Implementation of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for Assessment of Transportation Infrastructure – Phase II

Sponsor:  Michigan Department of Transportation

PI:  Colin Brooks

Through Phase I of MDOT’s “Evaluating the Use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for Transportation Purposes” project, the Michigan Tech combined project team was successfully able to plan, demonstrate, and document UAV capabilities in the assessment of transportation assets.

With the rapid development of UAV’s, MDOT has requested additional research concerning their use for transportation asset management.  The work plan of the MTU combined team includes:


  • Collect data from the UAV platform using sensing technology in near-time (as real-time as can be achieved) demonstrating, developing, and implementing storage capabilities of large amounts of data, usage of data, and application development that complements current data usage and application at MDOT.
  • Provide data collection from UAVs to the MDOT Data, Use, Analysis, and Process (DUAP) project that meets the quality, low latency delivery and data format requirements.
  • Provide a report that describes and recommends optional methods to store and distribute potentially large imaging, point cloud, and 3D surface datasets created through UAV-based data collection.


  • Demonstrate, develop, and implement high-accuracy simultaneous thermal/photo/video/Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) measurement using a high-fidelity sensor-fused UAV positioning approach.


  • Demonstrate the capabilities to complete aerial remote sensing data collections to meet MDOT mapping and construction monitoring needs.  Coordinate with MDOT Survey Support to identify pilot projects and meet data delivery needs satisfying MDOT requirements for spatial data collection as it pertains to data density, absolute and relative 3D positional accuracy.


  • Demonstrate, develop and implement uses of data collection from UAV(s) and sensors for operations, maintenance, design, and asset management.


  • Demonstrate, develop and implement enhanced testing of UAV-based thermal imaging for bridge deck structural integrity.
  • Compare data collected from UAV sensors to current data collected and systems used at MDOT for highway assets/operations.


  • Demonstrate, develop, and implement systems management and operations uses.


  • Provide a benefit/cost analysis and performance measures that define the return on investment as a result of deploying UAVs and related sensory technologies for transportation purposes.


  • Secure a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Certificate of Authorization (COA) to complete the tasks and deliverables.
Colin N. Brooks
Colin N. Brooks
Tess Ahlborn
Tess Ahlborn
Timothy Havens
Timothy Havens
Thomas Oommen
Thomas Oommen
Kuilin Zhang
Kuilin Zhang