News

Drone news – rapidly growing market

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Good Drone Lab at University of San Diego published recently an interesting open access “book” titled “Up in the Air: A Global Estimate of Non-Violent Drone Use 2009-2015“. The report is inevitably US-centric due to use of English language news as data sources, but there are several interesting facts listed in the book.

The two distinct questions the researchers asked are: (1) what is the nature of civilian drone use over time, and (2) what regulatory responses exist to use at the international, state, and sub-state levels. Some of the key findings are:

  • The year 2012 was a breakout period that saw non-military use overtake military use.
  • Commercial, emergency services, health and public safety, and environmental conservation sectors are growing.
  • Legislation is sparse and uneven, but growing.
  • Most regulations focuses on controlling weight, altitude, distance, no-fly zones, and operator certification.
  • There is no consensus policy on non-military drone use.

One thing is clear, commercial use is skyrocketing and does not seem to be slowing down any time soon.

pdf Up in the Air_ A Global Estimate of Non-Violent Drone Use 2009-20.pdf

NTIA UAS Privacy Guidelines

Another recent development comes from the US National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA), who arrived at a consensus regarding privacy guidelines for drone use. The resulting material was published under the name “Voluntary Best Practices for UAS Privacy, Transparency, and Accountability“.

The very characteristics that make UAS so promising for commercial and non-commercial uses, including their small size, maneuverability and capacity to carry various kinds of recording or sensory devices, can raise privacy concerns. (…) Operators should use this technology in a responsible, ethical, and respectful way. This should include a commitment to transparency, privacy and accountability.

The published material contains a number of concrete recommendations. The voluntary best practices encourage UAS users to:

  • inform affected persons of UAS use and the collection of data;
  • take care in the collection and storage of information that identifies a particular person;
  • limit the use and sharing of such data;
  • secure data; and
  • monitor and comply with the law as it evolves.

This topic resonates strongly with what we learned about use of aerial video as our business grew, and thus may be of interest to our readers and followers. Some of the privacy concerns are mitigated by the resolution of video that we collect. Arguably, it is impossible to identify people and vehicles since faces and number plates are less than 10 pixels. Of course, combination of the video with other data source is possible.

A more pressing concern is that video from above allows us to see otherwise private places such as walled-in gardens, backyard, roofs, patios… In response to this, we added anonymization functions. We handle videos sent to us with care and use encryption to allow only key team members unrestricted access to complete imagery, when needed during processing.

For the rest, such as informing the people in the area, we rely on the operators collecting video.

pdf voluntary best practices for uas privacy transparency and accountability.pdf

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National Technical University of Athens PTW research using DataFromSky

The PhD candidate Emmanouil Barmpounakis and his supervisors Dr. John Golias and Dr. Eleni Vlahogianni from The Department of Transportation Planning and Engineering at the National Technical University of Athens are using DataFromSky to study Powered Two Wheelers’ (PTW) overtaking phenomena using the principles of Game Theory:

Both the PTW driver and the driver of the vehicle being overtaken are assumed to be rational decision-makers that develop strategies, while commuting in urban environment, trying to get the best outcome for their decisions. These strategies may be cooperative or not based on both drivers’ choices with respect to the distances and safety gaps they leave from the lead vehicle. Since PTW follow unorthodox trajectories, especially in an urban arterial, having detailed naturalistic data is essential, and this is how DFS comes in handy!

We are always looking for partners from academic sphere. Are you a researcher in traffic or civil engineering? Don’t hesitate to contact us!

This video is an excerpt with no motorcycles present. You can see some new features of the Viewer: a lateral acceleration heatmap, distance measurement, and a testing bounding box makes a guest appearance too. Heatmap overlay is a completely new feature: When activated, you can configure it to display a scalar value. You can currently select from various speed, count and acceleration types of quantity. The color map and its value range are configurable as well.

References:

  1. Barmpounakis, Emmanouil N., Eleni I. Vlahogianni, and John C. Golias. “A Game Theoretic Approach to Powered Two Wheelers Overtaking Phenomena.” Transportation Research Board 94th Annual Meeting. No. 15-1425. 2015.
  2. Barmpounakis, E.N., Vlahogianni, E.I., & Golias, J.C. (2016). Intelligent Transportation Systems and Powered Two Wheelers Traffic, IEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems, 17(4), 908-916. http://doi.org/10.1109/TITS.2015.2497406
  3. Barmpounakis, E. N., E. I. Vlahogianni, and J. C. Golias. “Vision-based multivariate statistical modeling for powered two-wheelers maneuverability during overtaking in urban arterials.” Transportation Letters: The International Journal of Transportation Research (2015): 1942787515Y-0000000020
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DataFromSky in Danish TV and Czech press

DataFromSky has in COWI an exclusive partner in Denmark and other Nordic countries since March this year. COWI’s use of drones for traffic data collection and analysis using DataFromSky has been now covered by DR, the Danish national broadcasting company. In prime time, no less!

You can watch the evening news video. The drone part starts at 6:13. Apart from showing the drone operations and interviewing various officials (all in Danish), you can see a beautiful example of DataFromSky footage there, too – although with all branding zealously removed except for the television logo. The effect of now-implemented and released anonymization is plainly visible there nicely: In the TV low picture quality it looks almost as tilt-shift photography. This is also an opportunity to take a closer look at some real hardware used practically daily for traffic analysis recording.

COWI mentioned this on their City Creators blog in article Droner flyver ind på nethinden (Drones fly into the view), where they previously introduced DataFromSky. They also mention that the commercial drone sector could employ as much as 15 thousand people just in Denmark – whether that figure also originates from the news video we do not know.

Czech articles

An article titled “Světová stopa mladých českých podnikatelů” (The World footprint of young Czech enterpreneurs) was published by the startup competition Nastartujtese.cz across various media, both online and in print. The article showcases the top 3 projects of the last year’s copetition (we were second) and invites submissions to this year’s round. It’s great that traffic safety is taken seriously and that we are among the Czech companies that leaver some impact on the world.

The two immediately reachable versions of the article are these by Podnikatel.cz and Peníze.cz, both in Czech. The article is scheduled to appear in print media within a few weeks, too.

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It’s time to learn!

Seminar invitation headings DataFromSky technology has added new possibilities to transport and road fields. It highlights a great need of people working in these fields – to be equipped with adequate tools for conducting surveys and collecting data. The purposes for which such data is collected places severe requirements on precision and reliability. Choosing the right methods and devices used for traffic monitoring and vehicle counting is a question of selecting the best ones for a given environment.

All of this will be part of discussion in the seminary with title “Methods and techniques for the monitoring and management of road traffic” presented by Eng. Andrea Marella (Trafficlab) and Eng. Erik Sferco (Trieste University), that will take place on Monday, 16th May at the Trieste University.

Program for the whole day is available in the following link, with an explanation on how to participate for those interested.

pdf Locandina-DataFromSky.pdf

A few weeks ago, our Italian partner Eng. Morini from society TAU participated in a meeting day with theme “Advanced applications in road planning: survey and analysis of the traffic and the video images produced by Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and “Big data” dataset obtained from cellular networks”, where he spoke about “advanced systems for survey and analysis of traffic and mobility in urban and suburban areas by processing of video images recorded thanks to flight and aerial platforms”. More information about the event is available at the following link (Italian only):

pdf 1697.pdf

The rising interest shown by universities and official engineering associations demonstrates the growing confidence in DataFromSky and understanding what it is. We hope that these meetings could let traffic technicians know how powerful and innovative tool we are working on.

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Road safety in EU

A month ago, EU Observer, an “independent online newspaper which values free thinking and plain speech“, published an article with a provocative title “Why is road safety not higher on EU agenda?“.

Chart of fatalities on EU roads
Fatality rate development in the EU

Disregarding the somewhat sensationalistic title, the article draws attention to an important fact: While the union pledged in 2011 to halve traffic-related deaths by 2020, the reduction is not exactly going on any more. In the press releases “Road Safety: new statistics call for fresh efforts to save lives on EU roads” and “2015 road safety statistics: What is behind the figures?” the European Commission noted that its road are the safest in the world, but there has been no progress on this front since 2014 – two years in a row. The European Transport Safety Council seconded this with a press release of their own, “Urgent action needed on road safety as new figures show increase in deaths”.

Details of road fatalities by country - chart
Fatalities per million inhabitants by country

Diving into the wealth of charts accompanying the Commission’s press release, it is clear that the EU is divided between west and east in this regard, too. Should the eastern part somehow catch up, the targets would look far more reachable. Yet more alarming part of the statistics is that the vulnerable road users – pedestrians and bicyclists – saw hardly as much of improvement as vehicle occupants. Worth mentioning is that the statistics related to injuries have started being reported in a common format, which will enable better tracking of these injuries.

The various sources mention several ways forward, including passing new legislative – increasing protection of vulnerable road users and revisiting the 2008/96/EC directive on infrastructure. The ETSC specifically calls out delays to a number of such changes as critical. Apart from these, cooperative ITS is mentioned, and Violeta Bulc, EU Commissioner for Transport, adds promotion of self-driving vehicles.

At DataFromSky, we take safety seriously, especially that of vulnerable road users. We are steadily working towards making our services and products better to help understand road users’ interactions – not just for vehicular traffic, but others too. We too hope that technology can contribute to these efforts. We do not mean better cars, however. Better understanding of what happens on the road, using methods exploiting IT and otherwise austere with physical resources: that is what we hope for – and what we bet on, too.

Sources:

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