Chesapeake Bay Bridge (Marcy Witkowski/

FHWA looks into drones for bridge inspection

Drones are already being used by officials in Ohio and Minnesota to inspect bridges and other infrastructure, but the Federal Highway Administration wants to collect best practices for efficient use of payload sensors and learn how the collected data should be managed  so that various stakeholders have accurate and actionable information to support their work.

The  FHWA is looking for sources that can report on the data management process in its entirety -- from the sensors on the drone that gather the information, to the systems that analyze and present the data to inspectors -- to determine the kind and quality of data needed by bridge inspectors for a precise inspection.

The study would survey the types of data collection sensors being used on unmanned systems --  high-resolution cameras, infrared thermography cameras, LiDAR -- and assesses the quality level needed to perform a satisfactory inspection. It would then match the available technologies to the type, quality and quantity of information needed by inspectors.

FHWA also wants to know how data from drones can be combined with other information sources and presented to inspectors as well as how the information should be stored and integrated with bridge and asset management systems.

More information is available here.

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a reporter/producer at GCN.

Before joining GCN, Leonard worked as a local reporter for The Smithfield Times in southeastern Virginia. In his time there he wrote about town council meetings, local crime and what to do if a beaver dam floods your back yard. Over the last few years, he has spent time at The Commonwealth Times, The Denver Post and WTVR-CBS 6. He is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, where he received the faculty award for print and online journalism.

Leonard can be contacted at or follow him on Twitter @Matt_Lnrd.

Click here for previous articles by Leonard.

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