Drones are paving the way to a better road-construction industry.
Both paving companies and state transportation departments have geared up new drone programs that not only provide more precise data for specific projects but also save money that would otherwise have been invested in manned aircraft flights.
“When you’re contacted to do a job, you’re given a blueprint of the job and expected to set your striping layout accordingly,” Anderson said in an interview. “Now, we bring the drone out, take a picture of the lot when it’s done and superimpose the photo onto the blueprint to show the job was completed exactly as the plan called for.”
Anderson also uses the Phantom to survey a project before his crew begins at the beginning of the workday and shows them a video so they “know the hazards, the challenges, everything.” “When they’re prepared, the job is done more efficiently and they can move on to other work faster,” he added.
For the Oregon Department of Transportation, drone deployment for road construction allows crews to generate 3-D maps that reveal variations in topography for any given project.
“All in all, drone missions are part of the ‘quest for 3-D everything,’” ODT surveys chief Ron Singh said in a recent interview with Inside Unmanned Systems. “We’re trying to move from the 2-D design and construction world to a full 3-D world. We want drones to help survey terrain in 3-D, and design on a 3-D map that includes all the underground utilities on a site such as drainage and power lines as well as features on the ground such as trees and walls.”
Singh adds that drone flights are much safer than multiple manned surveying efforts: “It’s a less expensive and quicker way of moving a sensor to the right position compared to a boom truck or a fixed-wing flight, and in many ways safer—we don’t have to have crews rappel down bridges, but instead just fly a drone into a position where it can capture some data.”