The New York State Thruway Authority has announced a pilot program to use drones to perform bridge inspections. The Authority will work with the Northeast UAS [unmanned aerial systems] Airspace Integration Research Alliance (NUAIR) to explore how drones can improve the effectiveness of safety inspections at “no cost to the state.”
Thruway Authority Executive Director Matthew Driscoll said, “Drones can provide views of hard-to-reach locations quickly and safely. This pilot program aligns with the Thruway’s vision of maximizing technological innovation and continuing to improve infrastructure for the future.” He called the prospect of using drones in this mission “a game-changer.”
If successful, the program could grow to using drones to assist with mapping and surveying the state’s 570-mile superhighway system. The mission could also include cataloging Thruway inventory and infrastructure, documenting damage and repairs and supporting general maintenance activities. Thruway officials see drone operations as a way of making inspections safer, more frequent and less expensive.
Testing is expected to begin this fall and last through spring 2022 when the Authority will assess the progress of the program and plan the next phases of implementation.
NUAIR CEO Ken Stewart said, “Flying a drone to scan a bridge is a lot safer than the traditional means of using a snooper truck, both for the crew inspecting the bridge and for motorists. Couple that with faster, more cost-effective inspections, it’s a win-win for the crew, the local economy and New York State as a whole.”