Minnesota DOT testing drones for bridge inspections with amazing results

The Minnesota DOT is progressive with finding alternatives to safely inspect bridges and they are looking to drones to capture that information. They’ve devised a 3-phase study:


Phase 1 demonstrated that drones can reduce safety risks and inconvenience to bridge inspectors and the traveling public

Phase 2 shows that new drones, designed with vertical and horizontal camera and sensor capabilities for structure inspections, give bridge inspectors safe access to under-deck areas that were previously difficult or impossible to reach

Phase 3 will identify which situations are best suited for drone use, what parameters should govern drone use in bridge inspections, and how UAS can be integrated into standard inspection operations at a county and district level.



The results from Phase 1 and 2 are in, and here are some of the key findings:


  • Using a drone rather than snoopers for bridge inspection can save significant time and cost -  unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) significantly augment inspection findings with infrared and imaging data while reducing safety risks to inspectors and the public. 
  • For some inspection functions, lane closures can be curtailed or eliminated altogether.
  • The drones accessed high, confined spaces and provided under-deck inspection details otherwise unavailable or too costly for any tall bridges
  • UAS can detect delamination of concrete while flying adjacent to lanes of traffic


The benefits are plentiful to the agency, but also to the public … the safety aspect of gathering lots of valid data to keep the bridges structurally sound, as well as avoiding putting teams into harm’s way is not to be overlooked, but also the fact that lane closures were either curtailed or avoided altogether are quite noteworthy. ... making for happier commuters/taxpayers!


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