If you see something strange flying over downtown Baton Rouge later this week, don’t panic. Two drones will be buzzing overhead Thursday doing field research for the update of a downtown parking feasibility study. The unmanned aerial vehicles will be deployed several times during the day for two-hour periods to assess parking patterns on downtown streets and in surface lots. “Using drone technology as opposed to having people walk around on the ground and count the cars is a way to bring efficiency to the project,” says Bob Schmidt,
Louisiana transportation manager for AECOM, the engineering firm conducting the study. “It won’t be a whole Air Force full of drones. One or two can cover a lot of ground, as you might imagine.”
The drones will capture aerial photographs that engineers will then use to determine where parking is available, where it’s most needed and how levels of need vary depending on time of day. “We think it’s pretty cool,” says Davis Rhorer, executive director of the Downtown Development District, which entered into a contract with AECOM in July to update the 2005 downtown parking study.
“We don’t want people to be worried if they see drones flying around.” After the drones finish gathering data, AECOM will plug the data into a parking model. The firm will then run the model and report back to the city and the DDD, which will use the information to make assessments on future downtown parking needs. Schmidt expects the $49,500 study to take about six weeks to complete.