A View From Above – Drones Could Make Bridge Inspections Safer

A View From Above - Drones Could Make Bridge Inspections Safer

Routine inspections of bridges are mandatory to keep up with safety standards and to ensure driver safety.  Equally as important is the safety of our bridge inspectors, which is why a team at the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) collaborated with Collins Engineers to explore how drones can be used to reduce costs and minimize risk for all bridge inspectors.

Traditionally when inspecting bridges, there is a choice between using an aerial work platform (AWP) or under-bridge inspection vehicle, ladders or rope access. This choice depends on the type of bridge, access needed, and crews’ ability to close lanes of traffic.

Regardless of the method used to carry out the work, the associated costs and dangers of bridge inspections remain a challenge.

In addition to identifying the benefits of drones for inspections, the team is also developing best-practice guidelines that detail exactly when and how to best employ drones, more formally called unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

The team’s goal is to implement a statewide UAV contract to obtain close-up inspection data for all bridges meeting this policy’s criteria, on a set cycle, for both state-owned and locally owned bridges.

Check out the full article from our friends over at Roads and Bridges, including MnDOT’s full Phase-1 report of this project.

*Image of drone under the Blatnik Bridge –  second type to be tested by MnDOT.