Amey is trying out the use of drones – remote controlled aerial devices fitted with cameras – to carry out surveys for road maintenance.
The two-year programme is filming roads from above to gain a better understanding of the assets. Last year the focus was on trees and street lights; this year soft verges (vegetation) and utility services are being filmed.
The footage captured from the drone will be used to better understand the health and ecosystem of the soft landscape, highways assets as well as the condition of the power and water infrastructure assets in the area. The aspiration is that Kent County Council and utility asset owners will be able to manage their assets better in the future.
The trial is part of the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport (ADEPT) SMART Places Live Labs programme, which got £23m funding from the Department for Transport in 2019. Kent and Amey secured £2m of that pot for their two-year drone trial. [See our previous report here.]
Live Labs programme director Giles Perkins said: “The widescale use of drone technologies could provide significant benefits. This application in Kent will help illustrate new and innovative ways of collecting data that is quicker than traditional methods but also helps keep those who work on our highways out of harm’s way.”
Amey has a joint venture with an aerial robotics specialist called VTOL Technologies. AmeyVTOL’s The Flying Wing drone has a flight range of up to 100 km and sensors that enable it to capture and send data in real time.
Kent County Council highways project manager Carol Valentine said: “We’re excited to be working with this technology to understand the benefits it can bring to improving our services to people in Kent. These trials will help us better understand the health and ecosystem of our soft landscape, highways assets and the condition of power and water infrastructure. The trial data will be assessed, and we could potentially be using this technology across the county in the future.”
Amey programme manager Ramin Akhyani said: “This is a great opportunity to investigate the potential of using drones for capturing the condition of highways assets, soft vegetation and utilities in the area as well as highlighting the benefits of using drones in the areas of health and safety, cost, data and proactive asset management.”