FREMONT, OH (WTOL) - When drivers on the Ohio Turnpike look up, they may see something that will keep them safe. The Ohio Turnpike is taking a shot at new technology, drones, to keep a closer eye on its bridges.
A stretch of the Turnpike in Fremont had a first-of-its-kind inspection on Tuesday to showcase the drone.
Thousands of cars and trucks drive over the turnpike every day, putting stress on a bridge's concrete and supports.
So inspecting them for cracks or other problems is crucial.
We showed you last fall how ODOT uses so-called snooping trucks to carry inspectors around and under bridges. It can be dangerous for the workers and means a lane of the highway has to be shut down.
But the drone will come from the company Sense Fly and can eliminate those worries.
"The pilot will be able to actually control the drone from the ground, and he can see on screen what the drone can see. So the drone is almost an extension of the operator from that standpoint," said Brian Newbacher, Public Information Officer for the Ohio Turnpike.
The Sandusky River bridge was picked for the test, because it has a long bridge span and almost all of it is over the river.
The drone could also be cheaper than renting the large trucks and could also be used one day at major turnpike incidents like the fatal tanker fire on June 23 near Wauseon.
Drivers were stranded and the tanker burned for several days.
"So if we could have been able to fly a drone in there sooner, at the outset of that incident, we could have assessed it more quickly and had our people at less of a risk." said Newbacher.
If the test run is successful, the Ohio Turnpike has two other bridges in mind for drone inspections. They are the bridge over the Maumee River in Lucas County and the one over the Cuyahoga River south of Cleveland.
An ODOT spokesperson in Columbus said they will also be there for the Turnpike's test run and if it goes well, ODOT may look at drones of their own for bridge inspections.