ADOT to bring on new drones to help with inspection work

Apr 29, 2018, 6:15 PM

(Photo: Arizona Department of Transportation)...

(Photo: Arizona Department of Transportation)

(Photo: Arizona Department of Transportation)

PHOENIX — The Arizona Department of Transportation will be taking its inspection efforts to the skies — literally.

Officials with the department announced earlier this month it brought on eight new aerial drones.

The department said it would be adding the drones to help its engineering staff inspect hard-to-reach areas on some bridges and perform surveying work along state highways in a safer and more efficient manner.

State bridge engineer David Eberhart said in a statement that highway bridge inspections will still be done by inspectors, but the drones will be used to “help our teams safely get video or photos of places that are difficult to see.”

“Drones will play a role in surveying areas near state highways where rock fall or ground movement are potential hazards,” said J.J. Liu, manager of geotechnical services for ADOT’s Bridge Group.

“We’re focused on the safety of the traveling public in monitoring such locations. A drone can collect photos and other information across a larger survey area while helping to keep engineers or geologists out of harm’s way.”

The drones will be part of the department’s mission to “enhance safety and efficiency while shortening highway project delivery time,” it announced.

The drones were given to the Arizona Department of Transportation through a federal innovative technology grant from the Federal Highway Administration-sponsored Arizona Council for Transportation Innovation program.

The program approved the use of $18,100 in federal funds and $4,525 in state funds for the new drones.

The new drones will go into service later this year. Several employees will go through training to be certified as drone pilots.

In a statement, Director John Halikowski said the addition of the drones showed that the department was “committed to building a culture of innovation…to improve the safety and reliability of a statewide transportation system that millions of people depend on every day.”

This has not been the first time the agency has used drones in its operations: It has been using one drone for about a year for a variety of purposes, including surveying a section of State Route 88 northeast of Apache Junction.

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ADOT to bring on new drones to help with inspection work