Drones to Monitor Traffic at the NY State Fair
For attendees of the 2017 New York State Fair, there is a new addition to the roster. No, it is not anything you should expect to see on the grounds. It is not even a new performer. It is the hum and buzz of two overhead drones. This year, there is an addition of two small drones that will be used in monitoring traffic.
In previous years, state fairs have always suffered the misfortune of long traffic jams. The New York State Fair has actually become synonymous with long traffic snarl ups, especially during the last weekend of high attendance rates. The 2016 fair, for instance, saw more than 100,000 people attend the fair. The result was a waiting period of more than 2 hours between the time attendees took to get from highway exits to the fairgrounds.
This year concerted efforts between the State Department of Transportation, Homeland Security, and the New York State Police Department will try to ease the traffic loads. Notably, this is the first time that drones will be used to try to reduce traffic during the fair. The sections of the highway under observation will include interstates 81, 690 and 481.
The two drones are owned and will be operated by the Department of Environmental Conservation. The drones will capture live footage on the interstate lines as well as interconnecting roads to the fairgrounds. The video will be used by the DOT and the NYSP to direct and open up traffic jams. The major concentration of traffic controllers will be on parking lot capacities, road accidents and any major changes in traffic patterns.
The Department of Transport has already set up message boards, on the affected interstate lines, to be used in relaying alerts to drivers. Travelers can also access traffic alerts through the state’s 511ny website or via @NYSDOTSyracuse on twitter. Should this year’s fair have lesser traffic headaches, the state fair officials anticipate next year’s state fair to register a higher number of attendees.
As expected, there are a groups that have raised their voices on the use of drones under such circumstances. The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) has voiced its concern over the use of drones at the state fair. Their main line of argument is on the use of drones within the precinct of the constitutional provisions on privacy. A statement from the group goes on to caution that the use of the drones at the state fair should not be used to breach the fair goers’ personal privacy.
State officials, on the other hand, have maintained that nothing of the sort will happen. In effect, they have placed general guidelines on the use of the drones at the event. They have indicated that the drones will only be used during the weekends. In line with the federal aviation administration rules on the use of drones in public airspace; the drones will be flown at heights of not more than 400 meters. They will also be within the optical sight of their operators at all times. Additionally, they will not be flown above the traffic on the highway or the crowds at the fair.
The use of drones to assist in traffic control at the state fair is a commendable idea. It shows how drones can assist in solving some of our day-to-day challenges. It is worth mentioning that this is not the first case of the use of drones in traffic monitoring. India, Denmark, and the Cayman Islands have on numerous occasions used drones for long haul traffic monitoring with registered successes. Drone experts in the States should, therefore, be waiting eagerly to see how well this application works and if it can be applied further.