Grant Enables Drone Use for Highway, Rail Inspections

The University of Texas at Arlington received a $388,000 TxDOT grant for use on the two-year project.

unmanned

Drones could become the standard method for inspections of highways, bridges and railroads throughout Texas in the future.

Researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington partnered with the Texas Department of Transportation to see how well the unmanned aerial vehicles can detect problems on the pavement or the rails.

UTA was awarded a $388,000 grant from TxDOT for the two-year research project. The highway inspections will take place at U.S. Highway 67 in Cleburne and U.S. Highway 82 in Fannin County.

They’ll also inspect railroad crossings in Texas.

The drones fly over the subject area and photograph it using high-definition cameras for the inspections.

 “The high-resolution photos that we will receive will provide as much information as an instrument on the pavement.”
Anand Puppala

“It is safer and less expensive to use a UAV to check pavement performance characteristics because there is no need to close lanes and a person doesn’t have to be on the roadway or active railroad tracks,” said Anand Puppala, a civil engineering professor at UTA. “The high-resolution photos that we will receive will provide as much information as an instrument on the pavement.”

The drone transmits data to the computer, which can easily be shared to the appropriate person so they can make the appropriate repairs.

The University of Texas-Corpus Christi got an identical grant and will conduct similar research.

UTA researchers also are working on a program to use geothermal technology to de-ice bridges thanks to a $743,000 grant. There’s also a $1 million grant to use recycled plastic pins to reinforce soil along highways.

Private companies are already leading the way with infrastructure inspections, including Aviation Unmanned, based in Addison. The company hires military veterans to operate its drones and use them to inspect power lines, pipelines, and other critical infrastructure.


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