UAVs Brought in to Help Improve Texas’ Transportation Systems

Researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) are leading a collaborative effort to use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to inspect highways and railroads remotely and, in turn, develop guidelines for how to safely complete the task.

Anand Puppala, a civil engineering professor at UTA, is the primary investigator on the two-year, $770,909 agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation. Teams from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and Texas A&M’s Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) will also contribute.

Puppala and post-doctoral researchers Tejo Bheemasetti and Ujwal Patil, as well as Mike McNair and Cody Lee Lundberg from the UTA Research Institute, will use UTA’s share of the funding, $388,000, to determine how to use UAVs to perform remote sensing and collect high-definition photos while conducting pavement forensics at the U.S. Highway 67 project site in Cleburne and at U.S. Highway 82 near Bell in Fannin County.

The UAVs also will collect data on the condition of railroad tracks and crossings on a section of track in south-central Texas. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and TTI will develop procedural guidelines and best practices for the use of UAVs for this purpose.

“It is safer and less expensive to use a UAV to check pavement performance characteristics because there is no need to close lanes, and a person doesn’t have to be on the roadway or on active railroad tracks,” Puppala says. “The high-resolution photos that we will receive will provide as much information as an instrument on the pavement.”

Peter Crouch, UTA’s dean of engineering, adds, “The use of unmanned vehicle technology to monitor infrastructure in the U.S. is growing fast. This project focused on highways and railways will help make a huge difference in the state’s ability to maintain and ensure continued safety and reliability of key commerce routes. This collaboration will ensure that UTA is taking a very active role in these critical roles in maintaining and improving our transportation systems.”


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