Barcelona chooses drone technology to improve its management of public spaces

Barcelona chooses drone technology to improve its management of public spaces

Barcelona City Council, IMI and BIT Habitat have entered into a partnership agreement to drive forward a pilot test on the coast of Barcelona within the framework of the Barcelona Urban Innovation Laboratory

New technologies, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, and AI-based image processing provide many opportunities for the improvement of urban management.

The decision has been taken to use drone technology in Barcelona to improve management of public spaces, specifically the beaches. Barcelona City Council, the Institut Municipal d’Informàtica and BIT Habitat have signed a collaboration agreement which, within the framework of the Barcelona Urban Innovation Lab, aims to promote the use of drone technology to improve the management of public spaces and adopt innovative solutions that respond to local needs that the different areas of Barcelona City Council consider could potentially benefit from this technological solution.

It is in this context that Barcelona City Council has issued a public tender for the provision of this service in advance of the summer season. The successful bidder will be tasked with using drone technology to obtain images and video footage for a more effective and efficient management of the coast of the municipal area of Barcelona. The testing of this technological solution will be undertaken with all the necessary legal guarantees with regard to data protection, digital rights and ethical data management.

This project will be one of the first initiatives of the Barcelona Urban Innovation Laboratory, which is run by the BIT Hàbitat municipal foundation. The service, which will operate during 2022, will help Barcelona City Council test innovative solutions aimed at meeting urban needs, while giving businesses and organisations the chance to test solutions in the real world at the pre-marketing phase.

In the summer of 2021, Barcelona City Council carried out a proof-of-concept test to establish the feasibility and suitability of using drone technology to manage beach access in compliance with Act 8/2020, of 30 July, for the protection and regulation of the coastline. The proof-of-concept test yielded extremely good results.

For this coming summer, the aim is to go one step further, with a pilot project that will make it possible to assess the suitability of using this technological solution intensively to capture and process the information required to manage access to Barcelona’s beaches. The aim is for drone technology to become the principal means of obtaining the information needed to manage the coastline, and to be able to convert the pilot project into a regular public service in the future.

In order to ensure that people’s rights and freedoms are duly protected, and in accordance with the methodology established by the Catalan Data Protection Authority, the real-time image processing system anonymises data as part of the generation process itself, and immediately deletes the originals. Once all the images from any given beach have been processed, the system put in place for the beaches adds the numbers of people in each of the images together, in order to obtain the overall number. There is no recognition of individuals. Barcelona City Council will under no circumstances have any access to personal data, as it will only be able to access the anonymised and value-added data generated during the life cycle of the service.

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