Michigan DOT estimated that significant time and cost savings can be reaped from utilizing drones to perform bridge inspections.

Survey found a growing number of state DOTS are using unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, for safer, better and faster data collection.

Date Posted

AASHTO Transportation TV Special Report on the many ways State DOTs are utilizing UAVs

Summary Information

A March 2016 survey by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials found that seventeen state departments of transportation had researched and/or used drones which are also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). The aircraft have assisted state DOTs with bridge inspections, accident clearance, surveying and identifying, monitoring and mitigating risks posed by landslides, rockslides and flooding.

Benefits of using UAVs:

  • Improve safety. Previous studies found that the UAVs keep workers out of harm’s way. For example, a traditional bridge inspection involves setting up work zones, detouring traffic, and using heavy equipment. The UAVs, on the other hand, can get in and out quickly, capturing data in near real-time and causing less distraction and inconvenience to drivers.
  • Save time and money. A standard bridge inspection of the deck portion of a highway bridge using UAVs can be done in just 25 percent of the time and at just nearly 5 percent of the cost. See detailed comparison of a manual vs drone bridge inspection below.

Bridge Inspection Resource Usage: Manual vs. Drone Comparison