With the dawning of the Drone Revolution, that old cliché may need updating as UAVs and other robotic “workers” continue to take up tasks that have long been considered rather odiferous for humans.
In Spain, Barcelona officials are exploring the deployment of drones into the city’s sewers to inspect piping, infrastructure as well as monitoring water and air quality.
“The drones would, at least in part, replace sewer workers, who do an unpleasant and, often, dangerous job patrolling the city’s dirty underbelly,” writes Jessica Jones for English-language website The Local-Spain.
The project is expected to take off within two years and will include tech companies Eurecat, Ibak and Simtech Design.
“Drones would be controlled from a van on the surface and people would only have to descend into the sewers to change the flying machines’ batteries,” Jones explains.
Developers will face some hurdles, however – most drones are too large to navigate the narrow sewer tunnels of the ancient city. “Experts estimate that at the moment they could only fit through 39 percent of the network of tunnels,” Jones writes. The city currently uses a combination of human workers with cable-led, tiny robots for some inspections.
The Barcelona Sewer Project (why, yes, that is a great idea for a band name) is just one of many drone projects taking off in Spain. In October, the government announced an industry partnership to develop traffic-monitoring drones for busy highways. However, current Spanish law prohibits the use of drones outside of line-of-sight so the drones would only be able to patrol small areas within view of a human operator.
“Much cheaper than a helicopter and faster to deploy, drones could be used to monitor problem areas such as zones affected by floods or other natural disaster,” stated Alberto de Laorden, the director of Sistem, the government’s corporate partner.
In July, five Spanish resorts began testing “lifeguard drones” to patrol beaches and deploy on-board rubber floats to potential drowning victims.
“As soon as there is a sighting of someone in difficulty in the water, both the drone and the lifeguard will head towards the sea,” a project spokesman The Local. “Arriving first, the drone will deliver a lifesaving ring buying valuable time for the lifeguard to reach the swimmer in distress and save a life.”
Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.
Beginning his career as a journalist in 1996, Jason has since written and edited thousands of engaging news articles, blog posts, press releases and online content.
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