Evaluating the Use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for Transportation Purposes

Sponsor: Michigan Department of Transportation

PI: Colin Brooks

Advances in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology have enabled these tools to become easier to use and afford. In a budget-limited environment, these flexible remote sensing technologies can help address transportation agency needs in operations, maintenance, and asset management while increasing safety and decreasing cost.

This project tested and evaluated five main UAV platforms with a combination of optical, thermal, and LiDAR sensors to assess critical transportation infrastructure and issues such as bridges, confined spaces, traffic flow, and roadway assets.

A State of the Practice report was completed, and a series of lab testing were accomplished to ensure practicality and safe operations. Field demonstrations were completed at bridges, pump stations, and conferences. The project team gave a series of technical demonstrations at the Intelligent Transportation Systems World Congress in Detroit in September, 2014, enabling outreach to a wide domestic and international audience who gained understanding of the advanced research that MDOT is funding. These demonstrations showed that UAV technologies provide many advantages to helping MDOT cost-effectively assess, manage, and maintain its resources, providing benefit to staff and the traveling public.

A copy of this report can be found on the Michigan Department of Transportation website.

Colin N. Brooks
Colin N. Brooks
Tess Ahlborn
Tess Ahlborn
Timothy Havens
Timothy Havens
Thomas Oommen
Thomas Oommen