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Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) has begun using drones to help manage its road network. Live images taken from the drones will be used to assist the team in dealing with congestion, as well as informing the public of incidents quicker.

The drone team will be operating in key locations across the region, providing a live panoramic overview of the roads, and enabling the team to manage traffic jams more effectively.

Drones were put to action for the first time over Digbeth, an area in Birmingham city centre, on a particularly busy day, coinciding with a rail strike. The images received showed congestion building, allowing the team to deploy Transport Safety Officers who were able to divert drivers away from the heavy traffic.

The use of drone technology could have many other benefits, including filling in the gaps for CCTV cameras, and for the emergency services in the event of crashes and other incidents.

Andy Street, West Midlands mayor and chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), said: “Since it was launched three years ago, our Regional Transport Coordination Centre has been at the forefront of innovation in transport management – playing a major role in the success of last summer’s spectacular Commonwealth Games.

“Now we’re building on the existing provision of hundreds of CCTV cameras covering our road, rail and tram networks by bringing drone technology into our repertoire to further improve coverage.”

TfWM also plans to test an automated drone, which would be the first remote-operated drone system trialled in the UK over an urban area. Currently, five employees have been trained to operate the new drones.

Kerry Blakeman, accountable drone manager for TfWM, said: “We are constantly looking to develop the capacity and improve the quality of information available to our transport coordination centre.”

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