The Mayor of London and Transport for London have been urged to broaden the use of drones within the capital city in a bid to slash congestion.
A new report from the London Assembly, an elected body that scrutinises the activities of the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has called for authorities to develop UAVs for delivery and passenger transportation in the city.
The report notes that the increasing amount of freight traffic is a major contributor to London’s congestion problem and that using drones could help alleviate this problem.
It has been suggested that low-flying drones could be used to establish new river crossings over the Thames.
While the London Assembly is aware of number of companies that are pursuing the development of UAVs in London for transport and delivery applications, it commented that in all likelihood drones will not remove a significant amount of freight traffic from the capital’s roads, and would only be suitable for the ‘last mile’ in the delivery chain.
The report said: “We do need more clarity on the likely scale of drone use. TFL should produce new projections. The controlled use of drones should be explored if risks can be minimised.
“At present it is clear that planning for a future of increased drone use is not advanced. Airborne drones in particular need an effective control system to ensure they can deliver packages without being unsafe or causing excessive noise pollution. Such a system may need to be integrated with control systems for other modes, such as CAVs.”
Michael Hurwitz, director of transport innovation at TfL, added: “This report outlines the challenges that all cities across the UK, including London, face when considering how transport will operate in the future. We work with a wide range of tech companies around the world to support and learn from innovation that could improve transport across London. This work builds on what we have already delivered in areas such as contactless ticketing, free open data and state of the art signalling to deliver some of the highest frequency metro services in the world.
“As part of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, many of these elements are already being considered and TfL is involved in a number of pilots and initiatives to help ensure that any introduction of new technology such as autonomous vehicles and drones is safe, environmentally-friendly and consistent with our focus on walking, cycling and green public transport.”
While it is acknowledged that drone developments within London will not put an end to overcrowded roads, the report concluded that failure to pursue them would be a mistake.
The report stated: “We expected that the Mayor would address drones in his upcoming Transport Strategy. His draft strategy, however, does not mention drones. This is a missed opportunity to consider the potential risks and benefits of this technology.”