple times per week. Once those opening tests are assessed, the UAVs will be flown twice daily on average, with primary missions of monitoring traffic and spotting illegal parking attempts. 

 That experimental use through May will allow officials to decide how use of the aerial technology might be expanded. Among those potential additions are flights of drones in situations that risk turning dangerous or violent, or deployment in nighttime scenarios where individuals may be at risk of muggers or other assailants. 

That latter application would require exemption from South Korean rules prohibiting UAV flights after sunset. The wider trial process of drone-docking smart city light poles has received a similar waiver from flight bans in many urban areas due to the privacy risks to individuals they may pose.

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