Ben Orcan / June 25, 2020

Building a drone-captured traffic intelligence service – a joint innovation

Ben Orcan By Ben Orcan

When major global events, such as the UN Climate Change Conference, are hosted in a city they can bring tens of thousands of extra people.

While the prestige of such events brings welcomed extra footfall to local businesses, it can cause havoc for commuters, crippling the flow of the city’s road network for those that call the area home

In a joint innovation with the UK Government’s Digital Catapult, alongside data processing start-up Transpix and Ground Level Up, we set about proving the value of data acquired by drones being applied to analyse local road networks.

 

We conducted flights over one of Glasgow’s busiest junctions, near to the Scottish Event Campus, which is often a pinch point for traffic at busy times of day and during events.

The data we captured was analysed by Transpix, a tech start-up applying intelligent algorithms to road traffic data; they produced valuable insights based on lane usage, traffic turning patterns and were able to identify high-risk traffic areas. 

Why is drone collected data useful in analysing traffic patterns?

Larger field of view

While traffic patterns can be analysed at the micro-level using fixed cameras and other road infrastructure, drones offer a far wider perspective, enabling event organisers and authorities to make decisions based on a larger and more flexible field of view of the road network, and an understanding of potential effects.

Actual vs estimated data

It’s critical to make the right decision at the right time, therefore, by using drone collected data which is flexible and responsive, those requiring data to make timely decisions can do so with the assurance that this is actual traffic data, and not an estimation of prediction model.

In this case, using drone data from the Glasgow area, Transpix AI proved that it could offer organisers and traffic authorities precise analysis of road traffic data, rather than estimated data, allowing more informed and accurate decisions. This also offers the flexibility for decisions to be made in real time, or as part of event or operational planning.

A service of this type attractive for large event organisers, as they deal with situations that are temporary in nature and estimated data may not provide the richness of data or intelligence required to make good decisions.

Providing accurate data sets, at scale, into simulation environments or post-accident reporting allows for a greater depth of understanding to aid investigations or mitigate future incidents.

Relative cost

Cost is another consideration when it comes to temporary infrastructure. UAVs can be used at a much lower cost than installing cameras which require maintenance and may only be in use for small periods of time. UAVs can be provisioned quickly, flown relatively easily with the ability to stream live data back to control centres. 

Cost saving efficiencies

More accurate and precise intelligence gives organisations and authorities the ability to make well-formed judgements on how and when to act. This approach helps them to save unnecessary cost related to extra resourcing and costly interventions such as road closures or diversions.

What benefits does this service deliver?

  • An event organiser may rely upon road traffic data to decide upon an appropriate time to open car parks, or when release a flow of traffic into the city’s busy streets.

  • Local transport police may use it to judge the likelihood of collisions and resource accordingly, or the local transport authority can utilise it to implement traffic calming measures in a live scenario.
     
  • This type of service can also be useful to traffic authorities when investigating traffic incidents and modelling high-risk or accident-prone hotspots.

Speaking of the innovation project, Pierre Baisle, Innovation Partner at Digital Catapult “Drone enabled data capture is allowing many industries to leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to address their challenges in new and efficient ways” says ,  “We are very happy to have brought SOARIZON, Transpix and Ground Level Up together to prove it on this traffic management use case.”

Organisations with responsibility over the management of road networks and traffic flows often rely on estimated data fed into their models and impact assessments. This type of service, delivered at scale through SOARIZON, will enable them to access more accurate data when planning mitigations at high impact times such as large-scale events as well as offering up-to-date near real-time traffic intelligence.

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