How drones could reshape cities

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We are at a critical period in urban history, faced by climatic breakdown and a pandemic. Drones and aerial vehicles can be part of a profound rethink of the urban environment. Drones, personal flying vehicles, and air taxis may be part of our everyday life in the very near future . Drones and air taxis will create new means of mobility and transport routes. Drones will be used for surveillance, delivery, and in the construction sector as it moves toward automation. Read Full Story

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This onion-shaped sculpture is actually a delivery drone launch station

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It’s part of Matternet’s system of using drones to deliver medical samples to labs faster. In a few weeks, when a new drone station is installed outside a hospital in Lugano, Switzerland, hospital staff will put samples that need to get tested inside, and the station will autonomously load those samples into a drone. Then the top of the onion-shaped tower will unfurl to launch the drone into the air—sending the package to a nearby lab for quicker results than would otherwise be possible. Read Full Story

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From self-propelled mailboxes to mail-via-missile: A century of attempts at inventing drone delivery

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Drone delivery might sound new, but it’s been in the works for 100 years. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Google’s Wing delivery drones have supplied Virginia residents with toilet paper and medicine , while some grocers have turned to drones to fulfill unprecedented demand for grocery deliveries. Late this summer, Amazon moved a crucial step closer to offering consumers drone deliveries in half an hour or less when the tech giant secured a Part 135 air carrier certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration, allowing it to operate commercial drone flights. Read Full Story

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When roads heat up during the summer, the asphalt poisons urban air

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When roads get heated by the sun, asphalt can emit greater quantities of secondary organic aerosols than on-road gasoline and diesel vehicles combined. In the summer, dark asphalt roads and roofs absorb heat from the sun and then put it back into the air, making cities get hotter and take longer to cool off, in what’s called the urban heat island effect . But that warmed-up asphalt, it turns out, isn’t just releasing heat: It’s also releasing harmful air pollutants, worsening the air quality in urban areas. Read Full Story

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Flying taxis are coming. Here are 5 ways they’ll differ from air travel as we know it

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This new form of mobility will be very different from our current reality, which provides some unique design opportunities. The future of urban air mobility is often represented in utopian images. A wealth of fanciful renderings show flying vehicles taking off and landing vertically from glittering vertiports. The people in these portrayals live in fantastical futures of high-tech cities, maneuvering experiences that we’ve seen only in science fiction films. Read Full Story

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Self-driving taxis should be designed with accessibility at the forefront—not as an afterthought

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For autonomous vehicles to fulfill the promise of accessibility and still be environmentally efficient, all cars need to be similarly accessible. Autonomous vehicles, like self-driving taxis, continue to garner media attention as industry and political stakeholders claim that they will improve safety and access to transportation for everyone . But for people who have different mobility needs and rely on human drivers for work beyond the task of driving, the prospect of driverless taxis may not sound like progress. Unless accommodations are built in to autonomous vehicle designs, companies risk undermining transportation access for the very communities this technology is promising to include. Read Full Story

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These drones look for trash in waterways—and then send sailing drones to clean it up

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Together, flying drones and sailing drones are helping to clear rivers of plastic waste and oil spills. In a river in the Danish city of Århus, a small machine called the WasteShark now autonomously sails through the water collecting trash, bringing it to shore, and then recharging itself. Soon, a drone will begin flying through the air to help: Using a special lens that collects data to be crunched by a machine learning algorithm, that drone can identify pieces of plastic or other garbage and direct the sailing drone to pick them up. The system can also identify oil spills, which the WasteShark can help clean up with a special filter. Read Full Story

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In the fight against malaria, there’s a new weapon: Drones

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A new platform is recruiting amateur drone pilots to offer their services in finding mosquito-breeding hotspots. In some African cities, part of the fight against mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever now involves drone surveillance, using the devices to fly over neighborhoods and search for potential mosquito breeding sites. A new “crowd-droning” platform called Globhe is helping connect governments to drone pilots to fly these missions, building detailed maps for public health; in the case of mosquitoes, the system can help the government find problem spots more quickly. Read Full Story

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