Michigan DOT seeks to increase use of UAVs

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) recently announced that it has made a new research focus for itself: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

MDOT officials say using UAVs for transportation shows significant advantages, as they can gain data without interfering with traffic. It also removes workers from harmful and dangerous situations.

“Taking data collection workers and equipment out of traffic and putting sensors in the air can provide a tremendous safety advantage,” Project Manager Steven Cook said. “Savings on capital and legacy maintenance costs is another benefit.”

Within a matter of years, the battery flight time, carry capacity and stability of UAVs have shown remarkable improvement. This technology has improved storage, sensor and transmission hardware that's reduced its weight and provided more accurate guidance.

In addition, UAV technology is more affordable. Using these platforms to gather high-resolution visual data, Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) measurements, and infrared imaging is now possible. But the first step in implementing this technology is to use it in real-life situations. Only when researchers and designers can see how this equipment responds in critical situations can they determine how UAVs need to be improved.

One application example is using an unmanned vehicle to collect aerial data efficiently, giving workers high-resolution images of construction projects and other details throughout the state.

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Michigan Department of Transportation

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