On Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granted a waiver that allows the NCDOT to operate Skydio 2 drones beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) during infrastructure and bridge inspections. the approval is part of the FAA's UAS Integration Pilot Program.
FAA grants NSDOT waiver to fly Skydio drones BVLOS during inspections
To maintain the state's bridges and other infrastructure, drones have become ever more important to the N.C. Department of Transportation.
The Federal Aviation Administration on Friday approved a waiver that allows NCDOT to operate Skydio 2drones beyond visual line of sight while conducting bridge inspections. This approval is part of North Carolina's participation in the FAA UAS Integration Pilot Program, which is focused on testing and enabling new innovative uses of Drone Technology, reports News Challen ABC 12.
The NCDOT is the first state transportation agency that has received such a waiver, opening the door for other states to start using drones for bridge and infrastructure inspections.
“Drones are a fantastic new tool for our Bridge Inspection Units,” said North Carolina Secretary of Transportation, Eric Boyette. “Safety is our top priority at NCDOT, and this new system helps improve the safety of not only our bridges and other infrastructure, but of our inspectors as well.
California-based drone maker Skydio helped with the waiver application process. The Skydio 2 drones are powered by onboard Artificial Intelligence that enables each craft to avoid obstacles in complex areas that lack a reliable GPS signal, such as the trusses beneath bridges.
“This is a game-changing achievement that we are thrilled to celebrate alongside NCDOT” said Adam Bry, CEO of Skydio. “Skydio's technology takes the pressure off of pilots, who are now able to gain tremendous confidence by relying on our industry leading obstacle avoidance capability powered by revolutionary AI algorithms. Skydio Autonomy is critical as we partner in executing this new class of permitted operations to make infrastructure inspection faster, less socially intrusive, and safer..”
Ben Spain, the NCDOT's UAS program manager, said drones have been used since 2016 to conduct bridge inspections. But by enabling the drones to move beyond the pilot's line of sight, the inspections will be able to collect more high-resolution images in difficult to see places so inspectors can better analyze the bridge's integrity and identify possible problems.
“Inspectors will collect images using the drone instead of a snooper truck or having to suspend the inspector from the bridge,” Spain added. “They'll be able to do these inspections quickly with minimal impacts to the traveling public, like not having to close lanes of traffic for as long.”
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