drone certificationCity of Aspen goes high for aerial footage of downtown landscape

September 9, 2021by helo-10

Dusting off a drone the city of Aspen has not put to use for a while, officials will be watching from above this weekend for pedestrian safety issues as the Food & Wine Classic comes to town.

The city’s engineering and GIS departments are joining forces to use the drone to help gather aerial information for projects that are currently being planned.

Last week, the drone was flown over the Park Circle and Midland Avenue neighborhood where the engineering department is contemplating improvements to create safer interactions between pedestrians and vehicles.

“We’ll utilize that for some of our conceptual designs,” said City Engineer Trish Aragon.

The city received clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration to operate the drone Friday for as many as six hours in the downtown core, which will be bustling with pedestrians, bicyclists and cars as the Food & Wine Classic kicks off.

“We are going to utilize it during Food and Wine for particular intersections along Galena (Street) as part of our downtown core pedestrian safety project so that we can look at the vehicle and pedestrian interactions along Galena,” Aragon said.

Aspen City Council is considering a reimagined Galena Street corridor in the downtown core that would convert parking spaces from angle to parallel to make way for dedicated bicycle lanes and an improved pedestrian thoroughfare.

Bridgette Kelly, the city’s GIS program manager, said they have to fly the drone under specific FAA restrictions due to the close proximity to the airport, which includes not operating it over moving vehicles or pedestrians.

So the city will operate from stationary locations, specifically parking spaces that will be sectioned off with traffic cones, where the drone will capture video and still shots from as high as 100 feet in the air.

“We’ll work with our parking and our police department,” Kelly said, “so this is a very coordinated effort in order to adhere to these FAA regulations.”

There are two staff members in engineering who have their drone pilot certifications and will be part of Friday’s operation.

GIS and engineering have offered the drone to other departments in the municipal government, and so far the parks department has expressed interest.

“It’s just another tool for us to communicate to the community what our projects will look like and the existing conditions of their projects,” Aragon said.

Kelly said it’s a benefit that the city doesn’t have to contract with an outside source to get that type of footage.

“By bringing this in house we’re able to quickly and with very little budget obtain that type of photography, which is really cool,” she said.

Future footage could be used for public outreach on the city’s online forum that seeks feedback from people on various projects.

“Showing an engineer’s plan drawing can be difficult to communicate what that looks like,” Aragon said. “It’s definitely giving life to our project so you can actually see them.”

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