Using drones to improve road safety | Fireseeds North
Fireseeds North Infrastructure's Mark Hearson recently sat down with Parachute's Vision Zero Network for a Q&A on how drones are being used to improve road safety. Drones, also known as UAVs, represent a new method of collecting operational data for road safety analysis. Recent advancements in UAV flight stability, automation, and high-resolution cameras and sensors have all contributed to a market rich with flexible and easy-to-use systems.
These systems do not necessarily unlock new road safety practices, however they offer greater flexibility and cost-effectiveness than other data collection methods. In many cases, the vantage point of UAVs enables continuous data collection of a site, using one camera or sensor – as opposed to the multiple cameras, sensors, or visual observers, which would be required without a UAV. Furthermore, the proliferation of UAV manufacturers, educators, and third-party operators makes it much easier to launch a UAV-based project or program than ever before.
There is a long list of applications of drones in road safety, including accident reconstruction, before-and-after studies, behaviour studies (cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians), emergency response, enforcement, event management, in-service road safety reviews, speed studies, surrogate safety analysis using video analytics, traffic management, traffic monitoring and work zone safety studies.
UAV applications in road safety are likely to evolve over time with increased use. UAV adoption for road safety in Canada is still in its infancy. To date, the most common applications of UAVs to road safety are driver and pedestrian behaviour monitoring and in-service reviews of new or upgraded facilities. Many of these projects were partly motivated by public engagement purposes; UAV video footage is undeniably an impressive way to showcase new road facilities.
There are many opportunities for jurisdictions to launch pilot programs to push the industry forward. Fireseeds North Infrastructure will continue to explore these opportunities with jurisdictional partners who are interested and motivated to integrate UAVs into their road safety management as part of pilot projects or more comprehensive implementation plans.