Drone inspection trial promises cost, safety and traffic benefits


West Sussex County Council and Balfour Beatty Living Places (BBLP) are trialling the use of drones to inspect bridges in the county.

Trials have so far been held at two locations, resulting in savings of around £8,000 compared to traditional inspections.

Two of BB's licensed pilots operating a drone to inspect a bridge

The council carries out routine safety inspections on all bridges every two years, which traditionally requires traffic management to allow inspectors to work safely at height and over water, causing disruption to road users.

Using drones for bridge inspections can dramatically reduce costs, disruption and inconvenience, as well as reducing potential health and safety risks.

West Sussex CC infrastructure manager Kieran Dodds said: ‘The use of drones enables us to obtain the necessary information to determine our highway structures are safe for use, while reducing the risk to our inspectors who conventionally would have to use access equipment when working at height.'

The drones are operated by one of Balfour Beatty’s six Civil Aviation Authority licensed drone pilots. Each one is fitted with recording equipment to allow the workforce on the ground to review the condition of the bridge once filming is completed.

To make sure the drone is operated safely, a second camera films the drone in action, with an assistant reviewing the safety parameters around the drone in real time.

The drones are also fitted with protective floats to enable them to safely land on water if necessary, as well as a GPS system to prevent them flying into no-fly zones such as airport space without permission.

Steve Phillips, contract director for BBLP, said: ‘At Balfour Beatty we are continually assessing how we can utilise technology, such as the use of drones, to drive efficiencies in project delivery and improved health and safety across all aspects of highways construction, maintenance and operation.’


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