Delaware River and Bay Authority Tries Out UAS for Bridge Inspections


The Delaware River and Bay Authority (DRBA) has implemented an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) for an inspection of the Delaware Memorial Bridge Twin Span.

Keystone Aerial Surveys Inc., based at Northeast Philadelphia Airport, in cooperation with WSP/Parsons Brinckerhoff, used an Inspire Pro 1 and Maverik X8 to perform the inspections. The test flights occurred on the New Jersey side of the Bridge complex on Tuesday, April 5.

“The Delaware Memorial Bridge Twin Span is subjected to a rigorous inspection program every year,” says Shekhar Scindia, DRBA’s project engineer. “Drones have the potential for making bridge inspection operations significantly safer and more cost efficient.” He adds that the annual inspection costs of the authority bridges at times exceed $500,000.

This inspection tested the viability of using drones to inspect areas of the bridge that are hard to access. The drone obtained video and still imagery within a concrete anchorage, externally of a concrete pier, and of the bridge’s steel cable and superstructure. The DRBA will assess the relative quality of the data recorded and the operational conditions, compared to traditional methods.

The use of drone technology may enable inspections to occur in less time, for less money, at better quality and with significantly reduced lane-closure requirements, says the DRBA.

Cape May County, N.J, airport – KWWD, operated by the DRBA – has also hosted drone research campaigns.

“Working with our partners in Cape May County, the DRBA has established Cape May County airport as a venue for collaboration and innovation in the UAS field,” says Scott A. Green, DRBA’s executive director. “Today’s test of the use of drones for bridge inspections at the Delaware Memorial Bridge is a case of putting our money where our mouth is.”

The DRBA says it has been actively engaged in safe drone research and development as a member of The Cape May County NJ UAS Innovation Forum and the Delaware UAS Task Force.

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