The uses of drones are many and varied, and now one county council in the UK is making use of this technology to cut the cost of bridge inspections and to make the process safer for its staff.
West Sussex County Council has paired up with Balfour Beatty Living Places to use drones to inspect bridges and see whether any work is required to ensure the safety and integrity of the structure.
So far, the council has trialled the technology on Swan Bridge in Pulborough and Adur Ferry Bridge in Shoreham-by-Sea. As a result of utilising drones, the council estimates it has saved around £8,000.
However, while cost savings are certainly a factor, they’re far from the only reason to make greater use of drones in this area. According to Balfour Beatty, the drones are a much safer option too.
During traditional inspections, the inspectors would need to work at height and over water to thoroughly check the structure. In many cases, this would also involve setting up traffic management to ensure the safety of the inspectors, which can slow traffic and be frustrating for motorists.
With drones, all of these concerns are removed, as the device can fly safely above traffic and water. The drones being used in West Sussex are also fitted with floats enabling them to land safely on water should they need to.
Drone pilots licensed by the Civil Aviation Authority are in control of the devices, filming the various parts of each structure and enabling a specialist inspector to review the footage at a later date.
Contract director at Balfour Beatty Living Places Steve Phillips described this scheme as a brilliant example of “how modern technology can be successfully used by industry”.
He noted: “Using drones in our highways inspection work allows us to safely assess the work required while dramatically reducing any potential hazards faced by our workforce.”
Infrastructure manager at West Sussex County Council Kieran Dodds agreed, adding that they are able to obtain all the data they need to ascertain the safety of these structures from the drone footage.
Earlier this year, a report by PwC highlighted the potential for using drone technology in the construction and infrastructure sectors. The study suggested that drones could be used at every stage of a transport structure’s life, from the build phase through to inspection and maintenance.
Site safety in particular could be greatly improved if drones were utilised to monitor building sites, the consultancy stated, predicting that the number of life-threatening accidents that happen on construction sites could be cut by 91 per cent if they were monitored by drones.
Drones are also seen as a more cost-effective, safer and faster way to gain information about the maintenance required on structures or buildings, the PwC report stated – something that West Sussex County Council is taking advantage of.
Of course, where maintenance is required on a bridge, or another structure, you’ll need engineers and construction workers to carry out the work. If you need any help with bridge jacking, contact us today to find out how we can be of assistance.