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Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for Smart City Applications

This project involves the development and validation of a modular smart city application platform. At the heart of this system will be a novel UAS consisting of adaptive, versatile UAVs suitable for collecting real-time information and coordinating and carrying out a wide range of tasks. At present, multi-rotor drones are the systems of choice for city environments owing to their superiority in terms of ease of control and ability to fly in tight spaces. However, they tend to be too slow and power-hungry for high dynamic and long-range operations. In response to this limitation, we propose an innovative UAS concept featuring morphable UAVs that can transform between multi-rotor and fixed-wing aircraft based on operational requirements.

In addition to information from UAVs, the system will be able to incorporate information collected from internet-of-things (IoT) devices and stationary sensors such as surveillance cameras. The proposed platform will also include a command and control center which will serve as a unified situational center, as well as a response and service dispatch interface.  This will enable relevant authorities to monitor, interact with, and manage complex situations in real-time. The project will leverage state-of-the-art artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and computer vision techniques to provide advanced capabilities. For the UAVs, the main capabilities envisaged include intelligent path planning, autonomous navigation, detection and tracking of anomalous events and objects of interest, as well as collaborative (human-machine) mission execution. 

The main services that will be enabled or improved by the proposed system include preventive security and crime fighting by security agencies; environmental monitoring and waste management; merchandise order delivery, medical supplies delivery; critical infrastructure monitoring (e.g., roads, railway lines, oil & gas infrastructure, and electric power lines); emergency response (e.g., firefighting, search, and rescue); and geographic information system (GIS) services.


While the developed platform is expected to be general and applicable in all the above scenarios, for the purpose of prototyping and testing, we will mainly focus on safety and civil security applications.  Specifically, the system will be tailored to support automatic real-time detection and tracking of unauthorized objects and suspicious events or people, and provide real-time alerts to notify operators about potential incidents or threatening situations. As a modular framework, it will allow easy integration of additional contexts in the form of plugins to handle different situations. 


The main deliverables will consist of the following components:

  • A conceptual model of a novel smart city platform consisting of a generalized algorithmic framework and collaborative multi-agent architecture. 

  • UAV units equipped with advanced sensory perception for information gathering, mapping, monitoring (e.g., detection and tracking) and task execution (e.g., critical supply delivery) in unstructured city environmentsThe UAVs will be equipped with fail-safe features and optimized for high speed, energy efficiency, long endurance, and ease of use.

  • An integrated user interface (command and control center) that serves as a situational center as well as a service dispatch system. This will be an interactive graphical user interface (GUI) that shows important information on a screen, including real-time alerts, and allows operators to directly control the UAVs or perform various tasks with the UAVs.


      Project impact

The proposed smart city platform is expected to enable “smart” and responsive services. In particular, it will simplify the management of various tasks in a city environment and improve the quality, timeliness and efficiency of services. This will improve the general quality of life of inhabitants and make their lives more comfortable and safer.    A smart environment will also lead to more efficient resource utilizationreduced cost of services, and contribute to the overall sustainability of the city.