Iowa DOT’s Game-Changing Drone Experiment

's (DOT) is partnering with Autobase to pilot a drone program in Iowa City. The program aims to enhance traffic monitoring and management, enabling swift response to accidents and traffic disruptions.

The drone initiative, springboarded by the Iowa DOT's Traffic Operations Bureau Director, Andy Lewis, follows successful implementation of similar programs in other states. The trial began in early spring, building upon the “Highway Helpers” scheme, which provides on-site assistance to motorists.

Innovation Soars: Drones Boosting Highway Helper Program

Program Manager Ashley Hochberger explained that drones could reach locations where the DOT's 500 stationary cameras can't. Drones provide an aerial perspective, allowing more effective management of traffic during incidents or roadworks.

“Using the drone provides a whole new vantage point that we've not had before,” Hochberger said.

Drone Experiment

Additionally, drones can observe construction activities to ensure traffic continuity. The drone, which based on the photos seems to be a DJI Mavic 2, being used in this test run can both live stream and capture high-resolution still images.

Iowa Dot's Game-Changing Drone Experiment 1

“Highway Helper” trucks, which patrol freeways and interstates, could benefit significantly from this aerial assistance. The trucks help stranded motorists and manage traffic post-crash, and their deployment is coordinated by the DOT's Traffic Management Center.

The drone has reportedly already proven useful, helping Autobase to monitor recent river flooding in Davenport and evaluate the road closures required. It has also aided in ensuring the correct setup of work zones in the Iowa City area.

Iowa Dot's Game-Changing Drone Experiment 2

Emphasizing the DOT's commitment to innovation and data-driven decisions, Hochberger stated, “Nobody likes to be stuck in traffic on the interstate, right? And at the DOT we are very big on innovative technology and making data-driven decisions.”

The drone project complements the DOT's Towing Recovery and Incentive Program (TRIP), incentivizing rapid clearing of accident sites. TRIP has recently expanded into the Des Moines area after showing promising results in Iowa City.

With an already solid partnership with Autobase, the DOT sees the drone project as an extension of its mission to keep Iowa's roads safe and traffic flowing.

Photos courtesy of Iowa Department of Transportation

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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ or @hayekesteloo.

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