In this article, we take a look at 5 cities that are ahead of the game when it comes to integrating drones to improve the lives of their citizens.

Over the coming decades, drones will undoubtedly play a crucial role in smart cities. According to the United Nations, 55% of the world’s population currently lives in urban areas, and this figure is predicted to climb to 68% by 2050.  

If this projection is accurate, cities will need to get a whole lot “smarter” in terms of the way that they are designed and operated in order to enhance the lives of their citizens.

But what exactly is a smart city?

According to tech giant Cisco, smart cities are those cities that “use digital technology to connect, protect, and enhance the lives of citizens.” Drones are just one of the many important pieces of the puzzle when it comes to developing and operating a smart city.   

In this article, we take a look at 5 cities from around the world that we think are ahead of the game when it comes to leveraging the power of drones as smart city devices.

The List

1. San Diego – in October 2018, Chula Vista Police Department (CVPD) and drone software pioneer Cape announced that drones would be integrated into the CVPD’s day-to-day emergency response missions. According to the CVPD UAS Drone Program webpage, examples of uses include:

  • “providing an overhead view of an area or incident for ground personnel
  • safely clearing the interior of buildings
  • providing detailed documentation of crime and accident scenes
  • searching for lost or missing persons.”

Prior to implementing the program, CPVD liaised with the community through various channels and public forums.

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A San Diego neighbourhood. Photo by Urban Sanden from Unsplash.

San Diego is one of 10 American Cities that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has selected to test drones. The others are:

  • Reno, Nevada
  • Fairbanks, Alaska
  • Bismark, North Dakota
  • Memphis, Tennessee
  • Durant, Oklahoma
  • Herndon, Virginia
  • Topeka, Kansas
  • Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Fort Myers, Florida

2. Singapore – In November 2018, the South China Morning Post reported that Singapore is looking to deploy a fleet of drones for delivering parcels, providing security and inspecting buildings.

As part of this plan, the Singapore Government is helping companies test drones in a specially designated 200-hectare area that includes high-rise buildings and shopping malls. The Singapore civil aviation authority stated that it sees the potential for drones “to transform mobility and logistics”.  

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Singapore skyline. Photo by Chuttersnap from Unsplash.

3. Canberra – In the ACT, government-sanctioned Project Wing has been trialing drone delivery for the past 18 months. During this period, a variety of household food, chemist and household items have been delivered to Canberrans. Wing is an initiative of Google’s parent company, Alphabet.

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Canberra countryside. Photo by Linda Xu from Unsplash.

4. Seoul According to Korean news publication, Hankyoreh, the South Korean government is backing two smart city projects in “Sejong 5-1 Life Zone and Busan Eco Delta City at DMC Hi-Tech Industry Centre, located in Seoul’s Sangam neighbourhood”. As part of the projects, drones will be used for deliveries and to provide medical services.

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Seoul streetscape. Photo by Tommy from Unsplash.

5. Reykjavik – One of Iceland’s largest eCommerce companies, Aha, is combining Chinese-made drones with an Israeli logistics system to deliver items to Reykjavik householders. Although these drones are missing some traditional in-built system features, there have been no reported injuries to date. The service currently covers close to half the population of Reykjavik.

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Reykjavik. Photo by Tim Trad from Unsplash.

Integration challenges

Integrating drones into smart cities of the future does however bring its own set of challenges that will need to be managed with great care.

According to the paper ‘Drones for Good in Smart Cities: A Review’ published in 2018 by Muhammed Khan et al, these challenges include privacy, safety, and security in dense urban environments.

The authors also note that regulatory frameworks will also be an important factor in facilitating the successful integration of drones into smart cities.


There are many cities from around the World that are integrating drones into the smart cities of tomorrow. The list we’ve compiled includes those cities that we see as particularly progressive in terms of their drone integration efforts.

Let us know down below if there are any other cities that you think should be on this list.

Thanks for reading!

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Feature photo by Rodrigo Kugnharksi from Unsplash.