Essex Highways: Eyes in the Sky – drones providing safer, more cost-effective bridge inspections

General / Sun 21st Nov 2021 at 10:29am

ESSEX Highways keeping motorists safe by using drone technology to inspect more than 1.500 bridges and culverts in county.

Bridge inspections by drone saves money, avoids road closures and improves repair programmes.

Camera drones are already being used in industry but, in a major innovation, drones and related tech are now helping Essex Highway engineers to carefully inspect critical structures like bridges and culverts in better, safer, and recordable ways.

Councillor Lee Scott, Essex County Council Cabinet Member for Highways Maintenance and Sustainable Transport, attended a demonstration of the drones in action at the bridge crossing the River Wid, located on A414 Greenbury Way, Chelmsford.

Take a look at an Essex Highways video of the demonstration here: https://youtu.be/mXfxVFhhjZI

Councillor Lee Scott said: “Use of advanced drone technology in this way to help us inspect and maintain bridges much more efficiently is a huge benefit to road users in Essex. We have around 1,500 bridges and culverts across the county and if we have to close them, residents, businesses, local services, and other road users all suffer.

“The Council is completely committed to bringing this and other innovations forward quickly to help us manage all our bridges and other structural assets to help us get the maximum value from highways budgets.

“Our strategic partnership with Ringway Jacobs continues to deliver major improvements just like this one, for everyone in Essex.”

Drones can easily get high-definition airborne or waterborne views of hard-to-reach spaces and areas that inspectors cannot reach safely or easily, like the undersides or parapets of bridges over busy roads.

The equipment can also be configured to take imagery in confined spaces, such as culverts under the road and even underwater – for example for the bridge foundations in a river.

This is more efficient but also means that safety risks for inspectors are greatly reduced and significant cost savings are made by using drones in this way, by negating the need for, or cost of manned boats and safety platforms. The data that is produced is also of a far superior quality and will significantly improve our historic record of the structure, enabling changes to be identified more easily over time.

The use of drones does not in any way replace the professional judgement and calculation of a professional structures engineer – drones are rather a more efficient, safer, and sometimes more effective way of making a visual inspection. Professional decisions are then taken using the visual information gathered in this way.

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