The next time you spend 20 minutes circling a parking garage trying to find the last empty spot, consider this: Someday soon, you might be able to let a drone do the work. A concept for a new parking system would use a fleet of quadcopters to scout out open spaces and then guide cars to the closest one.
“I was always frustrated trying to find parking…I thought there should be a better way,” says Amir Ehsani Zonouz, a UMass Dartmouth student who came up with the concept.
The network of quadcopters would hover over a parking lot, automatically detect an open spot, and then either lead a driver through the car’s navigation system. For someone with an older car, or in underground parking garages that block GPS signals, the drone could just fly in front, manually guiding the driver into the spot.
The concept won a mobility competition held by the technology company Siemens, which is considering working with Zonouz to develop the idea into an actual product.
“We’re going to hold a prototyping workshop, and we’re going to spend a couple of days putting together either the whole system or a part of the system, just as kind of a proof of concept so we can get this rolling,” says Ben Collar, head of U.S. research and development for Siemens Road and City Mobility.
The system is feasible to build, Collar says. “Technically, there are some challenges, but I don’t foresee that any of them are insurmountable,” he says. “The technology that he’s choosing, working on quadcopters, is enough on the edge of technology to be interesting and to provide a good technical challenge for university students and researchers, but it’s not out of this world and it’s going to be solvable.”
The biggest challenge, as with all things drone-related, will be waiting for regulations from the FAA. But if it happens, the technology could make a big difference–drivers spend 70 million hours each year, and countless gallons of gas, trying to park their cars.