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Autonomous drones are already playing a key part in package delivery and infrastructure inspection. As smart cities evolve, it will be critical to ensure the safe operation of drones in an urban setting. 

Abu Dhabi is launching a pioneering drone testing facility. The local technology Innovation Institute (TII), which is the applied research pillar of Abu Dhabi’s Advanced Technology Research Council (ATRC), is establishing a first-in-the-region Motion Capture (MOCAP) facility, outside of the United States.

The facility will enable the testing of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) or drones in an augmented reality (AR) or mixed reality environment, UAE’s state-run news agency Wam reported.

The new facility is particularly suited to the task of bringing algorithms for the security of drones from simulation to real-world application by allowing a gradual transition of scenario elements from pure simulation, to virtual, to real-world.

Thanks to the facility, the Secure Systems Research Center (SSRC) will be able to simulate flying through the city of Abu Dhabi, conduct sophisticated experiments and enable virtual, augmented, and mixed reality testing. The ability to simulate virtual camera images and sensors will allow testing in environments that are too large, too dangerous, or too time-consuming to construct in reality.

The facility is based on an ongoing collaboration with US-based Purdue University that holds the distinction for the largest indoor motion capture facility in the world, according to