Technology readiness for cities: the near-future case of autonomous passenger drones

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Autonomous Aerial Vehicles (drones) are a transformative technology at the cusp of being adopted for real world passenger transport in cities (Moore, et al., 2018). Passenger drone research remains focused on the advancement (Gao, et al., 2018), opportunities (Zhang, et al., 2018) and technology readiness (Torens, Dauer & Adolf, 2018) of drone features and systems. The technology-focused planning literature dominantly focuses on Smart City frameworks for enhancing technology integration into urban planning (Caragliu, Del Bo & Nijkamp, 2011), with an emerging focus on the implementation of specific technology strategies (Bayat & Kawalek, 2018; Yigitcanlar et al., 2018). However, the literature stops short of interrogating the technology readiness of cities that will inevitably attempt to implement specific technologies (i.e. autonomous passenger drones) into their urban fabrics. That is, cities will be pressured to allow (or race to adopt) fleets of drone taxis to ease pressure on already stressed and near capacity ground transport networks; but where will drone operations be seen as safe, practical, desirable, or at least tolerable, additions to the urban rhythm and hum? How compatible are existing urban development patterns and policies to a future that includes aerial passenger drones landing in neighbourhoods and buzzing across their skies? This paper summarises the currently known opportunities for aerial passenger drone technologies for improving urban system performance and proposes an inclusive method for cities to enhance their readiness for the forthcoming technology. The method is applied to the city of Brisbane (Australia's third largest city) to explicate the practicality of interrogating city technology readiness in the context of aerial passenger drones, highlight jurisdictional and governance tensions, and detail learnings from implementing the method with implications for smoothing the transition to implementing transformative technologies.
Transformative technology, autonomous aerial vehicles, technology adoption methods technology readiness