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Drones Modernizing U.S. Bridge Inspections

Sewalls Falls Bridge - 2018 Prize Bridge Award Winner; Medium Span Merit Award

Look up! It's a bird, it's a plane! No, it's a drone, coming to a steel bridge near you.

Commercial drones have been in the news for quite a while now, performing tasks ranging from warehouse package delivery to facilitating elaborate light shows at the Olympics. And are increasingly being deployed for construction applications as well--among them, bridge inspections. Complementing traditional manual inspections with drone technology can allow teams to capture and share a digital snapshot of critical infrastructure that can be used to monitor and track changes over time. It can also result in a safer, more efficient inspection process and can potentially produce more reliable data more quickly and at a lower cost than traditional methods.

One company, Intel, is collaborating with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) to apply its drone solutions to inspect complex bridges. Working with the latter, the company's drone technology recently supplemented manual inspection of the steel-framed Daniel Carter Beard Bridge, which connects Ohio and Kentucky over the Ohio River. Nearly 100,000 vehicles cross the bridge daily, and even minor obstructions associated with inspection--such as lane closures--can result in costly delays. But thanks to automated inspection via drone technology, the bridge remained open and fully functional.

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