Unveiling DroneUp’s Innovative Municipalities Project

November 14, 2021

Leveraging Drone Flight Services for Your City


What if your city could speed up its ability to identify and fix potholes? Or quickly scale its ability to save trees being lost to an invasive species?

And what if it could do these things while saving money and improving its services overall?

DroneUp’s Innovative Municipalities Project is a new initiative designed to help cities do these things, and a lot more. 

The core focus of the project is to test the ways that drones can help cities improve the work they do from one day to the next by leveraging drone technology.

Through close collaborations between DroneUp and city governments, project leaders identify and test custom-built solutions for each city’s unique needs, employing cutting edge drones and software to help cities save money, improve efficiency, and, in some instances, keep people out of harm’s way.

Drones are being used for a variety of work these days, including sewer inspections, maintaining critical infrastructure, or even helping personnel at nuclear power plants reduce their exposure to radiation. In fact, there are dozens of ways that drones can provide safety and savings benefits to cities and to private companies, with more being tested and implemented all the time.

Through the Innovative Municipalities Project, DroneUp seeks to introduce city governments to all these benefits, helping them find the unique solutions that will make their cities safer and more efficient for their citizens.

How Winchester, Virginia Is Driving Innovation

DroneUp’s first partner for the Innovative Municipalities Project is the city of Winchester, Virginia. 

Over the last few years, Winchester has been working hard to innovate.

The city’s Innovation and Information Services Department is devoted to this work, and has established a clear set of goals focused on evaluating and adopting new technologies to help the city better deliver services to its citizens.

Even before partnering with DroneUp, Winchester leadership was already interested in exploring the integration of drone technology.

Areas of interest for drone integration in the city included:

  • Economic development—Exploring ways that drones could contribute to building the local economy by helping people start businesses.
  • Education—Adding drone-related materials to school curricula to drive interest in STEM careers and help students develop drone-related skills that would prepare them for future employment opportunities.
  • City departments—Testing the ways that drones might be able to help Winchester improves its processes across all the work the city does.

The goals for the work the city wants to do with drone flight services s are twofold: 1) To help Winchester’s citizens find new career paths and build the local economy; and 2) To help the city leverage commercial drone technology to make the work it does safer, less expensive, and more efficient.

To tackle the second goal, Winchester became the first city to begin testing drones as part of DroneUp’s Innovative Municipalities Project earlier this year.

Five Tests in Five Days

Winchester leadership worked with DroneUp to identify five different potential use cases for drones in the city:

  1. Water usage—Improving the collection of water meter data by using drones to collect it.
  2. Pavement conditions—Mapping roads whose upkeep is the city’s responsibility to improve the speed and efficiency of their maintenance.
  3. Energy loss detection—Using thermal cameras mounted on drones to identify neighborhoods where there was significant energy loss that could be avoided through improvements.
  4. City survey—Surveying the city to create a real-time record of it that could be updated over time.
  5. Saving trees—Using drone mapping and detailed digital twins of neighborhoods to identify trees infested with invasive lantern flies so the city’s arborist could create a proactive plan for saving its trees and fighting off the flies.

Each of these five tests was performed by the DroneUp team over a period of five days, with a single test performed each day.

The guiding principle of the tests, and of the Innovative Municipalities Project in general, was to take work traditionally done by people and explore ways it might be improved through the use of drone technology.

For each test, the DroneUp team first benchmarked the cost and time required to do the work in the traditional manner—that is, however the city was currently doing it—and then compared that data to the test results.

How Drones Can Help the City of Winchester—Results from Our Five Days of Testing

So—want to know what happened?

Over the next month and a half, we will be publishing a series of articles highlighting each one of these tests. 

Stay tuned to see what Winchester learned about how drones can potentially help it to improve a range of its services—and how these improvements could come to your city, too, one day.