The city of Barcelona in Spain is using drones to patrol its beaches during the San Juan festivities currently taking place. As this is the first time the festival has been held in two years, the city is concerned about overcrowding, safety issues, and ensuring that emergency responders can act quickly when needed. The test is the result of a collaboration between the City Council, the Municipal Institute of Informatics (IMI) and BIT Habitat, and will take place within the framework of the Barcelona Urban Innovation Laboratory.
Two drones will use artificial intelligence (AI) technology to show in real-time how busy the beaches are. To protect privacy, the drones will not record any footage or use facial recognition. While the city does not have a specific drone policy, it is a founding member of the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights.
During the pandemic, the city monitored beach occupancy using AI analytics on camera data to measure the proportion of available sand. Michael Donaldson, Barcelona’s Chief Technology Officer, said that the drones are cheaper, cover more ground, and are more versatile.
The city will closely examine the efficiency of the beach monitoring project, which may lead to a broader program involving drone usage. Such usage could include fire detection, improperly parked motorhomes, and general coastal monitoring, including cleanliness, the detection of oil spills and obtaining information on the impact of storms on the city’s coastline. Barcelona also plans to create a public register of the algorithms used by the City Council. It will collaborate with the cities of Amsterdam and Helsinki as to how these registers could interoperate so that the algorithms can be reused in multiple cities.