Overcoming Unique Challenges of UAS Bridge Inspections

  • Engineering
  • Safety
  • UAS

28 Oct 2019

Drones for bridge inspections
Nick Ray, Lead Bridge Inspector / UAS Pilot uses an sUAS to capture images of the underside of the bridge deck.

Using UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) to get to those hard-to-reach places under or on top of a bridge, can be a very useful tool. To inspect bridges thoroughly, inspectors need to get eyes on all bridge components. Typically, this requires gearing up the ropes and harness to climb down on top of the piers or hang over the side of the bridge. Our bridge inspectors choose a different route, UAS. By utilizing a small Unmanned Aerial System (sUAS), our bridge inspectors are able to quickly deploy the aircraft, fly it close to what they want to inspect and take a high-resolution image of exactly what they are looking at on the screen.

Using UAS for bridge inspections, can save time, improve the data quality of inspection, and most importantly keep inspectors safer. However, there are unique challenges the remote pilot faces when operating a UAS in close proximity to a bridge.

Below are some challenges and possible resolutions to overcome those demands.

Challenge and Resolution Table

Although there are several challenges faced with utilizing sUAS for bridge inspections, the benefit far outweighs the demand. Being able to capture images under the bridge deck without the use of a snooper truck, saves time, money and downtime. As aircraft and sensors advance, these challenges will become less cumbersome and lead to even better data acquisition for bridge inspections.


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