March 2019 Vol. 27, No. 1

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MnDOT develops UAS expertise for bridge inspection

Since 2015, MnDOT has used UAS to inspect more than 60 Minnesota bridges, developing procedures and perfecting techniques.

Phase III of the research evaluated a drone that flies within a protective rolling cage to take readings and videos in confined spaces. Researchers developed a system for using this new drone with other UAS, cameras, and inspection tools to create reports detailed with models, maps, and photographs. The new system saves thousands of dollars a day inspecting large and difficult structures, keeps inspectors out of harm’s way, and all but eliminates lane closures.

“A drone won’t replace an actual inspector but will enhance inspections," says Jennifer Wells, state bridge inspection engineer with MnDOT's Bridge Office. "It saves time and considerable cost if we want to reach remote areas."

MnDOT intends to develop a UAS bridge inspection and training service that will be made available to state and local agencies throughout Minnesota.

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