LANSING – Using unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly called
drones, could provide safety benefits and asset management benefits in
monitoring the conditions of the state’s roads and bridges, the results of a
study by the Department of Transportation show.
MDOT has released results of a study using a variety of
drones in tests of state highways and bridges that rand from May 2013 to April
2015. The total study cost $270,324 with 8 percent of the funding coming from
the Federal Highway Administration. It followed an earlier study conducted by
Michigan Technological University.
The study used a variety of drones, trying to assess if the
drones could produce many of the same results as using terrestrial research
means, including personnel.
The report on the study said the drones were able to
collect data that was comparable to the data collected through traditional
means. The report also said the data collected through the drones could be
integrated and validated using several different sets of data.
For example, the state said, drones were able not only to
detect potholes but used thermal imagery to determine potential problems below
the riding surface of the road or bridge.
Officials were also able to maneuver the drones into
difficult areas to conduct research, which in many cases could save the need to
send personnel into areas where they could face traffic hazards.
However, before the use of drones for highway research and
other purposes is fully implemented, the Federal Aviation Agency must complete
rules dealing with motorist safety and privacy issues. The report said it is
expected those rules will be completed sometime either in 2016 or 2017.
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