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A vision of our Drone Futures (from left to right): Apartment of the future complete with personal aerial vehicle landing pads (image courtesy of  Humphreys and Partners), Drones ready for take-off from a dronepad (image courtesy of Ehang) and an urban droneport (image courtesy of Saul Ajuria Fernandez).
A vision of our Drone Futures (from left to right): Apartment of the future complete with personal aerial vehicle landing pads (image courtesy of Humphreys and Partners), Drones ready for take-off from a dronepad (image courtesy of Ehang) and an urban droneport (image courtesy of Saul Ajuria Fernandez).

As all the major players look to develop flying cars or personal air vehicles (PAVs) , air taxis and skyway parcel delivery services, the fabric of our cities must change….sci-fi visions of flying cars in films such as ‘Bladerunner’ have arrived!

A new lower airspace must be developed to accommodate the future world of drone technology and the whole fabric of our cities must adapt to this new lifestyle and new mobility. 

The first research of its kind, ‘Drone Futures’ by Lancaster University Senior Lecturer in Design Dr Paul Cureton, predicts a whole new built environment and examines how it will impact our cities in the future. 

As Dr Cureton, himself a drone pilot, explains: “The technology has arrived before society is ready. It is quite Utopian in a sense but we need to figure out how we actually use it and for whose benefit.”

“One of the positive aspects of drones is that they provide a unique viewpoint on the world. They are unique mirrors that show our societies, environments and changing spaces, often shared across journalism and social media they are a key medium of communication.”

The study explores new game-changing ways using Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in landscape and urban design.

The research moots key changes to our cities, prompted by drones and PAVs, including:

·        Architecture, infrastructure and housing must be adapted to accommodate drone delivery and PAVs, with roof landing sites, ‘skyports’ like mini airports and drone hives which are logistics bases.

·        Drone delivery and PAVs will require a whole system of urban air traffic management, legislation and policy.

·        Drone Artificial Intelligence (Ai) will map our cities, monitor the public and assist in environmental management.

·        Drones will be further integrated with the construction sector through surveying, monitoring as well as being used as robotic devices for building.

·        Data that drones collect will be critical in creating virtual replicas of cities contributing to a key function of urban smart city management.

·        Drones will function as important environmental monitoring devices and key tools for fighting climate change.

Dr Cureton examines both the philosophical use of these tools and practical steps for implementation by designers by looking at key historical examples.

He explains: “To look forwards means we need to look backwards first. To understand the role of drones and flying cars in the future means we need to look at historical imaginables of flight such as H. G. Wells (1908) or the architect Le Corbusier (1935).”

The research discusses UAS and its connectivity to other design technologies and processes, including mapping, augmented reality and virtual reality.

With international contributions, multi-disciplinary sources, case studies, ‘Drone Futures’, examines new powers of flight for visualizing, interpreting and managing landscapes and urban spaces of tomorrow.

‘Drone Futures’, illustrated in full colour throughout, is published on 26th June, 2020 by Routledge, CRC Press.

 

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