Congress plans to increase funding for drones to inspect transportation infrastructure

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TEMPE — Bipartisan legislation sponsored by Rep. Greg Stanton would bring more money to Arizona to use drones to inspect roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

House Resolution 5315, known as Drone Infrastructure Inspection Subsidy Actwould give about $200 million in federal funding — half to state, local and tribal governments to buy drones and the other half to train pilots to fly them.

“We want to make it easier to use drone technology to improve safety,” Stanton, Democrat of Phoenix, said at a February media event under a Loop 202 interchange in Tempe.

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According to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Arizona Infrastructure Report Cardof 8,320 bridges across the state, 137 (1.6%) were rated as poor in 2019, including 1,789 identified by the Arizona Department of Transportation as needing repair.

Arizona roads fared even worse in the report, with 43% of all major roads designated as poor or poor condition in 2018. The society of engineers noted that Arizonans rely heavily on private vehicles to get to at work, with 89.2% carpooling or driving. alone every day.

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), can be a much more effective tool for inspecting critical infrastructure, such as the highways and bridges that Arizonans use every day.

According to American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officialsdrones can save 74% of the cost and 88% of the time required for manual inspection.

Stanton said he wanted the inspections to be “done using drones without any potential harm to that employee.” Currently, inspectors must use bucket trucks parked along busy highways to inspect bridges and road services.

Stanton was joined by the Arizona Department of Transportation in March to discuss how drone technology is already being used in the state.

A POINT has been using drones since 2018 to examine hard-to-reach areas, such as canyons and bodies of water.

“We have to go through canyons, really big waterways, where we can’t go through an element, so we’ll be using these drones to help complete the inspection,” said David Benton, assistant state bridge engineer at ADOT. , who bought eight. drones in 2018 thanks to a grant from the Federal Highway Administration.

But trained pilots are needed to fly the drones.

“We have three certified pilots,” Benton said. “One is a bridge inspector, the other is our drone-like handler, and the other is from our geotechnical side of the bridge group.”

ADOT is responsible for inspecting roads and highways throughout Arizona.

Benton said the drones are used to supplement the work of manual inspectors.

“It saves time,” he said, “especially for some very long bridges that are very cumbersome to walk through” and remote canyons.

Stanton echoed Benton’s assessment of the drones.

“We can perform inspections more efficiently, cheaply and more safely using drone technology,” he said.

Stanton’s Drone Infrastructure Inspection Grant Act was co-sponsored by Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., who serves with Stanton on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and 10 other Reps.

Stanton said bipartisanship is important to HR 5315.

“An important bill like this has a much better chance of passing, not just in the House, but in the Senate operating in this bipartisan fashion,” he said.

The bill, which was introduced in September, was referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Aviation Subcommittee.

“One of the great things about being on the transportation committee is that we all have a stake in improving America’s infrastructure,” Stanton said.

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