Barcelona is deploying drones to keep an eye on beaches during the San Juan festivities starting today.
The festival returns without COVID restrictions for the first time in two years, with beaches being key venues.
The city wants to minimise overcrowding, prevent safety issues, and ensure the police and fire service can respond faster in case of an emergency.
Artificial intelligence (AI) technology on two rented drones will show in real-time how busy the beaches are. The drones won’t record any footage or use facial recognition.
The initiative will kick off a broader programme to explore how drones can benefit the city in various departments. This could include using them to detect fires, improperly parked motorhomes, and even wild boars on the loose, Michael Donaldson, Barcelona’s Chief Technology Officer, said.
“It’s going to be open in terms of innovation,” he told capitaltribunenews.com, although each use case will need to be approved by his office.
At the height of the pandemic when social distancing was in place, Barcelona monitored beach occupancy using AI analytics on camera data to measure the proportion of available sand. Donaldson said the drones are cheaper, cover more ground and are versatile.
Following the pilot, drones could become the principal method of monitoring the coastline.
Barcelona does not have a specific drone policy, but Donaldson said technology decisions are guided by a digital rights policy that can apply to any technology. Barcelona is one of the founding members of the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights, and last year launched an AI strategy for the ethical use of data and algorithms.
He said cities are facing a “new reality” when it comes to emerging technologies – and must get ahead of both positive and negative impacts.
Barcelona’s approach is around “humanising technology,” Donaldson said, which means using tools to meet residents’ needs and improve services.
Barcelona plans to create a public register of the algorithms used by the City Council, similar to those launched by Amsterdam and Helsinki. The cities are collaborating on how these registers could interoperate so that algorithms can be reused in multiple cities.
In Barcelona, AI is being used to recommend support that residents may be entitled to, offer more proactive services, and to automatically classify complaints, which Donaldson says has reduced the number of issues that are uncategorised.
The post Barcelona uses drones to monitor beaches appeared first on capitaltribunenews.com.