Drones (aka Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)) have been used in military for many years now and recently, there has been a drastic increase in the usage of UAVs in other fields such as precision agriculture, security and surveillance, and delivery of goods and services. For instance, Amazon and Walmart have been working on a new platform  that uses UAVs to deliver shipments to customers over the air. Similarly, China’s‎ largest mailing company has already started its own experiments with a fleet of UAVs that could deliver around 500 parcels every day. The usage of UAVs for daily consumer-oriented services is expanding and becoming a reality.

Such intelligent UAVs (ITS drones) can provide an efficient mean not only to enforce the traffic rules and support the traffic police on ground, but also provide the road users with efficient information on traffic (aka intelligent traffic management).

In our proposed project, the ITS UAVs will be enabled by a Dedicated Short Range Communication (DSRC) interface, which will be part of any modern vehicle within the next few years to provide Vehicle to Vehicle and Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2X) communications. Such a technology will allow the ITS UAVs to communicate through a direct wireless link with the vehicles in proximity to better enforce road safety and better support traffic efficiency.

Some of the applications that will be enabled in this exciting research project to validate the research outcomes include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Flying Accident Report Agent: One or more UAVs ‎fly‎ to ‎the ‎accident’s ‎location ‎to ‎get‎ a ‎detailed ‎report‎ about the accident and send the report in real time and over multi-hop communications to the related authorities.
  • Flying Road-Side Unit: Enabled with DSRC, the ITS UAV will be used as a Flying Road Side Unit (FRSU) that can be used to support V2X communications on the ground.
  • Flying Speed Camera: The ITS UAVs will be equipped with a miniature speed camera to detect over-speeding vehicles.
  • Flying Police Eye: This application enables a direct communication with a DSRC-enabled police car on the ground to provide the police agent with a top view video streaming to better assess traffic violations.
  • Flying Dynamic Traffic Signal: A set of UAVs can be quickly deployed at a congested intersection to organize the traffic.

Some of these application examples require multiple UAVs to fly together, collaborate, and coordinate to execute a specific mission. When acting in group, the UAVs could overcome their limited energy efficiency if optimal coordination algorithms are used, for example to perfectly share the tasks among the UAVs. In case of Flying Accident Report Agent for example, one UAV could fly to the accident place and issue a report/alarm (e.g., video), then land and transmit its report/alarm over other UAVs in a multi-hop manner, until reaching a UAV or a Road Side Unit (RSU) that would have access to the network (e.g., 4G) and which can forward the report to the relevant entity. Designing such an optimal coordination algorithm is one of the challenges we will be tackling in this project.