Automated Solutions and the Infrastructure Crisis
JULY 13th, 2016
Over the past several years it has become clear that America’s critical infrastructure is in dire need of an overhaul. Bridges collapsing in Washington and Minnesota, report cards crammed with ‘D’s and ‘F’s for our dams, and blackouts in the middle of winter— these failures rack up anywhere between $130 - $270 billion per year, and endanger the lives of those who rely on critical systems every day.
Still, the future is not as bleak as you might think. Plenty has been written on the reasons we’ve been so neglectful, and the subject has garnered plenty of national attention. As we move to address the problems facing our infrastructure, the U.S. has started playing to its strengths and begun turning to emerging technologies to help make our infrastructure crisis a little more manageable.
Drones are already flying for a whole host of infrastructure inspection projects: cell towers, wind turbines, railroads, and more. The use cases have been developed in the private sector, and commercial drone operators are scaling up to meet the demand of enterprise customers who own large amounts of infrastructure or real estate. Measure alone has serviced solar farms, cell towers, building facades, and quarries, and has customers looking to dramatically expand that envelope.
Drones have proven return on investment (ROI) by lowering costs and increasing inspection efficiency. They reduce the need for inspectors to climb towers or dangle off the side of bridges, reduce the need for lane or track closures, and can provide standardized data that can be used to track changes over time. The efficacy of drones is not limited to maintenance. Drones are already playing a role in construction projects, tracking build progress, performing site surveys and pile counts, and reducing subcontractor fraud by simplifying the material audit process.
For the civil servants tasked with upgrading our infrastructure, leveraging drones is a great way to lower the hurdles they face. Drones are an incredibly exciting technology with proven use cases appearing almost daily in the media. In addition to all the ROI benefits they provide, drones also offer officials a way to generate much-needed enthusiasm for maintenance and construction.
The legislation is already in place for civil organizations to adopt drone technology. On Monday, the FAA Reauthorization Act passed the House, along with an amendment to allow the use of drones in national infrastructure projects. State governments around the country have begun to turn to drones both for their ability to streamline projects and create new jobs. And with the implementation of the new Part 107 rules, the most onerous restrictions on operators have been removed, leaving commercial drone operators free to fly for public works and the taxpayer’s benefit.
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