Sensefly Drone to Inspect Ohio Bridge

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The Buckeye State will soon buzz a busy bridge in an inaugural drone inspection along the Ohio Turnpike.

The Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission announced plans to deploy a SenseFly Albris over the Sandusky River Bridge. The 970-foot-span bridge includes one of the turnpike’s busiest stretches of highway. Inspecting the whole infrastructure can prove challenging as well as dangerous for workers who often have to dangle under the girders of the bridge.

“We hope to determine if the use of a drone may reduce the time and expense and increase safety when performing these types of inspections on the turnpike and on the ODOT system,” OTIC Executive Director Randy Cole said Monday during a recent commission meeting.

Sensefly designed the Albris specifically for mapping and industrial inspection. The quadcopter features autopilot, GPS and a stabilized “TripleView” camera array that can capture 38 MP stills, thermal images and HD video. The model can also carry up to five navcam sensors and five ultrasonic, proximity sensors.

“This is one of the best uses of the technology we’ve seen,” David Gallagherof the Ohio/Indiana UAS Center said in an interview with statescoop.

The UAV company has already demonstrated Albris’ worth when it comes to inspecting infrastructure. In June, the company published a case study detailing the drone’s success in mapping and inspecting the Tseuzier dam in Valais, Switzerland.

Two Albris drones covered the dam’s 19,000-square-meters surface, capturing 7,000 hi-res photos over 50 flights. The results allow engineers to locate any potential cracks.

The Ohio turnpike commission will compare the drone-powered results of the bridge inspection with those carried out by a non-drone engineering firm.

“We have the potential of taking one of the most dangerous jobs in America and turning it into inside work,” Cole told statescoop. “We really wanted to step up because we do believe it will be an opportunity to be more effective — we just want to prove it.”

However, Ohio will not be the first state to launch a drone inspection of a bridge. Last year, Minnesota officials tested drone inspections at four bridges. In Alabama, a research team has created a prototype UAV inspection system that may be used to inspect bridges there.

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