First publishedin World Highways
West Sussex County Council in the UK, in partnership with Balfour Beatty Living Places, is trialling a drone with a slight difference for bridge inspections – it floats.
The floatable drone is at work on two bridges - Swan Bridge in Pulborough and Adur Ferry Bridge in Shoreham-By-Sea - saving around €9,230 over the cost of traditional inspections, according to the council and Balfour Beatty.
Routine inspections are carried out on all bridges every two years. Traditionally, inspection work requires traffic management to allow inspectors to safely carry out works at height and over water, causing disruption to the public and road users. The use of drones to review the condition of a bridge reduces potential health and safety risks, as well as dramatically reducing costs, disruption and inconvenience to members of the public by removing the need for traffic management.
Operated by one of Balfour Beatty’s six Civil Aviation Authority licensed drone pilots, each drone 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 is used to film 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 required, as well as a GPS system to prevent them illegally flying into ‘no fly zones’, such as airport space.