How MassDOT is Deploying UAVs to Connect Remote Communities

When it comes to unidentified flying objects, it is more and more likely that they are drones. Whether delivering food to your backyard or helping to keep our rails, roads, and bridges safe for travel, drones are becoming an increasingly common part of daily life.

Grant Guillot sat down with Robin Grace, MassDOT Aeronautics Drone Pilot Program Senior Program Manager to discuss the role of drones in keeping the transportation infrastructure safe throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Grace began the conversation by highlighting the overall mission of MassDOT’s drone pilot program.

“From the beginning, our approach has always been to implement in a way that wouldn’t just benefit the Commonwealth of Massachusetts but would benefit the entire nation,” Grace said. In fact, drones are being used throughout the MassDOT highway, rail, transit and aeronautics system as well as the MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority) which runs the Commonwealth’s subway and commuter rails to identify opportunities to improve safety, save money, and increase process efficiencies.

Grace explained that they are working with partners throughout these divisions to “determine what data or information is useful to them. And then, how would we fly our drones or UAS in a way that would gather that information and be able to present it in a way that is actually useful to them.” This enables the pilot program to supplement traditional processes and workflows to save money and do things better.

At present, the pilot program is collecting use cases and working with its partners to maximize the potential of drone technology in the field. One such use case involves bridge inspections. How can drones help the bridge inspection process? Grace stated that she was not aware of the exact number of bridges throughout the Commonwealth but that the number was rather extensive.

Drones are being used to determine how they can help streamline the inspection process, increase safety for bridge inspectors, reduce the length of lane closures, and identify potential issues quickly and effectively while supporting routine inspections as well as bridges that require more frequent inspections for reasons such as regular exposure to saltwater.

Drones, or UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems), are quickly becoming increasingly valuable in providing convenience to consumers as well as finding ways to improve business processes and systems. Listen in to learn more about Drones in America and how they may be visiting your neighborhood soon.

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