Businesses Investing In Drones Could Be Key To $1 Trillion Infrastructure Fix In The US – Forbes

December 18, 2021 by No Comments

Drones have come a long way since the days when a single, small remote-controlled copter was sent aloft to inspect something hard to reach. Fleets of drones are being dispatched to collect data and imagery, often enriched with artificial intelligence (AI) programs and actionable analysis from a geographic information system (GIS), to make better sense of the world around us. The devices and analysts on the ground are helping monitor and verify conservation promises, search the rubble of collapsed buildings, and explore other planets.

Now, as the United States embarks on a massive overhaul of its aging infrastructure, there’s perhaps no better tool than these extra sets of mechanical eyes. Businesses that invest in drone technology, whether airborne, underwater, or on land, could prove instrumental as millions of miles of roads, pipelines, bridges, and utilities will need to be inspected before and after significant funding in their rehabilitation. Not only that, but the work will also need to be monitored. Collected data and imagery will keep stakeholders informed, making the infrastructure easier to maintain throughout its life cycle. Imagine 3D digital twins of the country’s infrastructure showing progress on maintenance, construction, and operations.

Fleets of drones would also speed up the process by going where few, if any, humans could physically venture. That’s how the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) already sees it. The agency recently sought input on best practices for using aerial drones during structural inspections of the agency’s facilities. It noted that the work typically “requires substantial equipment, such as cranes or hydraulic lifts, and can be physically demanding; poses a safety risk; and can be extremely costly.” The data feeds from these drones help create a 3D digital twin of the airfield that can be used for visualization and analysis of additional critical airport operations, such as identification of obstacles including trees that are penetrating the approach corridor.

As the US is set to spend about $1 trillion on infrastructure fixes and expansions, related private sector drone programs will both require and deliver location intelligence in a safe, less costly way. A key need will be the ability of drones to accurately recognize and record their locations as they navigate and collect data. Drones need to know where they are, where they should go, and where they were when they captured imagery or other information—all aspects where GIS and AI will be critical.

Timing and Technology Are Ripe

While fixes to the country’s infrastructure have been a long time coming, the drone technology that can help has evolved and grown, and so have the regulations governing their use in the United States. An FAA rule change recently allowed …….



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