Words by Rabih Bou Rashid, Managing Director at Falcon Eye Drones.
What makes a successful smart city? The idea of a smart city entails a synergy of various technologies that are deployed to transform cities or particular areas into more connected and safer environments to live and work. Technically that means that by using actual devices and sensors city can optimize the performance of city operations and services. This can be achieved by monitoring what’s happening across the city, interacting with communities, managing the city’s evolution, and generally improving the lives and safety of citizens.
Smart Dubai is the most successful smart city concept in the Middle East region to date and it continues to evolve every day. While there are multiple elements to this concept, the number one objective of Dubai’s government will remain to make this city the happiest place on earth where the quality of life and public safety will be remain government’s top priority. Public safety is being constantly enhanced and Dubai is actively introducing new technologies, solutions, and campaigns to enhance emergency response that guarantees the highest success rates in the world.
Last year the Dubai Police launched Android Emergency Location Service (ELS) that provides accurate location information to first responders during an emergency. According to the brigadier Kamil Butti Al Suwaidi, director of Operations Department at Dubai Police, 95% of emergency calls come from mobile phones inside the country. The location is transmitted when an Android smartphone user contacts the emergency number. The same year, Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services has launched ESEFNI (‘Help Me’ from Arabic) application that is designed to reduce the response time to emergencies. The first of its kind across the Arab world, the app is involving community members who are qualified to help patients and identify their locations to become first emergency responders. World’s first rescue drone called Flying Rescuer entered UAE airspace in 2018 allowing Dubai beach-goers feel safer. Drone developed by the Dubai Municipality can transport up to four life buoys at a time and can also be used to drop off a rescue raft that automatically inflates when it hits the water.
While Dubai government is taking various steps to improve its emergency services that play an instrumental role is the betterment of the smart city environment, further introduction of the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), or drones which is widely known the term to the public, is paramount. According to the 2018 Center for Digital Government (CDG) survey conducted by DJI amongst 220 public sector leaders, 92% of respondents say drone technology will have a significant impact on state and local government in the USA. Public safety functions are also the top motivations cited by CDG survey respondents. A separate CDG analysis of requests for proposals (RFPs) involving drones found more than half (52%) come from public safety agencies, including law enforcement, corrections, and fire departments.
There are several ways drones can help save lives and sooner these options are explored by the federal governments as well as private entities that operate within hazardous environments, faster smart cities like Dubai will reach their full maturity.
Search and rescue missions will probably top up the list of drones’ emergency service applications today. From lost hikers wondering in the heart of Hatta’s picturesque valleys to kayakers who have drifted due to the rough winter sea breeze, drones can be deployed to speed up the process where helicopters and night vision goggles fail to do the job. Where people can’t help any further the thermal heat scans taken by the drones can deliver unmatched rescue operation performance.
Drones can significantly improve fire extinguishing process as they already have a better ability than the naked eye to detect wildfires and high-rise flames, similar to ones we often experience in Dubai during windy winter weather periods. Drones are also an instrumental asset when it comes to extinguishing fires, and in increasingly improved ways. While drones are great tools for scene monitoring, rapid 360 degrees assessment of burning structures and the ability to see through smoke with thermal imaging cameras, their active participation in the fire extinguishing process is what makes an enormous difference. By engaging drone technology during an active fire extinguishing efforts, many lives can be saved, not just those of the fire victims but firefighters as well.
Last but not least, ambulance drones can respond and deliver emergency equipment faster than any ground modes of transportation. In 2017 Dubai Ambulance piloted its first world’s fastest cargo drone that will be delivering an automated heart defibrillator to a heart-attack victim in Dubai parks, beaches or public areas at speeds of up to 155 kph. The delivery of defibrillators is just the first phase of the project and in the nearest future drones could carry other medical equipment to sites of road accidents and multiple injury events. It’s important to note that the true first responders, whether that means bystanders or law enforcement, could have access to more tools faster, which would allow them to help victims more effectively until official emergency service teams arrive on the scene.
Drones are great policemen buddies and can be actively engaged in the hot police pursuits, but we are most likely to witness such scenes at a movie theatre rather than on Dubai roads. This city is getting smarter and safer every day and technology will remain just one element of its growing success.