ITD testing drone to inspect Perrine Bridge
Motorists driving across the Perrine Bridge this week might have seen a little drone flying around the area. The Idaho Transportation Department is contracting with an engineering company, looking into the use of a drone to inspect bridges across the state.
"We're doing an inspection on the bridge here and we're using two different methods, we're using rope access," explained Barritt Lovelace, with Collins Engineering.
The rope access is one of the more traditional ways of inspecting the Perrine Bridge, but also this time around, they are using a drone.
"This is the first time in the state that we have utilized a drone to inspect a bridge in this capacity," said Jessica Williams, with the Idaho Transportation Department.
She said this is a trial to use the drone and see if it is good enough to use a drone to inspect the bridge.
"We're going to look at if this is going to be feasible moving forward, something we can basically implement with other bridges across the state," Williams said.
They contracted Collins Engineer, who has done this across the United States.
"We take high resolution images of the bridge and we can use those images as part of an inspection process to look for things in the inspection and also to create a model of the entire bridge that we can use that is deliverable for the inspection," Lovelace explained.
He told KMVT that the flight plan of the drone is preprogrammed, so all he has to do is take off and landing of the drone.
While Lovelace said it is an efficient way to inspect a bridge, it does not completely replace the work people do in inspecting the bridge.
"But, it's another tool we can use to make it more efficient and save money and have high quality deliverables," he said.
After the company finishes inspecting the bridge this week with the drone, the transportation department will discuss if this is a good option moving forward.
"They'll be evaluating, after this week, they'll take all the data they garnered and review all the materials and see whether or not it's feasible moving forward to continue doing," Williams said.
While it sounds like this could take jobs, there are many people involved in working the drone and making sure people stay clear of the area when it takes off, lands and the safety of others around the area.
"It's definitely new even across the country," Lovelace said. "One of the big things is we’re using the drone to collect a large amount of data really quickly and we can use that data and turn it into something the owner can use to make decisions about how to maintain the bridge, and how to make any repairs that are maybe are necessary. All that data just gives the owner more information to make better decisions."