Traffic drones to come into operation. | T. AYUGA


Spain’s highways agency is developing unmanned aircraft that could be ready to patrol traffic from as early as next year. The government department has teamed up with Spanish technology firm Sistemas y Montajes Industriales (Sistem) to develop a drone especially designed to monitor traffic on public highways.

Speaking at the Seventh National Road Safety Congress in Valencia yesterday, Alberto de Laorden, the director of Sistem, said the prototype was on schedule to be operational by next year. Under current legislation drones cannot be used for general road surveillance duties because the law requires the operator to keep the drone within sight, meaning it wouldn’t be practical to use it to track hundreds of kilometres of highway.

However, there is huge potential for drone use on Spanish roads , explained Laorden. “Much cheaper than a helicopter and faster to deploy, drones could be used to monitor problem areas such as zones affected by floods or other natural disaster.” Fitted with cameras they could be used to detect faults in the road, to read number plates, and to record traffic infractions, he said.

A pilot scheme to use lifeguard drones to patrol beaches was launched at resorts in Spain over the summer.