The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has begun testing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in an effort to help improve the safety of workers and the public, reduce costs, and introduce new strategies on everything from bridge inspections to determining the appropriate responses to emergency incidents.
Recently, IDOT purchased two drones to explore ways to enhance mapping practices and regular inspections of bridges, as well as document progress in work zones.
The department expects the aircraft to play an important role in increasing efficiency and improving employee safety by reducing the need to have workers in the field in high-risk situations.
“One of our main priorities has been to encourage staff to find opportunities to innovate and seek out new ways to use the latest technology that supports the important work we do,” explains Randy Blankenhorn, Illinois’ transportation secretary. “While we are still in the experimental stage, we know that drones can gather valuable data to support a wide variety of applications.”
The department also envisions that the technology could eventually assist in the 3D design of projects, geological studies and technical exhibits.
IDOT will also explore the UAVs as a resource to prepare materials that educate and inform the public about impacts of construction and future projects.
The department notes that the UAV flights will follow strict adherence of Federal Aviation Administration rules and will be overseen and deployed by experienced personnel in IDOT’s division of aeronautics.