The inspection and maintenance of critical infrastructure throughout the United States are enormous. The country has than 4 million miles of roadways, all in different conditions requiring different levels of maintenance and upkeep. And, more than 54,000 bridges in the US need repair.
Drone technology is starting to make a measurable difference for State Departments of Transportation that are incorporating drones into their standard operating procedures for the inspection and assessment of civil infrastructure.
Drones to increase efficiency
A 2016 survey conducted by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) found that 17 State Departments of Transportation are considering or are using drones to assist with inspections. Transportation departments are using drones to help with the following tasks:
- Bridge inspections
- Accident clearance
- Identifying and monitoring risks
As drone technology advances, more State Departments of Transportation are showing interest.
Benefits of drones in infrastructure
Drones offer a means of safely and efficiently conducting inspections, leading to significant cost savings, reduced man hours, less traffic congestion, and improved worker safety. Drones equipped with high-definition thermal cameras also improve data collection and open up opportunities for better preventive maintenance.
Drones improve safety
A 2014 study conducted by the Michigan Department of Transportation determined that drones were a safe, reliable, and cost-effective tool that can help keep workers out of harm’s way, avoid traffic detours, and reduce the use of heavy equipment. Drones can easily access areas that are difficult or dangerous for humans to reach, such as under bridges or along rail tracks. Drones can access an inspection site quickly, capturing data in near real-time, and causing less inconvenience and distraction to drivers.
Drones save time and money
Drones can reduce or eliminate the need for costly shutdowns that are often required for manual inspection.
A standard bridge inspection involves establishing a work zone and redirecting traffic so that inspectors can be hoisted under and over the bridge. Michigan DOT estimates that a traditional inspection of a highway bridge can take eight hours, requiring at least two inspectors and two traffic control personnel, at an estimated cost of more than $4000. Additionally, shutting down one lane of a four-lane highway in a metropolitan area for the ten hours it can take to complete a manual bridge inspection can amount to more than $14,000 in user delay cost.
The same inspection using a drone would require only two workers — a pilot and a spotter — and can be completed in roughly two hours, costing only a few hundred dollars.
Drones allow for better data collection
Drones equipped with high-definition video cameras can inspect all pieces of civil infrastructure to check for issues that could lead to asset failure. Thermal images can help detect deterioration and other problems beneath the surface of concrete so that issues can be monitored and mitigated before conditions become dangerous.
Building a drone program
A well-planned technology roadmap is essential for not only optimizing drone technology, but for allaying public concerns about the use of drones in infrastructure. Establish clear policies for drone technology, including what drones will be used for and why they are being used. State Departments of Transportation are finding that communicating these objectives transparently helps with adoption. Start small to prove the use case, and then establish how drone operations can be scaled across the department.
Digital Aerolus inspection drones
As a pioneer in the industrial drone industry, Digital Aerolus continues to develop and produce the most advanced commercial drones in the world. We are well positioned to quickly adapt to advances in technology and the ever-evolving needs of infrastructure.
Most drones have trouble under bridges due to wind, poor GPS signals, the presence of metal, and difficulty maneuvering in tight and confined spaces.
Digital Aerolus Aertos drones are built and designed using revolutionary industrial science, allowing for stable flight in confined spaces and areas that don’t allow GPS navigation. Our drones’ ability to fly in confined spaces is a breakthrough, especially for use in infrastructure.
- Aertos drones are portable yet industrial strength for reliable access in hard-to-reach areas
- Aertos drones can be turned on near or underneath the metal, allowing for faster inspections
Contact us today to learn more about our industrial drones and how they can help you increase efficiencies, improve worker safety, and reduce inspection costs.