Trials have so far been held at Swan Bridge in Pulborough and Adur Ferry Bridge in Shoreham-By-Sea and resulted in savings of around £8,000 compared to traditional inspection methods.
Routine inspections are carried out on all bridges every two years. Traditionally, this requires traffic management to allow inspectors to safely carry out works at height and over water. The use of drones to review the condition of a bridge reduces costs, disruption and inconvenience to members of the public by removing the need for traffic management.
Operated by one of Balfour Beatty’s six Civil Aviation Authority licensed drone pilots, each drone is fitted with recording equipment to allow the team on the ground to review the condition of the bridge once filming is completed. To make sure the drone is operated safely, a second camera is used to film the drone in action, with an assistant reviewing the safety parameters around the drone in real-time.
The drones are also fitted with floats to enable them to land on water if necessary, as well as being fitted with a GPS system to prevent them flying into ‘no fly zones’, such as airport space, without permission.
West Sussex County Council infrastructure manager Kieran Dodds said: “The use of drones enables us to obtain the necessary information to determine our highway structures are safe for use, while reducing the risk to our inspectors who conventionally would have to use access equipment when working at height.”
Steve Phillips, contract director for Balfour Beatty Living Places, said: “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 who would traditionally carry out work such as bridge inspections at height. It’s a great example of how modern technology can be successfully used by industry.”