Irish highways agency to use drones

15 March 2018

Inspections of roads will be undertaken from the air (Image: Wikipedia)

Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), which oversees the national road network and Dublin’s Luas lines, is set to use drones to carry out surveys.

TII hopes the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will reduce the number of road closures for routine checks and allow faster assessment of damage.

The Irish highways agency is seeking a supplier for two drones, along with flight planning, photo processing and software which is used in 3D modelling in a bid to reduce staff inspections and help identify long-term congestion issues.

It is also seeking technical support and training for the devices. Tender documents show TII is prepared to pay up to €95,000 (£84,210) for the drone system.

Initially TII is looking for one fixed-wing and one multi-rotor drone, but there is the possibility to expand the fleet. TII said the drones could also be used for planning of Dublin’s New Metro North project in future.

Sean O’Neill, the communications director with TII, told The Times that the survey department was excited about using the new technology and that UAVs would change the way it carried out its surveys.

“Currently there are men and women out there who have to set up traffic management and divert roads to conduct inspections but that can all be avoided by being able to put a drone in the air,” reported The Times.

A report by consultant PwC published last year said infrastructure was the largest potential market for commercial applications of drone technology. The report said applications of drone technology in transport projects saved money and time compared with surveys conducted by people.

O’Neill said TII had taken the decision to use drone technology after its success in other jurisdictions and in industries such as agriculture and construction. “Surveys are the bread and butter for many of our staff, who have become very well versed in drones over the last couple of years. It is going to make much of our work more efficient,” he said.

Dublin City Council has been using drones to identify illegal dumping for the past two years. Dublin Fire Brigade also uses them to identify and help fight fires.

The study by PwC said the market for drones in infrastructure was worth $42.2bn. PwC Ireland’s advisory leader, Ciarán Kelly, said when the report was launched: “Drones and the data they provide are a game changer over the entire lifecycle of a transport infrastructure investment.

“Provision of real-time, accurate and comparable 3D modelling data is crucial during the pre-construction, construction and operational phases of an investment project, and all of this data can be acquired by intelligent and cost-effective drone powered solutions.”

Drone technologies can be used at almost every stage in transport infrastructure, starting from construction and investment monitoring, through maintenance, to asset inventory.

During construction, data gained from drones can facilitate rapid reactions to any deviations from the plan, and in extreme cases might be used as evidence in litigation. For example, in one construction project supervised by Drone Powered Solutions, the investor had savings of approximately US$2.94m in claims settlement litigation thanks to unparalleled evidence.

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