Everyone knows what drones are, right? They have gained visibility for use in military and monitoring applications, but have a wide variety of more 'friendly', useful applications here at home, such as helping understand the condition of our transportation infrastructure. They are flying machines, operated for a given purpose either autonomously or remotely, that have uses well beyond their better-known reputation.
Using high-resolution aerial imagery to understand conditions on the ground is nothing new, MTRI Senior Research Scientist
Brooks, who specializes in remote sensing technology and geographic information systems (GIS), heads MTRI's project team evaluating uses of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). But it's a real team effort, with computer scientists programming analysis software, electrical engineers upgrading UAV flight capabilities,
Now about those "drones." The
Both UAVs take full-sized high-definition digital images, with the higher resolution ones capable of better than one centimeter 3D resolution. "They can show us how many potholes are in a road and how deep they are, the degree of crown (curve) in a roadway, identify rutting conditions in a roadway, wash-boarding, drainage, and evaluate density and severity of road and bridge problems," says Brooks. Up to now, agencies responsible for roads have been reactive, checking out problems after someone calls to complain, he explains. "This technology turns reactive responses to proactive responses through improved asset management practices," he says.
The UAVs' flight is controlled by a "pilot" on the ground, reminiscent of remote-control model airplanes, but if they have to, they can find their own way home. They fly about 100 feet above the ground, well below the
And MTRI is experimenting with another, even smaller quadcopter, the open source Crazyflie, for inspecting confined spaces and seeing if it's safe to send a person inside there. It weighs two-thirds of an ounce and costs
MTRI's UAV work for US DOT/RITA is a
Right now, UAVs can only be used regularly by government agencies including public universities. But the
MTRI also represents the University in the
"We are on the cusp of an explosion in UAV data collection that can help save money and increase safety during our inspections of roads, bridges, and confined spaces," Brooks predicts. MTRI's work with UAVs will lead the way.
TNS 18DejucosGrace-140116-30FurigayJane-4604064 30FurigayJane
Most Popular Stories
- Koch Brothers Step up Anti-Obamacare Campaign
- Vybz Kartel Convicted of Murder
- Stocks Close Lower Ahead of Crimea Vote
- Ulta Shares Look Good on Strong Q4
- FDIC Sues Big Banks Over Rate Manipulation
- Jittery Investors Dumping Russian Stocks
- JLo Turns the Tables in New Vid: 'I Luh Ya Papi'
- U.S. Consumer Sentiment Falls in Early March
- FDIC Accuses Big Banks of Fraud, Conspiracy
- Is Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 in Andaman Sea?