West Sussex Council Tests Drones for Close Inspection of Bridges

Certain technological innovations have already proven useful for road works, and these include advanced machinery and equipment which have long been utilised by contractors, builders, and everyone else involved in road network development, repair, and maintenance. But there is another innovation, much smaller than the machinery which we are all familiar with, which may prove similarly useful as well. Balfour Beatty, working in close partnership with the West Sussex County Council, has started testing the usefulness of drones for the inspection of bridges in the county. 

Inspecting bridges in West Sussex with drones

Inspecting bridges in West Sussex with drones

The testing of drone technology for bridge inspection: benefits

The tests have been performed so far on a total of two bridges, which has resulted in about £8000 saved, according to both the County Council and Balfour Beatty. These savings are substantial, especially when compared to traditional surveys done in the past.

Regular and routine bridge inspections are done on bridges about once every 24 months to make sure that these bridges are fit for the use of the public. In the past, standard inspections involved the meticulous management of traffic so that inspectors could carry out their work in a safe manner both over the water and at certain heights. These inspections, needless to say, resulted in disruption to motorists and the general public. But with the use of technology such as drone technology in order to check a bridge’s condition, councils and contractors can reduce the potential risks on health and safety as well as substantially decrease the expense involved and the inconvenience to the public. With the use of drones for the inspection of bridges, the need for the thorough and time-consuming management of traffic is all but eliminated.

How it is done

The drones are operated by a representative of Balfour Beatty – they are, in fact, run by one of the company’s six drone pilots, who are all licensed by the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority). Every single drone is also fitted with state-of-the-art equipment for recording, so that the work crew on the ground can easily check and review the bridge’s condition as soon as the filming is done. For additional safety in the operation of the drone, a second camera is utilised to actually film the flying drone whilst it is being operated. An assistant is also on-hand to review the drone’s safety parameters in real-time.

According to Balfour Beatty and the West Sussex Council, the drones are additionally equipped with specially-designed floats which protect the drones and allow them to be landed safely on the water in case of emergency or necessity. Furthermore, the drones are fitted with GPS navigation systems to prevent the machines from flying or hovering without authorisation onto designated No Fly zones, which include airport spaces. 

 

Image credit: Highways Magazine

Posted on 12 Jun 2017 in Technology

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