Drone powered inspections monitoring bridge safety

By Folake Dosu  |  December 12, 2018

robotics-drone-bridge-inspection

Maintaining safe infrastructure is a high priority for government authorities. The Minnesota Department of Transportation and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet have partnered with Intel to put the firm's drone technology to work for bridge inspections in these regions, Digital Trends reports. The earlier officials can detect damage, the more better chance they have at preventing future lane closures.

“The process of bridge inspections is a highly manual process and can be dangerous. What we did with the drone technology is supplement that process to save cost, time, and improve accuracy and reliable data.”

“What people may not know is that majority of U.S. bridges are more than 50 years old, and 10 percent of them are rated structurally deficient or obsolete,” Anil Nanduri, vice president and general manager of the Intel drone team, told Digital Trends. “The process of bridge inspections is a highly manual process and can be dangerous. What we did with the drone technology is supplement that process to save cost, time, and improve accuracy and reliable data.”

Intel’s fleet of Falcon 8+ drones fly the same specific flight paths repeatedly and take thousands of high-res images, which are then viewed in 3D. Engineers and bridge inspectors analyze changes in this data to predict bridge safety.

Digital Trends reports that Intel currently has deployed drones to inspect the Daniel Carter Beard Bridge, connecting Ohio and Kentucky, and the Stone Arch Bridge in Minnesota. Right now, its technology complements the manual inspection process and assists on-site drone operators, though Intel has ambitions for an autonomous solution. 

“For this to happen, drones will need to have a level of autonomy and intelligence and advanced flight safety technology built-in so that bridge inspection operations can be executed independently and without the need of a trained commercial drone pilot on site,” Nanduri said.

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