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Late for a meeting and worried you won’t find parking? Don’t worry: That drone flying above your car has got your back.

It may be some time before that wonderful vision of the future comes to pass, but Siemens thought enough of University of Massachusetts Dartmouth student Amir Ehsani Zonouz’s concept for “intelligent parking drone technology” to name it the winner of the company’s first-ever Mobility IDEA contest.

The idea is pretty simple: a set of quadcopters could fly over parking-impacted urban areas, keeping track of available spaces. When someone drives into the area, the drones could signal to the driver — perhaps through a mobile app or the vehicle’s onboard communications system, or by flying ahead of the car — where to go to park.

If you can resist the urge to think of the downsides (people crashing into the back of buses while trying to follow the drones, drivers shooting down the drones so they can swoop in on open spaces), it’s a fun idea. After all, we’ve all screamed and ranted at how hard it can be to find parking, and while there have been plenty of companies that have come along with systems that promise to make it easy, nobody has yet solved the problem. Maybe that’s because they’re relying on data rather than being able to actually see open spaces from above.

winner quadcopter 2


Siemens was impressed enough by Zonouz’s idea that it has committed to giving him access to a team of R&D experts. The company will also hold an innovation workshop aimed at building a fleshed-out prototype of his parking drone project.

For now, however, you’re going to have to keep on parking the way you always have: circling the neighborhood, and hoping like crazy that person in front of you doesn’t grab the one spot that’s opening up down the block.

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