OH Turnpike uses drone for bridge inspection

OH Turnpike uses drone for bridge inspection
(Source: WTOL)
(Source: WTOL)

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Drones have become more and more popular over recent years, and now state agencies have began to find ways of using them for public safety.

Until now, inspecting a bridge like the one that crosses the Sandusky River near Fremont was a long and dangerous task. But now with drone technology, the inspections will be safer and more efficient.

The drone, developed by SenseFly, was built specifically for close quarter inspections of buildings and bridges.

Tuesday, officials got a first hand demonstration of how the aircraft inspection works. The hope is to replace the current form of inspection, which suspends workers from underneath bridge spans on a truck arm.

"Instead, putting them back at a safe location or at their desk and they can view the images the drone is covering." said Randy Cole, OH Turnpike executive director. "And we hope we get a good, if not better inspection, than we would have if they were hanging under the bridge."

The drone is fitted with seven cameras that feed live video back to the pilot and bridge inspectors on the ground; Along with four cameras on the body and a suspended tri-camera head, with a high definition lens, wide angle lens, and a thermal camera.

"You can look at heat signatures, maybe there's some deterioration here or there that this aircraft can pickup that the human eye just can not," said David Gallagher, chief of staff of the Unmanned Aircraft Division of ODOT.

Along with keeping workers safe, the drone can inspect an entire bridge in a shorter period of time and let workers focus on maintenance.

"You can find the areas where you might will need to look at more or more in depth, and that guy can then go focus on those ones instead of trying to go along the whole bridge." said Briton Vorhees of SenseFly.

After a cost analysis, Turnpike officials hope to utilize more drones for inspections next year.
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